Dude! Where's my Donkey?

Trip Start May 22, 2009
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190
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Trip End Feb 16, 2010


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Flag of Egypt  , Alexandria,
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Alexandria, once a great historical city, now has very little to show for it.  Wonders of the Ancient world are under the sea and the stones that formed the base have been redistributed.  Founded by Alexander the Great, Cleopatra had a palace here, the great library and lighthouse…home of greatness, now most of the evidence is gone.  Still, there are a few worthy sites that we were able to visit, although the majority of our time was spent catching up with friends. 

The famous library of Alexandria originally founded in the 3rd century BC has been rebuilt with the same grandeur.  Rising out of the art like a sun, it resembles a discus (or spaceship) which has crashed into the earth.  Elaborately decorated with scripts from every language on earth you know immediately that this is a place of knowledge.  With room for over 8 million books, and an Internet archive holding copies of every web page since 1996 you can understand how such great thought came out of this place.  Herophilus discovered the head and not the heart is the center of thought, Euclid developed geometry, Aristarchus discovered the earth revolves around the sun…An Impressive interior full of illuminated shelves and windows facing the Mediterranean to represent enlightenment.  It was just a joy to be in a place and see everyone working and studying. 

The Catacombs in Alexandria are the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt.  It was discovered by accident in 1900 when a donkey pulling a cart disappeared underground.  Since then they’ve revealed a series of rooms and burial chambers decorated with a combination of Greek and Pharaonic styles.  Quite strange to look at what appears to be traditional Egyptian carvings, but realize that something isn’t quite right about it.  Several stories below ground, it’s eerie to walk around the rooms of death.  Adding to the atmosphere is the fact that the bottom levels have been flooded.  Even the floor above, all the graves are filled to the brim with water, and you find yourself peering down in to see what may lie inside…raised planks lead you around, unless you decide to tread on slightly damp ground and explore beyond - which of course we did!

Pompey’s Pillar is one of the chosen sites we avoided.  Impressive in it’s 30m height and over 2.7m diameter hewn from one piece of Aswan red granite (granite was taken all over Egypt from Aswan).  It once supported a glorious ancient settlement from where Alexandria grew.  I just couldn’t bring myself to pay just to see one column. 
 Unfortunately most of Alexandria is like this, where once greatness stood, the remains no longer remain.  Actually, many have been found off shore below the sea - where Cleopatra’s Palace once stood.  Both Brian and I were quite excited about the prospect of diving to see the underwater archaeological finds.  But the waves were very rough almost every day we were there and made the visibility only a few meters so we opted out of this one. 

Walks along the waterfront, playing with children, eating in little holes-in-the-wall and shopping in the local stores.  A great place to get away from some of the intensity of Cairo. 

Best part was that ‘hellos’ and ‘welcomes’ started again.  And instead of mixed with a sales  pitch, they were just people wanting to know people.  One of our favorite was the man who runs the bakery around the corner.  Every time we stopped to say ‘hi‘, we needed at least a couple of hours as it entailed coffee, tea, and samplings from the shop - every time!
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