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Published: June 11th 2017
Susan in our room
View of the Nile - yay!
Our alarm went off at 5:30 am this morning, and since we both slept really well last night we woke up refreshed and ready to go. We got to our hotel last evening about 10:30. Our flight from Frankfurt was delayed about 2 hrs, while we waited on the tarmac. The flight was full of small active children, and there were no individual entertainment consoles. It was an old plane with the drop down monitors. They played an old Laurel and Hardy movie first (in English), followed by a Ninja Mutant Turtle movie (in English with Arabic subtitles). Not sure how they came up with that selection! I listened to music on my phone. Had a not bad veggie dinner. Nobody was sitting in between Susan and me so we could spread out a bit. Nobody was behind me so I reclined my seat all the way, guilt-free.
The Peregrine rep, Ramy, was waiting to pick us up, and ushered us through customs, which was a fast process as we already had our Egyptian visas. Ramy pointed out points of interest on the drive to the hotel, and checked us in to our hotel, the Novotel Cairo El Borg. We
were thrilled to get to our room and see the fabulous view of the Nile. Susan and I had a celebratory gin and tonic (we bought a small Bombay Sapphire gin from the Vancouver airport duty free, and the flight attendants on our Frankfurt flight gave us 4 small cans of tonic), and admired the view. We got our stuff ready for this morning, and got to bed about midnight.
Breakfast is included in our hotel, which turned out to be a really nice buffet. There was lots to choose from and the coffee was really good too.
We met our guide Hend at 7 am and we were off on the approximately 3 hour drive to Alexandria (founded in 331 BCE by Alexander the Great, hence the name). We (Susan, Dominica and I) were the only ones on the tour, which was really nice. Hend was an excellent guide, and Ahmed was an amazing driver, and we had a great day. Driving here is quite something. The lane lines are somewhat optional ("for decoration" Hend says), and various amounts of lanes merge in and out, with vehicles passing within centimetres of each other. Pedestrians cross at will,
seemingly taking their lives into their hands each time (I'm never crossing the street here), and horns are hooting constantly. It's basically mayhem. Traffic in Alexandria (Egypt's second largest city, after Cairo) was unbelievably congested. We got to see Alexandria's back streets close up as we inched down the streets. Very interesting. Low rise apartment buildings with businesses in the ground level, with similar businesses grouped together. Alexandria is a somewhat shabby city now, but has a very pretty coastline.
At one point we got into an impasse with another car coming in the opposite direction. Both vehicles could not fit so one had to back up. The other driver was gesticulating and shouting, passers-by were adding their opinions, and Ahmed was adamant, we were not backing up. He opened up the window and words were exchanged with the other driver, with Hend chiming in. Suddenly the other driver is patting Ahmed's shoulder, and speedily backing up. Hend told us she said "fine, we'll just call the tourist police then". I guess the other driver didn't want to explain to the tourist police they were holding tourists up, because he sure changed his tune fast. I asked Hend how
Just one party boat tonight
tourism is in Egypt now, and she said it was picking up, but it is still at a very low level.
We first went to the Alexandria National Museum, which was a small, but interesting museum. No photos allowed (unless you wanted to pay for a photo permit which Hend advised was not worth it), so I don't have any photos of the exhibits. One floor housed the ancient Egyptian exhibits, another the Greek and Roman exhibits, followed by the Coptic and modern level. Hend gave us a guided tour which was very informative. We then battled Alexandrian traffic to get to the Roman Catacombs (Kom El-Shuqafa) which are underground rooms which go down three levels (the bottom level is flooded so we only toured the first 2 levels). They date back to the second century BCE and were used for burials. Family members would also visit their departed loved ones and even have feasts down there. It was a somewhat creepy place but really interesting to see. No cameras allowed so I don't have any photos.
We then enjoyed a tasty fish lunch at a restaurant called the Fish Market, which had a lovely Mediterranean view. No
alcohol was served so we had a lime and mint drink which was refreshing, though a little sweet. Salad and various dips were included, along with excellent Arabic (pita) bread.
We then walked along the corniche to the Citadel of Quaitbay (built in the 15th C CE). On the way we saw a distressing sight. There are horse drawn carriages available along the corniche, and most of the horses look to be in reasonable condition; however we passed one poor emaciated horse, which was heart-breaking sight to see. I wanted to find the owner and punch him in the face a bunch of times. There are also numerous stray cats around, so we will try to buy some kibble, and feed it to the cats we see, like we did in Turkey.
The Citadel is built on the sight of the famous Pharos lighthouse, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was destroyed by earthquakes many centuries ago.
We then visited the modern Alexandria library, built in 2000. Its location is thought to be close to the sight of the famous ancient Alexandria library, which burned when Marc Antony attacked the city.
It is a quite lovely building. We also saw several exhibits there.
We then drove back into Cairo, battling traffic once again as we got close to the city. The highway is lined with bright billboards for kilometres on end, advertising a variety of things, but predominantly expensive housing developments in Cairo and in Red Sea resort areas.
We got back to our hotel about 8:30 ish, and Susan made a gin and tonic which I'm enjoying now. We had such a big lunch we're not hungry for dinner. There are numerous brightly lit party boats on the Nile right outside our window, which are playing really loud Arabic music now. It is Thursday, which is the start of the Islamic weekend (Friday and Saturday), so I think they are especially busy. We could hear the music a bit last night, but it wasn't nearly as loud as it is tonight. I've added a short video Susan took earlier which she also posted on facebook - but there are now nine party boats out there. It certainly adds to the ambience! I hope the earplugs will muffle the music a bit so we can sleep.
meet Hend at 8:30 tomorrow morning for our trip to Saqqara and Memphis, followed by our downtown Cairo walking tour later in the afternoon. Once again we are the only ones on the tours so we are getting private tours. It's especially nice as we can change things a bit (like start times) if we want to.
Good night from Cairo!
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