Day 77 - Alexandria

Trip Start Aug 07, 2007
Trip End Nov 07, 2007

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, October 22, 2007

Hair: Young Einstein
Beard: Brendan Fraser in Encino Man
Distance Travelled: 9,500 km
Frame of Mind: Happy

Q) What do you call a Roman who sits by the fireplace? 
A) Alexander The Grate

I was a little worried about getting to Alex (as the cool kids call it) from Port Said.  My Michelin map said it was 255km along a motorway.  The only problem was that the motorway seemed to go for 150km through the Mediterranean Sea.  Michelin has been fairly accurate so far but this seemed like a rather ambitious bridge to say the least.  On the LP map the road does not exist.  Hmmmm.

Actually it DID exist, it was built on a large but narrow, date-palm groved sand bank (or perhaps reclaimed land) in the sea.  The fresh sea breeze mingled with the sweet smell of dates (and occasionally burning crude oil from one of the refineries) and made it a very pleasant drive.

I really must learn a little more Arabic as I got a little stuck at breakfast.  I didn't want fish or beans so that left me with a choice of bread or bread.  Perhaps time to branch out?  The bread was a bit sour. 

Alex is a very cool city.  Modern, Med sea front,  Euro-chic cafe culture.  I was also very much looking forward to seeing the library.  It is a huge complex built on the site of the old library.  It has, somewhat unsurprisingly, a big library but also a raft of museums and exhibitions.  In particular there is planetarium, the History of Science museum and something called Alexploration, which I think is one of those hands-on science museums that is designed for 10 year-old but suits me down to the ground. 

Sadly it was all shut because there was an anniversary conference on and some VIPs were coming.  It is shut ALL week, beacause of one one evening where a couple of two-bit presidents are coming.  The irony of stopping students, tourists and citizens going to this centre of learning for the entire week to celebrate the success of this centre of learning was evidently lost on the administration.  I have major Mubarak issues and the last couple of days has solidified these.  He is a complete African Big Man.  You should see how many pointless and extravagant engineering projects immodestly bear his name (although the Mubarak Peace Bridge is very big and very cool).  If you can't trust that people will name bridges, parks, airports and buildings after you've gone doesn't that make you think that they don't actually like you?  Maybe he doesn't think he'll ever go.

So I sulked for a bit but when that didn't make the secret service agents change their mind and let me go play with magnets and stuff I went to the Antiquities Museum.  It was nice, modern and spacious with well described, if slightly randomly arranged, exhibits.  I don't know much about antiquity but a lot of the information did strike me as a bit dodgy. Who owned Cerberus?  Who was the godess of victory?  Perhaps it's a case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. 

For me the most impressive (and most suspicious) exhibits were the 2nd century BC mosaics.  They were incredibly well preserved, vivid and artistically brilliant.  Did they have perspective in those days?  The best one looked like the inspiration for the HMV photo/emblem (except there was a bowl instead of a gramophone).  I'm looking forward to this change in eras: as I travel west I'll be happy to leave the Pharonic stuff behind (you get a little hieroglyphed out) and get into more Greco-Roman stuff.  Leptis Magna here I come....
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