Tag Archives: Alexandria

Keep it out of the guidebooks. Manchea District, Alexandria, EGYPT

If we find a little gem when we travel, we keep returning to it. This is one such gem.

When looking at a map, the district of Manchea is located at the western end of Alexandria, inside the curve of the port. There is little information on the net and it’s marked on few maps. Attempt to pronounce it with an Arabic twang and you’re sure to be pointed in the right direction.

Manchea is far from the shiny shopping centers that dot the eastern parts of this huge city.  We had not read about it, we had not been told about it, we just happened to ‘bump into’ Manchea on one of our rambles across the city, each time during the late afternoon. We always hung around long into the evening, drinking tea, smoking naghila, eating and chatting with the men of the market stalls.

I think the photos convey the almost medieval feel of the place.  It definitely didn’t feel like we were in a city of 6 or 7 million people.

We have been to ‘Alex’ on three separate occasions now and spent many happy hours in the Manchea district. One such visit to Alex involved a 4am landing into Cairo, a taxi straight to the train station and a ‘seat’ on the first lumbering train to Alex.  For us, we could not wait. We had to get to our little gem. Coffee houses, tea houses, backgammon, a sea breeze, colourful markets and the call to prayer. Lovely.

The Charms of Eating in the East

To me, nothing beats sitting on a small plastic stool, in the sticky heat of Bangkok, amongst the traffic with a hawker meal in front of me. There is a certain feeling of being part of a city, of being a “temporary local” when you can eat amongst it rather than behind it, under or over it. As they say, eating at a street stall or market is often the closest thing to eating at a local’s family home. It really is an attractive way to eat, drink and mingle.

We have met poets in Alexandria over Sheesha and tea, joined in cheering on the local team over coffee and nuts in Dahab & we have been invited to a wedding after striking up a conversation at a streetside cafe in Morocco.

Back at home, we really have little to no chance in experiencing such culinary comradery with fellow diners. Unfortunately, if there is any intermingling to be done, it is often over copious amounts of booze.

Would it be too much to ask for a setting of plastic chairs on the sand with the Aussies paying cricket on an old television while you sip your coffee and nibble on some nuts? Sounds fantastic but we can forget it. Health and Safety would come down on the proprietor like a tonne of bricks. Someone might fall over or trip over one of the leads!

A succession of stalls every Saturday night in the summer, with plastic tables & chairs amongst the moonlight. Nope, no way. Perhaps a couple of special times a year but only subject to council approval & at a hefty cost to the stallholder.

Even in Europe, you can leave the house at 10pm and have no trouble finding somewhere to have a coffee with some friends. Unfortunately, come summer in Sydney, it seems beer is the only beverage you can get your hands on post-10pm.

Granted, there are some nice places in Australia you can eat and drink outside, amongst the city lights or the light of the moon. However, the mid and far east seem to have it down pat. It doesn’t cost much, it doesn’t always include boozing up and it is safe.

Some excellent places in the east and mid east we have experienced ‘rustic’ outdoor dining:

* Southeast Asia (we particularly love Bangkok, Ipoh & Penang at night)
* Alexandria, Egypt
* Syria in the summer time particularly along the coast

In short, give me a set of plastic chopsticks and a sand castle bucket of ice over Royal Doulton any day!

Eating in KL

Noodles in Ipoh, Malaysia