RIP The Egyptian Venice: Al-Max
Updated: Apr 10, 2022
After putting off launching Foul For a Fool for months, I had written several articles and was waiting for the right time to launch the site; however, in this case, bulldozers beat me to it and sadly demolished al-Max before I got to publish the article. The demolition of al-Max has outraged local residents and seems like a missed opportunity to develop the neighbourhood into a sustainable tourism spot that could have supported local residents and protected this unique neighbourhood. Below is the article that I originally intended to publish: Egypt has many hidden gems, and Alexandria's al-Max is one of them. Known as the Egyptian Venice, Al-Max is a small fishing village to the west of Alexandria.
Unlike the Italian Venice, the Egyptian Venice is a part of a real living city. The place is bustling with fisherman unloading their catch from the day, fish resellers trading with buyers from restaurants, and workshops fixing boats and fishing equipment.
Although not set up for visitors, everyone was incredibly welcoming and helpful, and proud of their own unique part of Egypt. For next to nothing, fishermen offered to take us on a boat tour of al-Max, and were even reluctant to take a tip. A small boat trip is essential for any trip to Al-Max, as it really is the only way to see it.
Once we got on the boat, we chugged past lively workshops and fish resellers that line the river until we came unexpectedly to an old dilapidated palace of Mohamed Ali on an island. The canal too was dug on the order of Mohamed Ali in 1820, and named the Mahmudiya Canal after the Sultan of Istanbul, Sultan Mahmoud II. Although originally used as an easier route to Cairo than via Rosseta, and as a way to bring drinking water to Alexandria, due to pollution, it no longer sadly can serve this purpose.
Past the palace, and even more unexpectedly, despite the fact that we were still very much in the vast city of Alexandria, the river took us to a beautiful quiet stretch of river flanked by reeds and wildlife. Birds circled above, and flew in and out of their nests in the reeds, while herons hunted for fish. With a not a single building in sight, we for a short while got to escape the bustle and enjoy Egypt's often hard to find countryside untouched by habitation.
We were told by the local fisherman that the seafood restaurants in Al-Max were the best in Alexandria, and by extension than any in Cairo. Although I will have to see on my next trip to see if this is correct, the hoards of stray cats excitingly lingering around the restaurants for scraps seem to agree.
Just along the coast, al-Max is only a 20-minute drive from the centre of Alexandria and is known to all taxi drivers. When you're there, try and support the locals by trying one of the local restaurants, cafes, or even buy some fresh fish to bring back to cook at home. You're not going to get any fish fresher than this!