Friday May 10th, 2013. Alexandria, Egypt
Hugging the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria is Egypt's largest seaport and second largest city. Known as the 'Pearl of the Mediterranean', Alexandria was originally founded as a small town by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It was Egypt's capital for almost 1000 years until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641 AD. Modern Alexandria is divided into 6 districts.
We had previously arranged to meet our (Ex-English now Ozzie) pals from Perth called Alan and Karen at 9.30 am by the gangway. We actually bumped into them earlier in the Lido where we breakfasted. We left the port and met up with another couple from Melbourne called Margaret and Alan who were looking to share a taxi for 6. The four of us agreed to join them. We negotiated with a couple of drivers before striking a deal with one called Redar. Alan and Margaret had been to the Pyramids the day before and were exhausted so only wanted a 2 hour tour. The rest of us were up for seeing more so we negotiated a two-tier deal with Redar (Two hours and return to the ship for Alan and
Margaret and four hours for the rest of us). The taxi was very new (still had the plastic on the ceiling and internal lights), with AC and all mod cons. Though very little remains of the ancient city, D had already obtained a map which listed the highlights of what was left. Margaret and Alan had some particular objectives so we agreed to do those things first.
Our first stop was the Roman amphitheatre of Kom El Dekka. This is a small amphitheatre composed of 12 marble terraces arranged in a semi circle. It would have seated around 800 people and some galleries and mosaic floors remain today. It is the only monument of this type in Egypt. The entrance fee was 24 Egyptian Pounds each. We had not yet had the chance to get any local dosh so we took some photographs from the outside. We got the Impression that Alan (Perth) had already had enough ancient monuments yesterday and was quite happy not to go inside. Next stop was an ATM where we all got some local lolly so we would not get caught out again.
We drove along the corniche which is bordered by an
8 lane highway. This is where the beaches are located. Some are private and require an entry fee; others are public. Part of the way along the corniche we stopped at the Library of Alexandria. The ancient library was constructed during the era of Ptolemy. It was a great cultural centre frequented by many intellectuals from the Mediterranean countries. The new library of Alexandria is situated at El Chatby and was opened with great ceremony, attended by delegations from 80 countries, on the 16 October 2002. The new library also houses a planetarium and 4 museums as well as a conference centre. It is a building of significant architectural interest.
We continued along the Corniche passing the hospital and the Mosque of El-Morsi d'Abou El-Abbas which is the largest in the town and is dedicated to the saint who protects the fishermen and mariners. It is consturcted in the Andalucian style and has 4 domes and 1 minaret.
Next stop was the Palace of Montazah and the Palace Public Gardens. Constucted on a hill dominating the most beautiful beach in Alexandria, the Palace comprises Al Haramlek and Al Salamlek and is constructed in the Turkish and Florentine style.
The palace is not open to the public but the park is, and is regarded as the best in the city. We paid our 7 Egyptian Pounds entrance fee and drove up to the palace gates where we took some photographs. We then strolled around the park taking photographs and watching the locals out for picnics etc. Friday is like the Christian Sunday so most people were out and about. The palace grounds seemed to be THE place to learn to drive. Most of the learners were women. We watched with amusement as they jolted around the roads and tried to parallel park. We all silently felt relieved that they were not yet on the road! As we left the palace it started to rain quite heavily. We drove back along the corniche past the Stanley Bridge and back to the hospital which has a most remarkable perimeter wall decorated with murals and carvings. We stopped to take some photographs in the rain and were hooted at by most of the other traffic on the highway. By now the first two hours was nearly up so we took Alan and Margaret back to the port.
It was still raining
M with the Apis Bull
Subterranean Tunnels at Pompeys Pillar
so we needed to do something where we could keep dry. We decided to go to the Catacombs of Kom El-Shouqafa which are billed as THE thing to see in Alexandria. The catacombes are a libarynth of tombs on 3 levels called the triclinium. A central tomb is decorated with base reliefs representing the barbus serpents. In the interior the carved statues of the gods Sobek and Anubis can be seen.
The rain stayed away so we continued on to Pompey's Pillar. We didn't have enough Egyptian money for all of us to go in so D and Alan waited outside while M and Karen went inside. This is the second main attraction of Alexandria (apparently). Dating from the 3rd Century this column, made of red granite, is 25 metres high (the tallest ancient monument in Alexandria) and was erected in honour of the Emperor Diocletian. It is thought that this pillar was in the centre of a portico containing some 400 columns. The Arabs called it Amoud El Sawari which means "Column of the Horsemen". There are several subterranean galleries where sacred Apis Bulls were buried, together with two Sphinxes.
We drove back to the port through
the narrow Alexandria streets which we named as we went. The first street we called 'Half Car Street' as it was the place where all the different bits of cars were welded back together to create 'new' models. Next was 'Front Door Street' then 'Chair Street'. There were many Alexandrian men sitting drinking tea and smoking their bubble pipes. We passed a funeral procession with its white hearse and hundreds of mounrners all signalling for the taxi to get out of the way. We arrived back at the port and reboarded the ship. We joined Alan and Karen in their posh outside cabin for a beer or two. Then we all went and had some lunch together on the Lido Deck by the pool. We didn't go to the show tonight. We ate alone at our usual table unitl Karen and Alan joined us just as we had got to dessert. We chatted with them for an hour or so before returning to our cabin where we watched a movie before bed. Clocks go back tonight as we are heading north again.
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