The Great City of Alexandria
Trip Start Dec 09, 2005
25Trip End Jan 01, 2006
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After the 2 ½ hour ride to Alexandria we boarded a bus and headed for our first stop - the Alexandria Bibliotheca (or library). A modern building completed in 2002, this popular landmark is designed in the Norwegian architectural design - sharp edges, lots of natural ligh t, and symbolic shapes - and cost $220 million to complete. With three main buildings and an impressive layout, the 9-level high library features a hi-tech feel amid a warm, welcoming design with hard wood floors and black granite walls. We were told that 48% of the books in this library are in English, 48% are in Arabic and the remainder are in other languages, illustrating how truly international the city of Alexandria is. The bibliotheca also serves as a museum of sorts, featuring two permanent exhibits and one museum room on the lower floor. Next stop, the Alexandria National Museum.
As we traveled by bus from place to place, I noticed that there were security guards seated on our bus. Security was very tight all day, with a police car and a motorcycle in front and behind our bus the entire time. With sirens blaring, the other vehicles on the road grudgingly moved out of the way of our bus, causing the locals to stare at the bus curiously, wondering who might be in there. Were we some kind of dignitaries? I certainly felt important. While the police escort made me feel very safe, I couldn't help wonder if something had happened to cause such tight security over all of these Americans, who were so curious and fond of this ancient city.
The Alexandria National Museum, a beautiful site, was once a consulate building. The rooms of this museum formed a maze housing thousands of ancient pieces that told the stories of Egypt's ancient civilization - from its old kingdom to the age of the pharaohs, even a tomb room.
Another interesting tidbit was that Michael noticed that no less than 75% of the statues had their noses somehow destroyed. We couldn't figure out why so many of these statues had missing or damaged noses. But we're determined to find out. It's such an interesting phenomenon, and I'm sure one of the tour guides or one of the locals will have a theory, or better yet, a factual answer to explain this strange observation.
By the time we made it to lunch at a hotel near Montazah Palace (or Farouq Palace), we were starved. We sat with other world travelers, who shared many travel stories and remarked at how nice it was to see two young people (that would be Michael and me) enjoying a trip of this caliber. Just listening to them describe their trips to Ireland, Italy and China made me want to take more trips. After lunch, we walked around Farouq Palace, making sure not to get too close, as we didn't want to alarm the armed guards.
From there we proceeded to the Citadel at Qait (Ky-at)Bay, a seaside boardwalk where Michael climbed over rocks just to be able to touch the Mediterranean Sea. I just touched his wet fingers. That was good enough for me. I wasn't about to break my neck trying to get out to that cold water. Again, we met up with a bunch of vendors hawking their wares. This time Michael managed to resist buying anything (bless his heart).
Okay, enough of Alexandria. It is a beautiful seaside city. It reminds me of Mazatlan, Mexico, and Michael says it reminds him of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Either way, it is a lovely city, and it is easy to see why Alexandria has survived centuries of attacks, decline and renewal to become Egypt's leading port, a commercial and transportation center, and the heart of a major industrial area, not to mention a city characterized by a cosmopolitan feel and a bohemian culture.
With a 3 ½ hour bus ride ahead of us, and bellies still full from lunch, Michael and I knew it was prime time for napping. And that is exactly what we did until we arrived at a brief roadside stop, where we strolled around the Omar Oasis Zoo. Okay, that's what this place was called, but it was more like a little petting zoo for kids when the parents need to stop to stretch their legs during a long road trip. There were these cute little deer, huge stinky ostriches and even a wild turkey. Just across the parking lot from the animals was an incredible open-air fruit stand that had large mangoes, huge papayas, and heads of cabbage as large as a person's head. As much as I wanted to buy a few fresh fruits, I wouldn't allow myself because I was concerned about the safety of eating fruits in a country where we were instructed not to drink the water.
Now back at the hotel, I'm wishing for one of those papayas. But I think I'll just hold out for another yummy breakfast in the morning. Until then, good night and we'll check in with you all later.