The Alexandria of one’s youth

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 08.55.36Dalrymple writes that a cosmopolitan city, such as the Alexandria he knew as a young man in the 1890s,

is one in which several nationalities and cultures coexist with some actual knowledge of each other’s languages and sympathetic participation in each other’s customs, not a city in which the citizens of 167 different countries happened to have turned up in the hope of social security and/or a decent job.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 09.00.10There is

a difference between a cocktail and a Mickey Finn; and I doubt that many extollers of cosmopolitanism in Le Monde sense of the word have taken a serious interest in Somali culture, for example, even if there is a large Somali ‘community’ in their city. (I have been to Somalia, and I intended at the time to read the works of a celebrated specialist anthropologist called I.M. Lewis about Somali culture. It is still on my list of things to do.)

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