Sunday, February 11, 2018


After a good night's sleep, I decided I would do the excursion to Alexandria. Originally I was thinking of going there by train, but changed my mind and went with the group. Our small group from the airport was joined by two younger women and our guide for the tour, Michael, and away we went in a van about 8 am.

It takes a bit over two hours to get there by van but fortunately I got a window seat towards the back and the window was clean so I could take photos. Basically most of the journey was through desert.

Plenty of palm trees as you would expect.

About 90% of the population are Muslim. Every now and then you come across another mosque.

A vineyard. Egypt is not renowned for its wine since the Muslim religion forbids alcohol. However this article suggests that the quality of wine is improving. I would think the grapes would need to be washed before crushing to get the sand and dust off the skins.

It's intriguing coming across a huge bill-board which you can't read. I think it might be advertising fertilizer. Most signs here are in both Arabic and English.

We all got off the van for a pit stop about half-way. You need a small note or coin to pay to go to the bathroom.

I liked these sparkling chairs.

We noticed these peculiar bee-hive shaped structures.

Michael told us that they are for pigeons which re eaten here. Apparently the local variety are tasty when cooked but difficult to eat because of the bones.

Just before we got to Alex our van was pulled over for an inspection. The van driver's paperwork was not in order so we all waited by the side of the road as he argued his case. After about 30 minutes we were allowed to proceed.

Meanwhile we had a good view of the local bulrushes. I'm sure that this is the exact spot where Moses was found. Well maybe not, but you get the idea.

Cars and trucks form the major part of the traffic, but there are other kinds.

What follows are photos of the back streets of Alex. Some buildings are wrecks.

Others are quite ornate.

There is sand and dust everywhere and many cars are covered to protect their surface.

And there are tuk-tuks.

We were taken to the Catacombs of Kom El Shokafa. It's a neocropolis with many tombs which was created in Roman times. Unfortunately photography is not allowed but this web site has some photos along with the story of how it was discovered in 1900 when a donkey fell into a hole in the ground. It was fascinating.

Our van driver then took us on a torturous drive through the back streets of Alex towards the sea. Eventually he turned on the air-conditioning but I was surprised to see most people wearing jackets. After freezing weather back home, it seems quite warm to me here.

Most of the taxis here are old Russian Ladas.

They even have very old trams. The streets were mostly much more crowded than what you see here. Mostly it was one huge traffic jam and progress was very slow with much beeping of horns,

Michael buys the tickets and hands them out.

This is Pompey's Pillar. The column is made of a single piece of granite and was floated from Aswan down the Nile. It's 20.5 meters tall with a diameter of 2.7 meters. That is quite a rock.

This link has more information about the pillar which was erected around 300 AD. The pillar actually has nothing to do with Pompey and was erected for the Roman Emperor Diocletian who is probably quite upset that the column is misnamed. To make matters worse, Pompey's fame lives on in Handel's opera Julius Caesar where Pompey's widow plots her revenge. It's one of Handel's most tuneful operas and that is saying something.

Somewhat mangy looking cats.

There is a path that winds its way around the hill.

Because of its location, Alex was a very large port city and consequently was a target for many wars. This is the result. Earthquakes also caused a lot of damage.

I think this was a pool.

You can probably guess where they got the idea.

Soon we were back in the van and heading through even more traffic jammed streets and markets.

Side street.

This was the area where you buy your car spare parts. Most establishments have the fronts of cars sticking out of the wall.

When we first arrived, the pedestrians were mostly men, many of whom were sitting in cafes drinking coffee or tea. It was now the middle of the day and there were more housewives out shopping.

The harbour.

We waited here for a period as out van driver went off to fix his documentation problem. It's very pleasant down by the water and there are many fine buildings.

Our gang of eight. We have bonded already which is great. All of us live in the USA.

Our guide Micheal. The reviews I had read of the tour were all very positive about him and he has been doing this for over ten years. He knows his stuff.

It's a pleasant place to sit and talk.

I took this photo while the van was driving along. I just do a quick point and shoot and come back later to straighten up the photo and crop out the extraneous stuff.

We then went to the site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It survived until the 14th century but was damaged by earthquakes and subsequently demolished and the stones were used to build the current fort at the western entrance to the harbour.

Michael buys the tickets.

Old cannon from the fort.

Massive door.

This hole in the roof just inside the entrance served as a defensive measure. Boiling oil would be poured down onto the invaders.

Floor of a small mosque inside the fort.

The boiling oil hole from the safe side.

We wandered up though the building until we could finally see water.

The ceilings of the rooms were wonderful. As I write these words, it's 5:15 am and the sound of muezzins across Cairo can be heard. When I first arrived in Istanbul three years ago, I didn't appreciate being woken so early, but after a while you get used to it and find it quite comforting.

An older Egyptian was talking to one of our group asking her about America. Photos were taken by what I presume was his daughter. He was most gracious. Egyptians are very friendly and courteous people.

The breakwater that forms the harbour.

Off in the distance, the new library of Alexandria. To read about the ancient and famous Library of Alexandria, click here. This city was a major center of scholarship.


The battlements make a good spot for posing.

Or just sitting looking out at the water.

Rowing this size boat would be a bit tough.

Traversing rail for one of the cannons.

It was about 3 pm and we finally got to the Fish Market restaurant for lunch. The pita breads to the left were still hot and absolutely delicious. I even ate some salad as well as the various types of humus.

And I had the best lemon drink I have ever had in my life. Essentially it is just lemon juice, sugar water and mint whizzed up. It had a creamy texture and just to make sure it was good I had another. They cost about $1.25 each.

Fish, squid and rice. The fish was excellent.

The restaurant.

After lunch we drove around to see the new library which is spectacular. However, we were all very tired by now so we did not stop. Remember we had all flown from the USA the prior day.

The fence did not help the view. Security is a big issue and there are plenty of police and guards wandering around with automatic weapons.

Lada taxis. Most of us fell asleep for part of the journey back to the hotel. At 8:30 pm we had our group meeting and met the other members of the tour group who had arrived that day. There will be 26 of us and many are from South Africa. I think there is one Australian.

Our friend the sniffer dog was at the gate of the hotel to greet us and do his job.

So since this blog was about Alexandria, here is a link to the great man himself, Alexander the Great.

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