Thursday, August 16, 2007

Marina Diaries – Episode 1

Dear readers, I apologize for my long absence. It was a long, most needed vacation and the first with my daughter, who has very recently succeeded in taking her first steps. I'd like to thank all of you who asked about me during my absence and I hope to make a strong comeback by writing my diaries from this summer vacation in Marina.
So, let's get started.

We've been residents of Marina since 2004 only, which makes us relatively new to the community. My husband and I preferred to go there during September when the sea is all ours and things are a lot quieter than during the buzz of the summer. Things were a lot different this summer, for we decided to hit the heart of the season and we were amazed to see changes that we quickly taking place. Aside from the huge difference that the establishment of Porto Marina has made, what grabbed our attention this year was the great number of people and the sharp gap between social classes. There are the morbidly rich, whom you would normally expect to see on the beaches of Palma di Mayorca or something, but they decided to build their own small empires on the Northern Egyptian coast. There are those of the upper middle class, who have managed to buy their humble residences before the crazy auctions which hysterically raised the prices of villas to make them reach 6 and 7 million EGP. There is the typical middle class who rent a place for a week or two during the summer, trying to rub shoulders with the elites. And then there are the workers who serve all those people. (Each villa has an average of 3 or 4 personnel who work as guards, gardeners, maids, babysitters, drivers, cooks, …etc.)

You would think to yourself, "Isn't it amazing that all those different people could enjoy the same beach, the same sea, in the same place." I'm sorry to interrupt your wishful thinking to say that although Marina is not considered to be that big, yet it is already divided into isolated islands when it comes to beaches, night spots, restaurants and the likes. There are the private beaches which you can only visit via membership, a very expensive membership. There are beaches for females only, which means that a woman and her daughters would be at a beach, while her husband and sons will go to another! What a family outing! Then there are beaches in front of private property, and these were made by the owners to become part of their properties, making sure that no intruder would think of getting in. So, although you may think it's the same sea, in fact it is not.

Then there comes water piracy. You might wonder what that could be. It doesn't stop at the beach, no. They've owned the water too. It has become a sort of fashion that you can hardly find any villas that doesn't have a speed boat or a jet ski or both parked by its beach. The beaches overlooking Marina's lagoon have become like a parking lot, with all those private motors that go on cruising the water all day long.

Arriving at Marina will make you think that you've traveled outside Egypt. Suddenly all the cars are brand new, half of which are luxury cars and 4x4s. Villas and chalets also vary according to the place you are in. It is known that the whole concept of the resort was to make all units look the same with a limit for heights so that everybody can enjoy the view of the sea water no matter where they are. Both rules have been sabotaged by the morbidly rich of Marina. They want to feel unique in everything, each one of them have decided to make his own theme on his property, how come you can't tell his villa from his neighbor's? To hell with the beautiful unified look of the buildings, let's build a castle, even if it was only a beach house. The rich have found in this summer spot a new battle field, as if it was not enough to compete in business, let's compete in architecture as well. Let's see whose villa is more luxurious. Even the law that forbids constructing anything which would exceed a 2 storey building was broken by the powerful businessmen of Porto Marina. Where you can see a giant hotel that blocks the eye of the sun. To hell with any rules, and to hell with the others who want to enjoy the scenery. If they don't like what we did with the millions we spent on decorating our exteriors and promoting our business, then let them drink from the salty water of the sea.

Just another facet of the chaos that surrounds us, and the exercise of power from the haves as opposed to the helplessness of the have-nots.. All I needed was some peace of mind by the sea, but who can have it in this country?


Badr said...

we bought our place in marina back in 1996, back then marina was a totally different place, back then the extension didn't exist and visitors didnt bother to come every single night as they do these days, it was way calmer, not to mention since there weren't many visitors/renters the social class rainbow was alot limited, i really liked how it felt back then, it felt like you fit in...then the extension was built, and this unexplained mania started, everybody just had to go to marina, anyway to make the long story short i dont feel i fit there anymore, i'm either too rich or too poor for the people i'm hanging out with i've actually reached the stage where i actually hate saying that i have a place in marina cause it gets me all these wrong reactions

Alina Popescu said...

OMG, this sounds awful. I recommend Bulgaria or Romania to you the next time! Even the Romanian seaside sounds better!

Anyway, such things do happen everywhere: businessmen breaking rules. But owning the beach and the sea is still not implemented here...

I do hope you managed to get your mind off these things and enjoy your time with your family!

vagabondblogger said...

Wow the photo makes it very tempting to go see what it's all about. Very nice photo. I've actually never heard of it until you mentioned it.

Isn't this McVilla (like McMansion) something that's going on in Cairo, as well? The stark differences between the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor? I've been told that due to the problems in Lebanon, where many Gulf residents had previously vacationed, Egypt has become their new playground.

Om Luji said...

Welcome to my blog and thanks for the valuable comment. I strongly believe things were a lot different back in 1996. Hey, there's already a huge difference between 2004 and now! I will talk about the silly gates and the tickets later on. And I totally agree that no matter what social class you belong to, they provokingly make us unfit. Please keep coming back for more comments.

Om Luji said...

Well, I tried so hard to get my mind off these things, but as you shall see in the following parts, they just kept getting worse. I did, however, manage to enjoy my time. My parents and in-laws joined us, which was lovely.
Must be much better in Romania. The thing is that in Egypt rich people think of obeying the rules and abiding by the law as something shameful and challenging to their power. They therefore decide to break them in order to show off how strong they are. They behave childish, that sometimes they make you doubt that the source of their fortune is a legal business.
I believe that if everybody respected the law, Egypt will be much more beautiful. Still, I'll have your suggestion in my for our next vacation.

Om Luji said...

Yes, you've described it perfectly. Marina has turned into a resort for the richest, although unlike those new compounds in Cairo, it was not designed for that aim. Businessmen have found in it a great opportunity for investment. Many of the old owners have used the crazy rise in prices to make profits as well, by selling their villas with as up as 10 times of the original price in just 5 years!
Your comment about the Gulf residents is also true. Those new compounds and resorts clearly target them, as 99% of the Egyptians can never afford those incredibly high prices. That's why you find that companies who sell those villas have got marketing offices in Jeddah, Kuwait, Doha .. etc.

Fadfadation said...

Yeah, i've seen all you talked about.

A friend of mine whom i meet this past vacation is one of the old owners in Marina.

He too was complainning about that each villa had it's own boat and jet ski parked in front of their villas.

Actually, he told me that his villa had a place enough for two boats and jet skis.
He didn't use them and then people (other people living in Villas behind him) came to him and starting asking to use his sea front.

One of them offered him a load of money for it...looooool

Showing off is a strong trend in Egypt now :(

salama moussa said...

Dear Om Luji .. Welcome back .. Wonderful analysis as usual .. I think what is happening in Egypt now could lead to one of the coming two scenarios: The first scenario is that this is a transitional period where the high economic growth in Egypt which is concentrated in the hands of the economic elite will transfer or cascade down by time to the whole population. Or the worst scenario Egypt is gonna be more or less like some Latin countries (extremely rich living side by side with extremely poor) or even like Egypt itself before 1952.
In my opinion, what is going to deciede which scenario is gonna take place in Egypt is the way in which the political regime and the government is going to act. The is an economic surplus in Egypt .. This is a fact .. the problem is that how can we set right policies that could allow all social classes to benefit from this surplus.

Ma-3lina said...

I missed you soooooooo much more than u can even imagine. Missed Louji too of course :))

I have entered hundred of times and was like where is she??!!! it has been a long time for such travel

anyway welcome to your blog, and I am really anxious to read all ur diary with your analysis

I know that this will surprise u but I huv never been there , we always go to some quiet beach at 3een sokhna away from all that noise

so bring it on , i wanna know all about this life over there.

If u have photos plz attach too :))

Om Luji said...

Showing off has turned into an epidemic actually. It has exceeded all limits. I wonder why having money in Egypt means that you can own everything and do anything without showing the least concern for others.
You didn't tell me whether your friend agreed to sell his sea front or not.

Om Luji said...

I am sorry to believe that the second scenario is the most probable. We're living in a state of complete chaos. The government is not serious about anything. There is no serious planning. I bet they have no clear image of how things will be like in the next 5 years even. They just work to keep the boat rowing, that's all. This results in even more chaos, even in the presence of this economic surplus you mentioned. It means nothing for the majority of the Egyptians who only hear numbers without seeing any positive change in their environment. On the contrary, things are deteriorating so fast for those.
Thanks for the valuable comment.

Om Luji said...

Missed you a lot and missed your bright comments. I am sorry for the long absence. Here I am again.
Really we now believe we don't fit there any more. So your decision to choose a quiet spot for your vacation is very wise.
The coming posts will amaze you. I will move from the general picture to certain incidents that happened during our stay. Keep coming back, wanna read more of your comments.

Fadfadation said...

la2 he gave it to them for free.

Waad fayeees ba2a lol :)

Juka said...

Welcome back :) I can totally relate :) btw it's gotten worse, it's not just Marina now! Entire coast is ruined.