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Published: December 27th 2022
Egyptian series: Ace of Alexandria
-Piprey on wheels Alexandria
is an ancient port city
on the Mediterranean Sea. It is located on the fan like delta of Nile and named after the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander.
I caught VIP train (second class) at 8am from Cairo Rameses train station to Alexandria. To tide away time, I bought a 3 LE Pretzel and 5 LE Egyptian tea. The station was as chaotic as any other megapolis with newspaper men, shops selling thin, small baguettes with cheeses and processed meats, a variety of fruits, locks and keys etc.
A comfortable journey to Alexandria after 3 hours or so and I was hungry.
Ate a falafel sandwich at a local eatery and followed my nose with the sea breeze to the marine promenade.
Alas, there was a line of cafes/ hotels with access only for guests.
A hotel guard pointed at the El Qeit bey fort, on the other end of the promenade.
The imposing limestone fort of El Qeit Bay
. It was originally built on Pharos island which was famous for its lighthouse
With a 50 LE local taxi drive, I was at the fort. The fort was very strategically built. From every window, you had an excellent view of the large bay. Surely, with
View from the window
Imagine the cannon blow.
a good canon, it could defeat any navy. Merchants had to dock here during their long journeys and this city prospered. Many pagan temples were destroyed when the Romans declared Christianity as the state religion
. There was a temple of muses or Mouseion
in the royal quarters which had attracted people of learning. It is the origin of the word- Museum
. Alexandria was a important centre of learning for poets, music, science, mathematics, astronomy and most importantly philosophy. Philosophy is concerned with peoples' belief about life.
Ptolemy became king of Egypt when Alexander died in 323 BC. Cleopatra 7 was one of his descendants.
Indeed, in the struggle for power, she took help from the Romans against her half-brother and eventually lost Egypt to Rome.
A modern library was built with aid from United Nations (UN). It had an excellent exhibition of President Anwar Sadat.
Apparently, Sadat was responsible for the following:
• liberalization (infitah
) of the Egyptian economy due private investment
• getting back Sinai Peninsula which was occupied by Israel
• setting up a multi-party political system (at least in name)
• Improving relations with USA The Arab world was not pleased as they felt that Egypt had abandoned the cause of the Palestine
. (I remember, Sadat because it was the name
of the metro station at Tahrir Square)
Meanwhile, men and women were enjoying the beautiful blue sea with matching skies on a delightful winter afternoon. Looking for the Bibliotheque, a local guided me to a busy public office building. The receptionist got me a translator and I was told it was the court of justice and what was my cause? Oh dear!
Outside the court, it was great to see a couple of young women talking animatedly.
In the local maruti vans (there are hardly any public buses), I observed a young lady reading medical notes. Not a single moment wasted by this new generation.
I learnt that these young women were practicing lawyers and that too criminal lawyers. This country valued education and progress of women.
After enjoying the museums in the Alexandria bibliotheque (library), I watched the sunset. As I walked back to Alexandria train station, I packed a koshery for dinner in the train. Ate another crispy falafel sandwich. I noticed how my co-passenger went out for a smoke and put on some perfume so that it does not inconvenience others.
All the children in the train were so well behaved.
The older ones played with the younger ones. No one threw any unnecessary tantrums. I noticed this all throughout my travels in Egypt.
In the train, I finished half of 'Cocktails and Camels'
by Jacqueline Carol, a humorous take of the Lebanese living in Alexandria in the 1940s.
Back in the hostel, I took a shower. After enjoying best selling Lebanese Shwarma roll and my favourite fruit salad in downtown Cairo, I packed for a long day train from Cairo to Luxor, the legendary land of the pharaohs, Valley of Kings and One Queen.
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