El Alamein resort with a colourful history

These days Marina El Alamein in Egypt is a luxurious, gated community, built for the enjoyment of Egypt’s wealthy and elite.  Situated on the Mediterranean coast about 300 kilometres from Cairo, it offers residents and visitors are much more relaxing lifestyle than that experienced in frenetic Cairo.

Stretching along 11 kilometres of lovely beach, the resort hotels offer a wide range of water sports, leisure activities and options for eating out. Porto Marina was opened in summer 2005 and its canals and luxury shops have now made it one of the hottest holiday spots in the Middle East.

But it was not always so pleasant at El Alamein, especially during World War II when El Alamein was the place where allied troops under Field Marshall Montgomery took on and defeated the feared divisions that made up Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

There were actually two battles at El Alamein, which needed to be held by the allied troops to prevent the axis troops from storming into the important port city of Alexandria.

The first took place in July, 1942 when the German forces were halted and held at El Alamein and the second in October and November of 1942 when the Afrika Korps was finally defeated.  It was after this battle that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.”     

Those who fought and died in the battle are commemorated in several locations. The German Cemetery, built in the style of a medieval fortress, contains the remains of 4 200 soldiers. The Italian Cemetery is a mausoleum comprising a series of galleries. The Commonwealth Cemetery with its rows of war graves pays homage to British and allied soldiers including Greeks, Australians and South Africans.

El Alamein was also a bustling port during the Greco-Roman period over two thousand years ago, but was destroyed when an earthquake hit Crete, creating an enormous tsunami, which completely destroyed the ancient port.  It is also suspected that the burial of Cleopatra and Marc Antony are located nearby, and there are plans to build a museum on the spot.

If you visit El Alamein today, it is not what you normally expect of Egypt, and that is one important reason for visiting; to sample contemporary Egyptian life and to remember and commemorate the sacrifices that were made here in the past.

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