Alexandria runs along the Mediterranean for 20km without ever venturing more than 8km inland – a true waterfront city. Its great Corniche sweeps around the Eastern Harbour and along the coast past a string of city beaches to Montazah and Ma’amoura, burning out before the final beach at Abu Qir. In the opposite direction, you need to get past the industrial zone of Al-Max to reach the western beaches of Hannoville and El-Agami. Most foreign tourists frequent the downtown quarter of El-Manshiya, where many restaurants and hotels are within a few blocks either side, or inland, of Midan Sa’ad Zaghloul.
The Corniche (and breezes blowing inland) make basic orientation quite simple, but the finer points can still be awkward and even the latest map – Alexandria Key available for £E25 from local bookshops – doesn’t show every backstreet in the centre. A historical map of Archeological Sites of Alexandria, published by the Alexandria Preservation Trust, is on sale at bookshops. Street names are also problematic, since signs don’t always square with the latest official designation or popular usage. In the downtown area, most signs are in English or Arabic, and people may use either when giving directions.