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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Old and New El Alamein

I seldom do enough historical research before we travel to interesting places.  That was the case before we visited el Alamein.  I knew it was a battlefield between the armored units of World War II but not much more.  I only knew that much because a neighbor who was a ninety-year-old veteran who had spent much or the war serving under General George Patton mentioned it.

I anticipated el Alamein to be just a wide spot in a narrow sandy road.  I hadn't read these paragraphs from a recent issue of the magazine/website, Egypt Today.
MARSA MATROUH, Egypt - 1 March 2018: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi inaugurated the first phase of the New Alamein City on Thursday in Marsa Matrouh governorate.
The first phase will include the inauguration of an eco-city. New El Alamein City also will include a national university that'll comprise a number of applied science faculties, an opera house, a library and a museum.

Sisi will also inaugurate a number of projects via video conference.

The city is located on an area of 48,000 feddans (one feddan equals 1.038 acres) in El Alamein town on Egypt's Mediterranean coast and it is designed to include 5,000 housing units to accommodate more than 400,000 inhabitants.
Eco-city?  400,000 inhabitants and an Opera House?  What's this?

We saw the signs for New El-Alamein and many of the coastal residences if not residents.

But where was the old el-Alamein?  Surely there must be something left from what was described this way on one veteran's webpage:
The isolated railway station of El Alamein gave its name to the famous battle which was fought in the desert to the south.

In 1942 there were just a few buildings clustered around the station, tens of miles from any other habitation.
Just east of the new war museum, there was a rusty sign pointing toward "Cairo" via Petrol Road.

I suggested following it.  The beautiful new developments along the Mediterranean quickly faded as the scenery began to match typical small-town Egypt.  After about a half mile, we came to some railroad tracks with a few old buildings and several shops.  Was this the real el-Alamein?

And what about that crumbling building in the distance.  Could it be what is left of the railroad depot from 1942?

Answers had to wait until we returned to Cairo.

There were a few veterans from Britain and Australia that marked the 70th and 75th anniversary of the battles with a return visit.  Here are two showing pictures of the railway station.  Yes, it's the same place.
  (credit to http://www.desertrats.org.uk)


 (credit to Mike Vanderkelen)

 Click on either picture to get to the owner's websites.

 There are a couple of other very interesting photos and drawings of the station here and here.

So the old el-Alamein still exists.  But, see it soon.  I'm not sure it will be preserved.  This villa is being built nearby.  "Modern style," I guess you could call it

As a bonus for your effort, you can have an outstanding lunch at this restaurant on Petrol Road midway between the railroad and the main highway.

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