Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog

Alexandria East Harbor

the new library

water man

at the dive center

more east harbor

inexpensive very nice restaurant

in the Roman catacomba

There were a number of reasons why we went to Alexandria. The Alexandria quartette by L. Durrell. The light house, one of the 7 ancient wonders, Cleopatra, it is cool and is off the regular tourist trail. Last but not least because this is the home city of Fawzy, a really great guy who worked across the hall from me for he last 3 years.

Alexandria is a big city. We got there and it was a mess. We tried to figure out where the street car stop was and eventually asked someone. This guy, instead of casually pointing with a smile walked us all the way to the stop quite a way away, then when he was sure that we are all set waved bye. [During this walk to the tram we were introduced to Alexandria traffic. It is a city of 5 million and it has the traffic of NYC without any of the stop lights or any kind of organization or system for crossing the multilane streets. You have to cross lane by lane like Seinfeld Frogger episode. Michelle] We went to a hotel that overlooks the Mediterranean, which is not so much to say where the beach front is 25 miles, and the city is only 3 miles wide. It was facing the East Harbor, site where the light house, Cleopatra's palace and the ancient library used to be. Not anymore and not quite since an earthquake, but I'll get back to it later. [Even though there aren't any of the ancient monuments left, it is still a beautiful view. Michelle]

In Alexandria we visited a few sites mentioned in the Quartette as well as a Roman catacomb. The later was carved deep enough into the bedrock that by now the lowest level was flooded. It first started as a limited burial place, but they added more and more cave to it and shoved in a good 3-4 bodies/ hole so eventually there were many hundred bodies housed there. Today they are not there anymore, but it still is an early place. An interesting thing about it is carvings of gods that the Roman emperor, now also Egyptian pharaoh/king invented. He wanted to consolidate the Egyptian gods with the roman ones and so he melted a few together and his subjects completely took it.

We spent a half a day at the harbor. There is an "Alexandria Dive". What they offer is the opposite of Sharm: very few people, cooler shallow waters, no visibility, none of the coral reef/ lots of fish experience. However with them you can see what has remained of the light house, Cleopatra's palace and a WWII Italian war plane. [Their advertising pamphlet proclaimed that you could "touch Cleopatra's secrets" which made us giggle. Michelle] We first were planning so that only I did the dive but Michelle would come out on the boat, but the first dive was on the outside of the harbor and the seas were pretty rough. Sitting and waiting on a boat for an hour that was lunging up in the air 10 feet 5 times min just did not sound like fun time. So only the boat driver, the dive master/guide and I motored first to a police post to register for the "underwater museum", then to the other side of the jetty under the fort. We get into the water and before we would splash around too long we are going down. The water is only 6-9 m, but the visibility is at best 2 m. The bottom of the area is a ruin field. Not the kind that you see on land, because the waves carried the silt away, so it is piles over piles of huge carved rocks. We see enormous carved rock walkways and columns from the light house, cannon balls from the medieval times, a number of sphinx from Cleopatra's palace. I sit on the back of one of them and ride it... We dive through caves created by the fallen down buildings. An hour of blind archeology. My dive master is explaining with hand signals what are we looking at. After this we return to pick Michelle up. We wanted to take a few pictures, but while we were out the dock somehow got washed away and before she could find the camera the boys lift her into the boat from the water. Now we only stayed inside of the harbor. Less wave action, but the visibility is half of the previous. We are digging ancient amphorae out and the digging at times reduces the visibility to 20 inches. We also visit a crashed Italian twin engine war plane from WWII under 15 feet of water. Later that afternoon we go by the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina - great modern architecture, but do not have the time to take the long ride out to El Alamein. Instead we turn down yet a few more offers to visit people's families, but sit down with a guy to chit chat over some tea. [Due to the lack of tourists in Alexandria we were like rock stars there. While we were walking down the street people constantly shouted out hello and welcome to us and stopped us to talk. It was a little annoying, but we took it like a nice rock star would. Michelle] Then it is time to take the street car back to the bus station. We get the suspicion that we are not on the right one, so we ask a young guy when should we get off. He said to wait, than at one stop signaled that that is it. Than he got off, too and walked to the bus station (we really were going a different way than when we arrived). I feel good at home if I give short directions to tourists, but he walked with us 15 min, made it sure that we are at the right bus stop and know the schedule and helped us with buying the tickets. Then he said bye and walked away. Did I say that Egyptians are truly nice people?

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