Trip Start Jan 17, 2009
Trip End Feb 06, 2009

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm down in the lobby for pick up at hotel at 7 am after a nice buffet breakfast. There's a large crowd there so I sit down to wait. The crowd finally leaves which allows the CCT rep to pick me out- he thought I was with the crowed. Short drive to Rameses (or is it Cairo?) station. Met there by Tarek who will be our guide for the next 3 weeks. He and I ride together to Alex. 2.5 hour train ride- we arrive about 10:30. I try to snap photos from the train window- with minimal success.

General impressions on the ride: many run down high rise apt buildings; laundry hanging from balconies- but most bldgs. have quite a few tv dishes; piles of trash everywhere; personalized balconies & doorways- painted their own colors; contrast of donkeys and tv dishes; very green flat delta area; small fields- patchwork quilt; frequently a couple cows/cape buffalo tied up; many donkeys- ridden and pulling carts.

Our first visit is the ruins of a Roman Amphitheater. It was accidentally discovered when they were starting to build a new stadium. There's still some excavating on site. They also used the site for massive "bath tubs" used to clean up some artifacts that had been removed from the ocean. They were from parts of Alexandria that are now under water- large statuary smoothed by the water. At the amphitheater, there's a marked circle for performers where they can hear themselves perfectly- great acoustics! I can hear myself echo, but the audience can hear perfectly well when I just whisper. Also, have my first exposure to the cats lounging around sites.

Next stop is the Alexandria museum. Once a private residence and a US consulate before finally becoming the museum. It's small but has very nice displays- first floor is focused on Graeco-Roman Alexandria. The lower floor is filled with more "conventional" artifacts from the Cairo Egyptian museum. They keep this place freezing!

Next up is the Kom El Shogafa catacombs from the Graeco-Roman period. Also accidentally discovered. I've never been in catacombs before, so I have nothing to compare them to. Portions are underwater. Temple entrance ways carved out of the soft rock walls with painted carvings of offering scenes; niches for the dead. Even some horse bones- must be the Kentucky Derby winner of his day.

We drive by Pompey's pillar- nothing much to glance it and no reason to stop. It is a bit strange to see in the skyline along with the electrical wires. The trip across town is loads of fun. I get to sit in the front and snap photos like crazy. Plenty of opportunities as we're caught in a traffic jam.

Lunch at Sofitel Cecil near the shoreline. Appears to be a very old hotel- beautiful old woodwork. Some excellent fish for lunch.We do some more drive-by photo ops: Abu El Abbas El Musi mosque; Midan Saad Zaghlul; Alexerndria's new library; Fort Qaitby. The drive up the Corniche next to the Mediterranean is one huge photo op: lined with high rise apt. buildings; stores, hotels, restaurants; busy streets. The taxi's are black and yellow unlike Cairo's black and white. They're the real African Killer bees- rushing everywhere. Last stop is the El Monteza Gardens and Palace. Brief walk around as it's getting late and we have the drive back to Cairo yet.

On the drive back, T. has the van stop for a pigeon house photo op. Sunset as we drive. I'm zonked out. I get the whole seat to stretch out a bit. Back to Cairo in time for another traffic jam.

I've got two days before the rest of the gang arrive- enough time to get my clock adjusted I hope.
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