Traversing the Mediteranean Coast

Trip Start Feb 28, 2009
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Trip End Mar 31, 2009


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Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, March 13, 2009

After an early morning departure from Siwa we began the long journey to Alexandria. We were traveling north to the Mediterranean coast and thankfully the roads were in a much better condition than those on the way to Siwa. We made a stop at Al Alamein War Cemetery en route, which was a memorial to the conflict there in July 1942 and the resting place of countless allied forces. I have to confess that the battle of Al Alamein was a part of the Australian WWII campaign that I knew nothing about. More than 800,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in what was an important allied victory in preventing the Germans (and Italians) from taking control of Alexandria and ultimately the Suez Canal.

We reached Alexandria late in the day and checked into our Hotel. Hotel Crillon. This hotel was both bizarre and amazing. There were so many stuffed birds in the reception area that you couldn't help but make comparisons to the Bates Motel, yet it had a sort of faded old world charm with high ceilings and vintage furniture. To top it off, our room had a great view over the bay and the waterfront of Alexandria. For dinner, we ended up at a really great seafood restaurant on the Corniche. It had to be done. More than anywhere else in Egypt, Alexandria is known for its seafood, and for good reason. It was really fantastic. 

The following day was all about sightseeing. We headed past Pompey's Pillar to the Catacombs of Kom Ash-Shuqqafa. To access the catacombs, you head down down a spiral staircase and there are both large and small rooms full of opening where bodies had previously been interred. It was interesting to see some of the wall paintings that showed elements of both Egyptian and Roman styles, and there was also the skeleton of a horse, not sure why but it seemed fitting.

Still on the tourist trail, we headed to Qaitbey Citadel, a beautiful old fort on the waterfront, which now serves mostly as a tourist attraction. It felt like more Egyptian students visiting than international tourists. What I was most interested in, was that this fort is said to be located on the previous site of the Pharos Lighthouse that collapsed in antiquity. The lighthouse was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but there was nothing even referring to the old lighthouse. There was however, a red stone slab in the foundations of the fort that is believed to have form part of the ancient structure.

On the other side of Alexandria is the Biblioteca Alexandrina. A working library that stands as a tribute to the ancient library of Alexandria and the ideals that it stood for. This was the most modern structure I had seen so far in Egypt and definitely no less impressive than the ancient temples. The main part of the library is housed in a huge sloping discus representing the sun and the external walls are carved with texts from different languages. The inside is equally impressive, with large columns and and an open area able to hold eight million books. It's scale was just enormous.

The following day brought a train journey back to Cairo and the end of my organised tour. In retrospect I was glad I had done the tour. I was able to share my experiences with other people and I don't think we would have been able to travel to some of the places we did without our Egyptian tour manager. This was the end of the first part of my trip. The second half would be much different to the first. I was ready for some new experiences. So many temples in such a short space of time had made it increasingly difficult to appreciate everything you see.
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Comments

laorfamily
laorfamily on

What a great trip.
The the battle of Al Alamein was of utmost importance because it prevented the Germans from supplying their war machine with oil from the oil fields.

justinrowe
justinrowe on

Thanks, I appreciate the insight

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