M Y O B

The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT

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I joined a team in Alexandria that was trying to figure out what to do to improve the quantity and quality of drinking water in Alexandria. We had offices and a staff-house in these two large old mansions located in the part of Alex known as Sidi Bishr.

Staffhouse Alexandria

I understand these buildings have been razed and replaced with high-rise apartment blocks. No wonder: they fronted directly on the Cornishe, and the Mediterranean Sea:

Beach Alexandria 1

In those days (and I have no reason to think it has changed), Alexandria was almost deserted during the winter months, when the weather could indeed be rather raw as it blew in directly from the Med. In the summertime, however, the city became home to millions of Cairenes who came to Alex to escape the summer heat of Cairo. Then, the beach might look more like this:

Beach Alexandria 2

The water along the beach was frequently polluted by sewage dumped directly, so swimming was not a very safe thing to do, and I rarely did it. You cannot see in pictures like this that women, if they came to the beach at all, did little more than wade fully dressed: swimming as such was reserved for the men. I found it amusing that guys wore bathing suits, usually quite revealing speedos, so long as they were ON the beach, but to go inland only so far as to buy a drink or ice-cream, they would dress first. Those dressing-rooms were often good places to catch guys changing.

Note the blue bus in the first photo: this is one of a fleet given to Alexandria by USAID:  the busses were built in the USA, and were so shoddy that within a few months of arrival, all were finished. The APTA (Alexandria Passenger Transit Authority) had sent operatives to the US factory to explain the conditions of use the busses would be subjected to, but when these guys were ignored, they came home disgusted. What no one in the US could comprehend was that busses in Alex routinely ran at 200% capacity on poorly maintained streets and roads. So, the first time one of these went over a bump with 70 people hanging on the over-head hand-rails, (which had been pop-riveted in place), the rails pulled loose and were chucked out. The doors fell off soon thereafter. These were only slightly glorified school-busses (the company that built them had never built anything else). All this gave the US a major black-eye, and APTA went back to buying busses from France, as they had done for years.

Alexandria had a few antiquities left. It was the site of the famous Alexandria Library, nothing recognizable of which remained.

Antiquity Alexandria

Alexandria did have a large fleet of derelict street-cars, most of them still running (more or less). Many had been purchased in Belgium. I rode them endlessly, as they were a real hoot!

Old Trams Alex 01A train of three ex-Belgium trams MUed

Old Trams Alex 02There were also PCC cars (ex-Toronto, Canada) which ran both singly and in trains of three

Old Trams Alex 03Here’s another three-car trainset ex-Belgium, the last car of which is a double-decker

LRVs, Orabi Square AlexandriaThere were also old narrow LRVs from Belgium, which ran around the very old part of Alexandria, seen here at Orabi Square

There was not a lot of gay sex going on in Alexandria. I eventually connected with a couple of guys from Luxor. They were pretty tight, but whether they were lovers as we would know the term I never was quite sure. But I enjoyed them both quite often. Ahmed’s friend was one of the prettiest Egyptians I met: for the most part, I was not particular taken with Egyptian men, who tended to treat me as they would a woman, quite brutally.Me, Ahmed,and Soda

That’s me with my cat, Soda (which means “black” in Arabic) and Ahmed.

Ahmed & friendAhmed’s friend was a real charmer! He knew how to dress to show off his tight bod.

Alexandria had also taken delivery of some brand new Japanese trainsets. These were fitted with pantographs, but the overhead system had not yet been properly fitted for them. When these cars rocked far enough to one side (on the uneven rails) a pantograph could swing past the hot-wire and entangle the hangers, with predictable results: damage and delays. I took the series of pictures below from the verandah of my apartment, and managed to snap photos when the inevitable happened: they got something mixed up with the 600-Volt line, with spectacular results!

Kinki Tram Alex 01As you can see, the “fireworks” drew quite a crowd!

Sooner or later the line-car and crew had to be called out to repair the damage:

Line Car AlexandriaRebuilt from an old Belgian tram.

Then, early one morning, an early out-bound passenger tram collided with the line-car!

Line Car Mishap

Trying to re-rail the line-car. Note caved-in front of car behind

In this old B&W photo, I am one of the “Four Musketeers”. Alas, only two of us are still alive.

Four Musketeers

The Four Musketeers

There you have a bit of life in Alexandria. Here’s another: this image has been seen all over the world, but I actually saw this happen many times!

Donkey

Slightly overloaded!

I’ll describe some of my trips around Egypt in future pages.

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Written by Editor

April 18th, 2010 at 11:46 am

Posted in Alexandria,Egypt