Brian's Blogs

Alexandria offers respite from summer

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Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air is pleased with the response to the launching of its expanded network for the summer season. On 22nd June it started flights to the northern Egyptian port of Alexandria with services to Aleppo in Syria and Salalah in Oman following on at the start of July. All will operate until mid September.

The service to Alexandria features five flights a week, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, leaving Bahrain at 0130 and arriving at 0445. Within days of the start of the service, loadings on some flights were typically around 80 per cent, validating the feedback the airline had received from its customers.

The attractions of Alexandria – Egypt’s second largest city - as a summer destination are not hard to find. With a Mediterranean climate in the upper 20s at the height of summer, and with a good mix of culture, places to visit and good restaurants, it makes a welcome break from the intense heat of the Gulf, and as such this self-styled summer capital of the Middle East attracts visitors from across the Arab world.

Alexandria’s coastline stretches for over 20 km and the city features palm-lined boulevards, beautiful gardens, ornate fountains, wonderful mosques, an undulating, scenic corniche and a wide selection of historical sites combined with a thriving café culture. Ornate buildings, horse-drawn carts and an antiquated tram system - that goes so slowly that you can cover the distance at twice its average speed on foot - encourage one to get out and explore the narrow streets and bazaars.

Although the city’s most famous resident was Queen Cleopatra, it has also been home to a wide cosmopolitan mix of nationalities with, it is said, almost as many Greeks, Italians and French as Egyptians in the days before the socialist revolution. Remnants of the colonial influences are to be found everywhere in the varied architecture, ranging from Greco-Roman style to suburbs more reminiscent of Marseilles. Even many of the street names are still in French, which at one time was the official language of business in the city.

Although there is a wide selection of hotels in all price brackets, one of the most distinctive is to be found right on the Corniche in the San Stefano district. The Four Seasons Hotel, which dominates the skyline, is the fourth in Egypt and the ninth to open in the Middle East. As you would expect from this Group, the range of facilities at this 118-room hotel is extensive and there is a wide choice of cuisine available ranging from Lebanese and Italian to contemporary Mediterranean. You can even indulge in sushi and culinary delicacies from South East Asia.

The Four Seasons, where rates start at around $400 per night, occupies 19 floors of a distinctive 28-storey tower – part of a crescent-shaped development where many of the rooms have splendid ocean views.  Accommodation also includes one-, two- and three-bedroom suites right up to the Royal and Presidential Suites where, if you have to ask the price, it means you probably cannot afford it! The hotel’s own private man-made beach has to be one of the very best in the area with tonnes of specially shipped in white sand and a tunnel offering hotel access under the busy corniche road.

Occupancy at the hotel averages around the 85 per cent mark during the summer months, falling in the winter time as temperatures plummet, although with conference and banqueting facilities able to accommodate up to 900 people, this is seen as an important out-of-season adjunct to the hotel’s year-round occupancy.

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