A weekend in Alexandria

Trip Start Aug 20, 2005
Trip End Jun 2006

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, September 26, 2005

So this weekend (meaning the past Friday and Saturday -- as those are the days that constitute the weekend here) I went to Alexandria, Egypt!
Alexandria is (I'm almost positive) Egypt's second largest city; it's located on the Mediterranean coast and has been in existence since earlier than anyone can probably recall (it was named after Alexander the Great and served as a key city in both his exploits and later for the Roman Empire, just to give you a sense of its age and historical significance... Cleopatra had a palace there too). Of course I find out once I get there that much of the remnants of those old empires have been pillaged over the ages (ie there was once a huge lighthouse in Alexandria that was considered one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, but now it's under the ocean... as is Cleopatra's grand palace, apparently... I guess I need to read up on ancient history a bit more!), so what remains of Alexandria is a really long, narrow city that skirts the Mediterranean (an ageless sea, eh?). Although it has many of the sand-colored high rises, narrow streets and crowded alleys and open-air markets of Cairo, Alexandria has a more European feel than Cairo. It's also very breezy, due to the sea, and a little less overwelmingly crowded, altho there was still lots of traffic and crowds (that's just Egyptian cities, I guess -- altho Alexandria was still nowhere near as crowded and traffic filled as Cairo).
So all in all the weekend was a nice break from Cairo, and I enjoyed myself a lot. I had thought I was going to feel sick, but I managed to avoid that (yeah!!!) and I even went swimming in the Mediterranean a bit!!! I had always wanted to see/swim in the Mediterranean! The water was blue-green and just the right temperature for a swim, and there were some waves, but not rough ones like at an ocean (the beach we went to was in a cove, so the waves were more like those in a reservoir or waves caused by the wake of a boat...'not surfing waves, but the best waves to swim in! :)
I shared a hotel room w/ Traci and Laura, two of my good friends here, and our room had a balcony that overlooked the sea! It was a beautiful view! Seriously, I think that balcony was one of my favorite parts of the trip -- we stood out on it and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean, and then I just stood out there when we got in from a mall that night, just looking out into the sea, pondering and taking in the breeze and the open air; that was the type of balcony one could just stand on for hours, gazing at the openess of the Mediterranean Sea (a sea that really touches/connects so many countries) on the horizon. Even standing there and watching the streeming traffic (and the crazy Egyptians successfully crossing it) on the Kornishe (an 8-lane road that runs parallel to the Sea) below was very entertaining, esp at night when all we could see were the cars and their lights, and an occasional pedestrian amazingly making it across the street or jumping to catch a bus (ppl do literally jump on and off the public transit buses here).

We spent a day at the beach, then spent the next day touring these underground Catacombs -- some of the lasting remnants of the area's Christian settlers during the time of the Romans, as the tour guide told us -- and a Roman Amphitheatre. The catacombs were really cool, and reminded me of something from a creepy movie... there were dark pits in the ground that we walked across on wooden planks (this was all perfectly safe; it's a heavily-trafficked tourist spot, trust me), and shelves that had been used for tombs (altho the tombs were empty now, there contents having been removed for archaelogical purposes, I'm presuming). The trip this w/e was organized by AUC, so all meals were provided to us, and the food was really good too... although at times the whole group-trip thing got a little old... I think I'm definitely going to go bk to Alexandria on my own (well, just w/ a few friends) sometime, as the bus drove past a really neat looking open-air clothing market that I'd really like to go bk to, and there's lots of the city that, being w/ the AUC group, I didn't really get to see and explore at my own pace. it's only a 2-hr train ride away from Cairo, though, so returning should be really easy, and really fun too :-)

Anway, I'm going to do downstairs to get dinner, but I'll be posting some pictures from this weekend up really, really soon!

Also, I recently added a "donation button" on this journal, which means that you can donate to me (ie give me money) if you want to help me fund my travels and my year abroad... And I'll be needing some more funds eventually, since it's basically impossible for me to work while in Cairo... Anyway, that button is worth checking out, I guess.

well, I'll write more and post some pictures later! :o)
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