Day 2 and 3: Alexandria, Egypt
Trip Start Jul 30, 2007
34Trip End Jan 31, 2008
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Where I stayed
to the sound of the crashing Mediterranean Sea, and the traffic of the Corniche
(the long road which traverses the Mediterranean). Sam and I decided that because it was so warm in our room,
we would sleep with our balcony door open for the fresh air, and boy was it
welcomed. I went down to enjoy the
Continental breakfast, which to me sounded like it would be donuts, coffee and
orange juice, but turned out to be a full breakfast of a variety of fares.
After breakfast the group met in the hotel lobby, where we
would embark on an extremely long and ambitious itinerary.
To give a little background on the city of Alexandria (known
to the locals as Alex.) I can start with the city's rich history. The city of Alex stretches 12 miles
along the northern Egyptian coast.
It was founded in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great, having grown to rival
the size of Rome before falling into a decline in the 4th Century
A.D. Prosperity returned in the 19th
Century when the Pasha Mohammed Ali revived its fortunes by linking it to the
Nile river. The prosperity led to
exponential growth of foreign immigration, which ended in the 1950s when
Egypt's first president, Nasser, led his revolution. The ancient city is, for the most part, indiscoverable, as
modern Alexandria has been built atop the historical landmarks.
We began our tour of the day by visiting one of the
discovered locations of the
catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa. The
catacombs really are quite remarkable, having been discovered accidentally by a
passing man on a donkey. The
donkey's foot had fallen through a soft portion of land, and thus the Catacombs
had been discovered. Kom
ash-Shuqqafa dates from the 2nd century A.D., and is the largest
Graeco-Roman necropolis in Egypt.
The complex of three levels goes down 115 feet and can be reached via a
spiral staircase encirciling a shaft to which bodies were lowered to the tombs
The Catacombs are made up of oolitic limestone with trending
patterns that slope toward the Sea.
It is believed that when the Catacombs were carved out the walls were
flat. Because of groundwater, and a higher water table (with the lower sea
elevation), the walls look somewhat like Swiss cheese in most places.
I was able to get some great pictures of the Catacombs (even
though cameras weren't allowed, so check them out in the photo gallery.
After the catacombs we headed toward Pompey's Pillar. It is funny because the pillar really
isn't a pillar, it's a column having nothing to do with Pompey. The lone pillar that stands today was
once part of a temple that stood at the highest point of Alexandria. Below the temple was the tomb and next
to that was an ancient library. It
is believed that in the library held the documents that would have made up the
Library of Alexandra, had it not been burned down. One of the most fascinating things that I had observed was
that in the middle of this great city, are the ancient remains of the old city,
almost as a bridge from past to present all in the same area.
Upon leaving the Pillar, we headed to Fort Quitbay, where it
is observed the famous lighthouse once stood. The Fort as seen today has gone under several renovations
due to attacks over the centuries the fort has been in existence. The fort had provided a great
opportunity to get some really cool photos of the city as well as the
Mediterranean from various vantage points in and around the grounds.
One of the interesting things that I am amazed with is the security
and the regard to which it is held.
For larger groups of 8 or more, we are given our own armed guard that
travels with us on the bus, ensuring our safety. Also, as I found out the other day, when we were walking
around our first evening in Alex, we were being followed by the Egyptian
Police, who are out there for dual purposes; to protect us, and to make sure we
are not causing any trouble also.
On day three we had another day of travel back to Cairo to
take a domestic flight down to Aswan (where I currently am writing this
journal). Along the journey we
stopped at a local shopping mall to purchase some cell phones so we can keep in
contact with each other in the event we are off by ourselves and come across
trouble. We also stopped at a
museum on our way out of Alex that was recently opened. The building the museum is housed was
once the United States consulate until we sold it back to Egypt for their
purposes of this museum. In it
were many statuary and depictions from the time of the pharaohs, as well as the
Coptic portion of the museum where there were some ancient biblical paintings
After our journey to the mall and the museum, we embarked
for Cairo, where we made our plane, with 15 minutes to spare. We arrived to Aswan late last night but
couldn't help to go to the rooftop bar to have an ice cold Stella beer with a
couple of the group mates. Sure
sounds like the luxury vacation, eh?
More to come on day 4 and 5's adventures tomorrow!
computer isn't uploading my photos right now, so I will update ya'll when I am
able to get them onto my computer.