Matruh, Egypt

Living in Matruh

Iyna Bort Caruso

Legend has it that a beach on the Mediterranean coast of northern Egypt is the spot where Cleopatra frolicked in the waters with Mark Antony. Whether fact or folklore, the beach doesn’t need the lore of an Egyptian queen to attract attention. Cleopatra’s Beach, as it’s now known, is one of the country’s loveliest.

The beach is just outside Marsa Matruh, capital of the Matrouh Governorate, one of 27 administrative divisions of Egypt. Matrouh incorporates part of the Western Desert. As a result, the region is sparsely populated.

Marsa Matruh is the center of resort activity. Mediterranean winds temper the desert climate. Marsa Matruh is protected by a ring of rocks that acts as a natural breakwater. As a result, the waters are always calm. The area has a string of silky sand beaches, some so secluded they have a private feel. Cleopatra’s Beach is arguably the most famous. The largest beach in the area is Gharam Beach, a name that translates to “shore of love” in Arabic. Agiba Beach, about 15 miles west of Marsa Matruh, is sandwiched between cliffs with natural caves. The cliffs offer remarkable views for those who climb to the top.

The area was a small fishing village in ancient days during the reign of Alexander the Great. It was known by different names throughout the ages and considered a sacred region. Important archeological finds can be found around here including the ruins of a temple for Ramses II, discovered in 1942 and dating back to 1200 BC. In more recent history, a cave carved into a mountain used by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to plot military operations during World War II is now a military museum.

In some areas, older buildings have been demolished to make room for modern developments. In the luxury sector, coastal communities offer private villas, townhouses and apartments. Some complexes feature pools, playgrounds, posh gardens and security.