IF YOU ARE prepared to put up with some pretty basic facilities — such as plumbing which might have been installed by the pharoes themselves — there are still a few places where you can spend a few days away from it all at remarkably little cost. Abukir is one of them.
Situated about 15 miles east of Alexandria, north of the Nile delta, Abukir lies on the Egyptian shores of the Mediterranean.
There is a railway station, complete with vintage rolling stock. The open doors and windows are to be treated with great caution. The 116 bus is more contemporary but there is clearly a prize for the driver who can squeeze in the most people. A one-way ticket from Alexandria costs eight pence.
In Alex itself there is no shortage of hotels: the rather grand Cecil Hotel is the last out-post of the British Empire and would charge you accordingly — about 130 a night. Nearby is the plush Maamura Palace Hotel and King Farouk's Montazah Palace, the summer residence of the deposed Egyptian Royal family.
But there is little that is luxurious about 30 El Qaed Gohan Street in Abukir. Here you can stay for only £3.50 a night in a room perched above the breaking waves.
Downstairs is a fish restaurant which is reputed to produce the best sea food in Egypt. It certainly produces none of the unpleasant after effects which Egyptian cuisine has to offer, Abukir is about 30 miles north east of the 8th Army's Battle at El Alamein but was itself the scene of an equally famous battle in 1798 when Nelson destroyed Napoleon's fleet out in the bay. The town is predominantly Moslem and is studded with mosques and minarets.
Although Alexandria and this part of the north coast of Africa was, with Rome and Constantinople, one of the three main centres of Christianity, Islam is today dominant.
There are still Christian churches; Alexandria has its own pope, and there are catacombs at Kom El Shokaffa which date back to the second century AD. But be warned, you have to climb 100 feet down into the rock to get to them.
Alexander the Great, Antony, Nelson and Napoleon all knew these shores. More recently British soldiers came here too. At the small Union Restaurant the Greek owner will sit you down where Montgomery planned his campaign.
Forty years later, thanks to Anwar Sadat, Egypt enjoys peace.
When you tire of the fish, the sea and the sun you can take yourself off to Cairo, or for the real addict there is Asswan or Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. All of them can be reached by train.
Alternatively, there are a never-ending stream of air conditioned buses which for ES a trip will take you on the desert road to Cairo.
Once there, the best way to see the Sphinx and Pyramids is to go to Giza by night for the Son et Lumiere. One American in my hearing gave it the ultimate accolade on pronouncing it better than Disneyworld, though maybe not as big. The Egyptian museum is not to be missed and the bargain hunter must to go the bazaars.
Every Egyptian will try to sell you something and will expect you to beat them down on price. Although not yet on the package tour circuit in a big way — and that can be a blessing — it is a coukry which can pro :de a few days away 'at remarkably little Cost.