• Ahmed Elkhouly

The Small City with a Big Heart..



At first when I started planning for my trip across Egypt I wasn’t really sure which cities to include. After some basic research I decide on a certain path that would start form Cairo and lead me all the way to Aswan, passing by approximately 18 cities on 30 days. The cities were either on the Suez Canal, Nile River, or Nile Delta. The Main factors of choice were size, hotel availability, and the availability of restaurants and businesses that would benefit from what I had to offer. Along the way I realized that some places weren’t supposed to be on the list and other places were more deserving.



A certain set of rules were put as constraints to keep the experience as authentic and realistic as possible. For instance I had a limited daily budget which would be spent on accommodation, transportation and food. Another rule was that all transportation had to be public so I was only allowed to use Trains, buses, and an occasional local taxi if there is no alternative. Food was to be used as a source of fuel keeping expenditure to the minimum.



Going on such a venture for a month wasn’t going to be cheap, but I had to make it work according to the budget. Even the food itself had to be from local brands, no international franchises allowed no matter how much I craved it. The one rule that was difficult to follow was the accommodation budget, which varied significantly from one city to the other in some cities, reaching a cost of double my allocated budget. Compromises had to be made, so I mostly chose to walk over transportation and ate only to sustain a healthy status.



One of the cities that wasn’t in the original plan was El-Mahalla, its right between Mansoura, the previous city I visited, and Tanta. I was supposed to take the train directly to Tanta skipping El-Mahalla. Only a coulpe of days prior to Mansoura did I check the map again and saw what seemed to be a small city where the train passes through on its way to Tanta. Its a well known city and world famous for being the textile hub of the region, but just didn’t know what to expect from it, or maybe I just thought it would be mostly industrial zone surrounded by farmers growing crops.



That moment I saw El-Mahalla there on the map, I had this feeling that I needed to go there. I wasn’t wrong, El-Mahalla might not be the prettiest city, but what it lacks in beauty the people loving nature make up for it. It was the easiest city to make friends, it was like people were open and ready to talk, their smiles were warm and had quite a sense of humor. I was greeted with Love. They offered everything for my comfort, food, drink, and made me feel at home. They even helped me reach my goal for their city, a goal I’ve had trouble achieving in the last couple of cities.



El-Mahalla is a tough place to be part of the restaurant business, guests are picky and they like getting the best service for as little money as possible. High quality bargains is what they are after, but luckily they have a sense of adventure and don’t mind foreign food pallets. That didn’t mean the competition was easy, as I’ve come to discover, the people of El-Mahalla have a keen sense of interior design and decor. They treat their restaurants as pieces of art, with designs that seem unique to each theme and cuisine.



Their persistence and eagerness to succeed adds a creative tension in their competition were they all thrive to become the best in El-Mahalla and possibly even spread out to the rest of Egypt. This city contains a very labour demanding industry where thousands of workers from neighboring cities travel to every morning. Its people serve as an inspiration to others and their city is surely a place I would visit again.



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