The Venice of Egypt

December 12, 2014

Alexandria, Egypt

By Amr Dalsh

In the coastal Mediterranean city of Alexandria, I visited a district of families dependant on fishing for their livelihood that is struggling to navigate Egypt’s economic troubles.

I’d heard a lot about El Max — the “Venice of Egypt” — where hundreds of boats dart through the canal. I’d seen pictures of its waterways and brightly-coloured houses, which many fishermen built with their own hands.

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Almost every day, the men wake up before dawn and return home in the evening, earning 10 Egyptian pounds ($1.40). They’re used to the hard work, but still they worry that each year, the same amount of work has brought them less fish.

I visited the village several times while shooting this story, and it seemed to me a forgotten place. I was saddened to see how dirty it had become over the years, with raw sewage and waste floating in the canals, the water darkened in some places.

The fishermen pointed to the nearby cement and chemical factories, which they believe are dumping their waste into the waters.

They are concerned about how they will continue to feed their families on meager earnings which they believe are being reduced even further by the polluted water, making fishing more difficult.

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Overall, they’re not very optimistic. Egypt has been hurt by years of political and economic turmoil ever since the 2011 overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak. The number of tourists visiting Egypt, while slowly recovering, is still significantly below pre-revolution levels.

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The government has tried to fix the state’s finances by cutting subsidies and reining in spending.

But many here argue that the reforms have hurt Egypt’s most vulnerable, who have long-relied on a generous system of fuel and food subsidies to supplement insufficient incomes.

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