Alexandria, Egypt's second city on the shores of the Mediterranean, occupies a long strip of land
between the sea and Lake Mareotis covering a length of some 30 kilometres.
The city's first light-rail opened in 1860 (3 years before London's first underground line),
running as a steam railway from Ramleh Station to Victoria now "Nasr".
There are two inter-connecting tram networks. Blue trams, 3-car sets some with a
single double-deck car, run eastwards from Ramleh station.
There are two main routes that divide and join up again, including a branch that
interchanges with the surface-rail Sidi Gaber station, inter-connecting with
suburban services and trains to Cairo. The stations on the blue network are
elaborate structures in a striking 1950s modern style.
From around Ras-el-Tin, next to a presidential palace, a number of other tram routes radiate,
operated by yellow trams.
The blue trams have a track entirely separated from motor traffic, while the yellow trams
mostly share the road with other vehicles. The blue trams collect electricity by means of
a pantograph, while the yellow trams collect electricity by means of a trolley arm.
There are two routes of yellow and red trams which join up the two networks and which are
equipped with both electricity collection systems, and change from pantograph to trolley
arm at Ramleh Station.
The blue trams are often extremely slow, but the service is amazingly frequent,
with trams following each other only a few seconds apart.
The yellow trams pass through extremely crowded streets, and in places,
market stalls cover the track, and are wheeled back as the tram approaches,
and then put back in place once it has passed.
Although Alexandria suffers from many of the problems of an overcrowded African city,
there are enthusiasts and collectors. The Alexandria Transport Authority operates
a vintage tram for tourists but many local users enjoy riding on it.
The cost of a regular tram ticket is 25 piastres (a quarter of an Egyptian pound,
of which there are about 7.5 to the euro) and a ride on the vintage tram costs one
Egyptian pound. The tickets are purchased on board the tram, from a conductor in each car.
Most trams have a car reserved for women, always the middle car of the blue network 3-car sets,
and on yellow trams, where there are two separate cars, the first is "women only".
The service operates from early in the morning until very late at night,
as people do not go to bed early in Alex, but the service is briefly suspended
for the evening prayer during Ramadan.
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