World War II was marked in Cairo primarily by the occupiers' need to halt the Axis drive across North Africa and the ambivalence of the support afforded them by the occupied Egyptians. The struggle came to a head in 1942 at El Alamein, a virtually empty stretch of desert on the north coast some 80km (50 miles) west of Alexandria. German and Italian tank and infantry had been making rapid eastward progress that, had it not been halted, would have resulted in them capturing strategically vital supply routes and oil supplies and dealing the Allied war effort in Europe a serious blow. Ultimately victorious at Al Alamein, however, the Allies were then able to reverse the defeats of the previous months and put an end to German and Italian ambitions in the Middle East.

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