Mersa Matruh Tourist Attractions
The port of Mersa Matruh (Marsa Matruh), the ancient Paraetonium from which Alexander the Great set out on his historic journey to the Siwa Oasis and now a seaside resort much frequented by the people of Alexandria, lies in a large lagoon bounded on the seaward side by a line of reefs, some 105mi/170km west of El-Alamein and 135mi/220km east of the Libyan frontier.Now the principal resort on the stretch of coast known, by virtue of its mild climate, picturesque rocky coves, fascinatingly hued sea and superb beaches of fine white sand, as the "Egyptian Riviera", Mersa Matruh was already a popular summer resort in ancient times. The harbor provided a base for Cleopatra's fleet during the conflict with Augustus; and remains of ancient quays, traces of settlement and the ruins of an Early Christian church have been brought to light. Mersa Matruh is now the administrative center of the Northwest Frontier District and the base of the Egyptian sponge fishing fleet, and is also a busy trading center for the bedouin of the Western (Libyan) Desert, who bring to market here their sheep, wool and agricultural produce (barley, dates, olives, excellent melons).
Bath of Cleopatra
Near the harbor is a cave which was occupied for a time by General Rommel during the Second World War. There are attractive, though strenuous, walks along the beach, particularly to the so called "Bath of Cleopatra", a natural basin at the foot of a 165ft/60m high cliff.
The coast road continues west from Mersa Matruh to the little fishing port and market town of Sidi Barani (85mi/136km; gasoline (petrol) station) and Sollum, a place of some consequence in antiquity under the name of Banaris. During the Second World War, in 1940-42, it was the scene of bitter fighting, lying as it did 6mi/10km east of the frontier between Egypt and the then Italian colony of Cyrenaica (now part of Libya).