We seriously considered making our first post about Egypt our last post. It’s short, to the point, and keeps us from whining on and on about why Egypt was our least favourite country. But, since this is our journal, we figured we owe it to ourselves to post about our Egypt experiences in a little more detail.
After careful re-consideration, I’ve found that there were indeed a few good things in Egypt that we can tell you about after all. Let me present to you the icing of Egypt.
Before even arriving in Alexandria, I knew things were going to be good. Unlike when we tried to purchase tickets for the train to Aswan (I’m not giving details here, this is supposed to be a positive post), we were able to easily buy a second class return ticket each without having to resort to begging. We weren’t even charged any additional undocumented, unnamed, fees. Just the price printed on the ticket!
The train itself was roomy, and friendly. Over the lunch hour, our neighbours sitting across the aisle from us noticed that we hadn’t brought any food with us and freely shared a healthy portion of their meal with us: sun-leavened bread and peanuts. A very kind and delicious gesture that reminded us of the hospitality we had seen in Turkey.
From there, the people of Alexandria kept winning us over. At the train station, we pulled out our cellphone photo we’d taken of a google map with directions to our hotel and started piecing together the roads we needed to take. To his credit, a taxi driver came to our aid and, after being dismissed only a single time, gave us the correct walking directions. After that, finding the hotel was a breeze.
Looking back on it, the hotel was actually pretty good compared to most of the places we stayed in Egypt. The breakfast portions were slightly larger than normal, they included an additional processed pastry in a sealed plastic bag, and the staff were friendly. They even installed a Christmas tree for us on Christmas day. It was a nice touch.
Over the next three days, we explored Alex more or less on foot. We had a map, which we received from one of the tourist information offices, but it was woefully lack in details such as roads and street names. When we asked for directions to the Roman Catacombs, we were told that it couldn’t be explained using that map. The suggestion, of course, being that we should take a taxi.
Naturally, we ignored the advice and set out through the maze of winding streets on foot. Again, we were well looked after by the people of Alex. Everyone we encountered, whether we asked them for directions or not, pointed us in the proper direction. Half of them quit whatever it was that they were doing just to walk with us a block or two and show us the next turn. No one asked us for money.
At some point, we walked past a man making pitas. We stopped to watch and a few short seconds later found ourselves the proud owners of two pitas fresh from the oven. We chowed them down gushing about how good they were, and were promptly served two more. Naturally, we offered to pay, but he would have none of it.
Our stay in Alexandria basically carried on in this way. When we went into a store, the prices we were given were fair, not über inflated white guy prices. Public transportation likewise charged us the same as everyone else in the mini-van. Our marriage (or fertility, there was a bit of a language barrier) was even blessed by one of our fellow travellers.
In short, Alexandria was good. If you are from Alexandria, give yourself a pat on the back. Thank you!
This smooth stone fortress looks flawless. Every stone looks like it was just carved yesterday, making me wonder if it was actually used at all. In either case, it looks cool. Admission 20£ or $3.20 CAD each.
Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
These underground catacombs originally housed some 300 mummies dating from Roman times. There is a sort of fusion burial system going on here, with both Greek/Roman style statues and sarcophagi mixed with Egyptian hieroglyphs and burial rites. The whole thing spirals down three levels. The bottom level is flooded, adding to the mood. There are planks and raised walk ways to help you get around. No photos allowed, sorry. Admission 35£ or $5.60 CAD each.
Montazah Palace Gardens
These gardens are easily accessed by taking one of the many mini-vans that traverse the coastal road. The gardens are huge, quiet, and well manicured. A great place for a walk, and to escape the noise of the city. Admission 6£ or $0.96 CAD each.
Ancient Alexandria was famed for its library. That library was destroyed. This is the modern replacement, and surprisingly to me at least, the biggest tourist attraction in Alexandria. We walked around the outside and came to the conclusion that it was a modern style library that charged admission. We didn’t go in, but I’m sure it’s lovely. Admission $???.
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