Al Max (also spelled El Max) is one of the neighbourhoods of the city of Alexandria in Egypt, located in the Department of Amriya district in the west of Alexandria. Al Max is rarely visited, yet it is one of the most beautiful places in Egypt.
Al Max is a community of fishermen centered around the freshwater canal Mahmoudiyah, dug in 1820 under the order of Viceroy Mohamed Ali in order to bring water from the Nile to Alexandria and also be a path for cargo ships. The canal was named after Sultan Mahmud II, the Sultan of Istanbul as Egypt then was an Ottoman state. The Mahmudiya Canal runs to the south of the city and, by a series of locks, enters the Alexandria harbor, the principal port of Egypt. The canal used to play an important role in navigation during the 19th century, allowing cargoes from Upper, Middle and Lower Egypt to be brought to Alexandria without passing Rosetta and the mouth of the river, where many ships sank in the turbulent waters. Also trading ships from Alexandria carrying imported merchandises reached Cairo by passing through the Mahmoudiyah Canal.
Today, the Mahmoudiyah Canal is used primarily for irrigation and to supply Alexandria with drinking water. With the canal closed for navigation, a community of fishermen have taken residence around it. Small houses hug the water stream and boats are lined up like a picture on a postcard. The residents’ daily lives revolve around processing, storing, transporting, and selling fish. With hundreds of boats darting through the canal, Al Max resembles and has been called the “Venice of Egypt”.
In recent years, pollution by chemical and petroleum industries in the area, and government negligence have taken a tragic toll on the fishing community. Al Max is one of the several areas that have been affected by environmental pollution that has plagued Egypt over the past decades.
Photo credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters
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