European influence in the Egyptian seaside city of Alexandria goes way back. In fact, the city was established by Alexander the Great in 332. It was a thriving, cosmopolitan city back then—most remembered for its public library. As the story goes, all ships that called at the Alexandria port—and there were many—were boarded and searched. Any books found on board were seized by the authorities. They were eventually returned but only after their contents had been copied. Thus the library became the biggest in the world.
Today, some 1600 years after a fire destroyed the original library, construction is underway to build a new, state-of-the-art library at the same location. The new facility will include internet access. In the mean time, there are cybercafes.
Interestingly, the area of the city which contains most of the hotels and which serves as the cultural center is pretty much devoid of cybercafes. Some distance away—in the new commercial center of Zahran—there are at least four. Competition is stiff and thus prices are low—as little as LE5 (US$1.50) per hour (about half of what it costs in Cairo).
The best of the bunch is Web Cafe.
At Web Cafe the connection and machines were amongst the best we'd encountered thus far on our travels. And the proprietor was interested in and excited by the services he offers. Although we've met a number of cybercafe employees who are enthralled with the internet and the web, more often than not these folks are workers not owners. And most small businesspeople opening shops see at as a business opportunity and have little or no interest in the internet beyond that.
Galal Mahran is an exception. He opened Web Cafe just six weeks before our visit. I asked him how he got into this stuff; how he came to start a cybercafe.