Alexandria...

Trip Start Oct 07, 2007
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Trip End Oct 31, 2007


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Flag of Egypt  ,
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Plan: Underground Catacomb's, Pompey's Pillars, Al Montazah Gardens, Fort Qaitbey and the famous library.

What an amazing view to wake up to in the morning.  Being close to the sea made Ash and I feel a bit at home and the cleaner air in Alexandria compared to Cairo made taking that first big breath that much nicer.  We were told that we were going to have a long day and to make sure to have a good breakfast so we went down early to make sure we had enough time to really fuel up.  Breakfast was very North American with yogurts, waffles, crepes, other assorted fruits and veggies and pastries.  I filled up pretty good on waffles and crepes with a really good maple syrup.

The day started by heading out to the Al Montazah Gardens.  I am sure Ashley will have better specifics than I will for the actual names, dates and specifics but my overall experience was just the visuals alone.  The Garden is still kept in immaculate condition and many groundskeepers were on site when we drove through the winding road between the trees, flowers and plants, either pruning, watering or sweeping up.  Not only was the garden very lush, green and colourful, it was very well organized and just visually very pleasing in many ways as far as landscaping goes.

The next amazing site through the trees and once we came out into an opening was the amazing palace itself.  Montazah Palace was the last residence for King Faruk before he was overthrown in 1952. Ashley said that the guards themselves came in to remove the King and he went into Exile. The Palace was once opened to the public, but not anymore, so we had to take our photos from outside the gates.  We also viewed the Palace from across the other side of the water and stood out on the breakwater as the waves crashed in and nice breeze swept through. Fisherman were sitting out on the ledge testing their luck. It was beautiful there and it looked like you could rent boats if you wanted to tour the area by sea.

The next stop was the Underground Catacombs.  It is an interesting story the way they were found. A man came by pulled by a donkey and because of the uneasy ground the donkey fell amongst the rubble and the tombs were found. 

The tombs are all underground and so far are the most impressive thing I have seen.  Maybe I just can't wrap my mind around the pyramids because of their overall size, but the fact that tombs were all carved out of the ground is just amazing to me.  Ash joked that they were definitely dyslexic.   They carved all the rooms and tombs in one piece basically is the best way to describe it.  It isn't like they carved out the square rooms and brought in extra stone to construct statues etc.  They were all carved amongst the wall, even the sarcophagus' themselves.  The covers over the top in fact weren't even loose, they were just sculpted in to appear that way.  The bodies would have been put in through holes in the wall from behind and sealed closed from there.  It is tough to explain completely and they didn't allow cameras inside so I just suggest you go to experience it yourself. 

Pompey's Pillar felt simple after that because I have technically seen something like it before.  However, when you stopped to think of the tools at the time and the fact that it was a solid structure weighing in at 150 tons, I have no idea how they placed it there.  Despite being so tall and thin, Rado said that the sheer weight of it makes it so that it wouldn't move even in an earthquake. 

The last stop of the day was the Fort Quaitbey.  It is basically a castle like structure right on the edge of the water.  There are guard posts all around it's edges with small windows for arches to protect from anyone coming from land or sea.  The architecture, planning and construction it what was most impressive.  

The way the windows were constructed to be small but also let in a lot of light starting small on the outside but funneling bigger to the inside to project the light from the opening. was very cool.  Especially at the higher levels, the nice fresh air breeze that swept through off the water was very nice.  Rado left us alone for a bit to take pictures and we actually ran into one of the guards who was happy to find out that we were Canadian tourists and he showed us some remaining areas of the Fort such as the stable area and jail cell.  His english was alright and his animated character was a very interesting way to hear about some of the history.  He also took our photo a few times so we tipped him a couple dollars and said goodbye.

The next stop was to find some snacks(we weren't overly hungry after a big breakfast and thought snacks for the road might go over a bit better than stopping for lunch when the others couldn't eat) before starting on another 4 hour drive heading west along the North coast. I will let Ash tell you of the hilarity and adventure that took place when we visited the Egyptian Superstore.

- Ben 

Ben expects me to add all the technically info about our visit, but I enjoyed reading his take on our experience, so I am not going to drag it down with any historical lectures. Although it is King Farouk, Ben was close... The Palace is still in use for high visiting officials, but somehow we didn't qualify.

I will say it is funny how often guide have to say that something was discovered by accident when a donkey fell into a hole.

I loved watching Ben enjoy the Catacombs. Before this trip, I had done tons of research, on the internet, through books etc... so my expectations for most things are accurate-- I know what things are, how they came to be, and generally what they will look like. Because of this, I am never really "surprised" at least not like Ben who had no context for this site and was able to be truely wowed by it. It is very impressive, but my "wow" moment was being able to enjoy it alone. There was no one else in there, no one waiting to have us move along, or squish in beside us- just Ben and I with these beautiful, ancient carvings. The silence in front of this art is my "wow", all the info or photos in the world doesn't match that.

To explain why the creators of these tombs might have been dyslexic is due to a common ability to work in 3D, not flat images, therefore being able to plan out the craving.

The Pillar was definately a bit anti-climatic. The area is under renovation so it is all torn up and just seems... put on? It is huge, and to allow it its own glory, one only has to image "how the heck the got it up right without a crane?"


The library itself didn't make it into the itinerary, but we were able to make a quick stop to check it from the outside and get some photos. The structure is amazing, I love the idea that it is trying to honour the famous library of antiquity that housed 700,000+ scrolls of information from all the corners of the world. 


Our funniest adventure of the day had to be the Supermarket. Our three local guides, who could either tell you anyhing you asked about history, monuments, culture and nature, or drive you there-- completely out of their element when it was the first time Ben and I felt "at home." It was a hilarious scenario, wandering the aisles, looking for snacks, weighing the fruit, making decisions... and being guided by people who didn't at all seem comfortable. It was a mirror image of Superstore in Metrotown.

-Ash
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