Alexandria

Alexandria offers all of the benefits of Cairo: cheap accommodation and food, without sacrificing on western amenities (and by this I of course mean internet and western toilets).  But Alex also has several added benefits, which made it a very pleasant stop despite the colder temperatures (only about 55 for a high).  After India and then Cairo (where there is also horrible pollution with the added attraction of EVERYONE smoking, even in the hostel…) I have not breathed a breath of fresh air in a long time, so the breeze from the Mediterranean is quite a nice change of pace.  Another major benefit I see to port cities, other than their inherently pretty coastlines, is that getting un-lost is infinitely easier when there is a massive, immovable body – such as an ocean – helping to navigate me to the correct location.  Secondly, the traffic situation in Alex is significantly less death-defying, the simple addition of a few traffic lights does wonders for both congestion and pedestrians.  And there are actually cool buildings to look at and mini parks scattered throughout the city of 4.1 million people, unlike the massive, concrete and falling down buildings landscape that much of Cairo offers.

It also certainly doesn’t hurt my opinion of the city that the main attraction is a library!  I’m not being sarcastic.  Ptolemy (reigned around 300BC, right after Alexander the Great) had a dream of a place of universal knowledge so he created the Ancient Library of Alexandria.  Unfortunately Julius Cesar “accidentally burned it down”.  The modern library was completed in 2002 to recreate the spirit of the original library.  It is pretty spectacular!  You have to pay (just under $2) to get in, but they offer free tours including access to some of the art museums located inside.   Weird side note, you can use the free internet but they block all email programs.  Oddly enough, of the block of computers I went to, six of the eight in use were open to facebook…

 

I also ventured to the Kom el-Shuqafa Catacombs.  Kinda creepy.  They are basically an underground labyrinth that was used to bury people.  The site over one square kilometer in size (247 acres) and was only discovered when a donkey accidently fell through.  There are several different sections, but probably the most chilling is a room that looks like a bunch of lockers, but lockers for bodies…  They also have a display case of bones that they recovered.  Needless to say, it was interesting, but apparently I have been to too many haunted houses in my day and half expected someone to pop out at any moment, so I didn’t linger very long.  (They confiscated my camera at the entrance, so I stole this photo from google).

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