Skip to main content

COP26: Boris Johnson warns Alexandria is sinking and Egyptian Twitter melts down

'Quickly, travel to Alexandria in the next few days because you won’t see it again,' read one panicked tweet
Boys walk while holding balloons on concrete blocks by the Mediterranean waterfront in the historic harbour of Egypt's northern city of Alexandria (AFP)

During his opening speech at the COP26 summit, Boris Johnson issued a word of warning to the world: a global temperature increase of four degrees would mean "we say goodbye to whole cities - Miami, Alexandria, Shanghai. All lost beneath the waves".

“We are quilting the earth in an invisible and suffocating blanket of CO2, raising the temperature of the planet with the speed and abruptness that is entirely man-made,” he said in Glasgow on Tuesday.

Johnson's mention of Alexandria and the prospect of losing their second city immediately struck a chord with Egyptians.

Mohamed Ghanem, the spokesperson for Egypt's irrigation ministry, was quickly asked by a local TV channel: “What is our plan?”

'We are not waiting for the problem to happen before we start to move. We started years ago, with changes'

- Mohamed Ghanem, irrigation ministry spokesman

Action is being taken, he assured. “We are aware of the large effects of climate change that are taking place,” Ghanem said.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


“We are not waiting for the problem to happen before we start to move. We started years ago, with changes.” 

Alexandria is surrounded on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea. Its fourth side lies on a lake, making it highly susceptible to the rise in sea levels as a result of global warming.

The topic of a sinking Alexandria is not new. In fact, the city’s five million residents are already living with the risks of climate change on a daily basis. 

In 2015, a severe storm flooded large areas of the city, leading to at least six deaths and the collapse of multiple homes.

Nonetheless, the British prime minister's comments at the climate summit have sent chills down the spine of many Egyptians, some of whom appear to be accepting Alexandria's submersion as inevitable.

"I will return to Egypt but I won’t find Alexandria,” one tweeted.

“Imagine the world without Alexandria. There will be nothing beautiful left in it,” another wrote.

For some, Johnson's warning was a prompt to visit the ancient city.

“Quickly, travel to Alexandria in the next few days because you won’t see it again,” one tweet read.

Representatives of over 190 countries are participating in the summit organised by the United Nations.

COP26, which is running until 12 November, comes amidst unprecedented climate challenges that have afflicted all regions across the world. 

Alok Sharma, a UK minister and the summit's president, called the Glasgow conference the world’s "last best hope" for limiting global warming to one and a half degrees Celcius.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.