Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On the Road to Alexandria


Dinner at a local fish restaurant and then it was back to the Mercure Sphinx Hotel. We both slept like logs and woke up refreshed for a new day of touring. Found Ash in the lobby after our breakfast. We are spending tonight in Alexandria so we packed up again. On the way out, we tried to get some stamps. One thing about this country - you can't get change as a tourist. The ATM gives you large bills and it is very hard to get back exact change when you buy something. So if something is 15LE, more than likely it will cost you 20LE because nobody will give you back the 5 - especially if you are a tourist. Geoff wasn't able to get stamps but the man said he would mail them for us. Geoff paid him the money, so we'll see if they ever arrive.

We are back in the bus driving to Alexandria which is about a 3 hour drive. Just stopped at an Egyptian rest stop. Fortunately, Ash passed on the MacDonald's rest stop. Here we learned about feteer - a pizza pie shape dessert made of phylo dough. They only made a large size, so we passed. Ash says on the way back tomorrow there is another stop that will make small ones so we can try it. Also going to try to find some Egyptian hot sauce. All we have seen in the restaurants is Heinz! I will say again, it is GREAT having our own guide.

We entered Alexandria and it is more of the same street chaos, with lots of markets and traffic.Just to make the traffic even more confusing, there is a street car that goes down the middle of the road. The markets here are set up like they are in Vietnam, everything has its own section of town. Hardware, lumber, auto parts, even underwear.

Our first stop was the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa (meaning "Mound of Shards") is a historical archaeological site located in AlexandriaEgyptand is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.
The catacombs lie on the western necropolis of Alexandria and consist of three levels cut through solid rock, the third level being now completely underwater. The catacombs have a six-pillared central shaft which opens off the vestibule. On the left is a triclinium, a funeral banquet hall where friends and family gathered on stone couches covered with cushions, both at the time of burial and also on future commemorative visits.
Pompey's Pillar was next of the tour:
Pompey's Pillar is a Roman triumphal column in AlexandriaEgypt, and the largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople. The only known free-standing column in Roman Egypt which was not composed of drums, it is one of the largest ancient monoliths and one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected.
Back in the bus we made our way through the busy streets down to the Mediterranean Sea to take a look at the Fort.of Qaitbay, which sits on the site of the ancient lighthouse.
The Citadel is situated at the entrance of the eastern harbour on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest, then several disasters occurred and the shape of the lighthouse was changed to some extent, but it still continued to function. Restoration began in the period of Ahmed Ibn Tulun (about 880 AD). During the 11th century an earthquake occurred, causing damage to the octagonal part. The bottom survived, but it could only serve as a watchtower, and a small mosque was built on the top. In the 14th century there was a very destructive earthquake and the whole building was completely destroyed.
We took in the sights along the water walk. It was a beautiful day - considering Ash told us it usually rains in Alexandria. Everyone was having a great time. He took us to a special place for a fresh fish lunch - caught right there in the sea. Great lunch.  Some more walking and it was back in the bus to find the hotel. After much discussion and a couple of u-turns in this horrific traffic, we have made it to our resting place for the night. Our room is wonderful and the view is spectacular!

For tonight's dinner, we decided to stay in the hotel and have an Egyptian pizza.  We were just to
tired to walk around. I enjoyed my very popular Stella beer, while Geoff got a taste of the even more popular local Egyptian beer - non alcoholic. Did I happen to mention that sailing down the Nile with a mostly Muslim population, was a bit different. Another interesting tidbit is that in every hotel room there is an icon located somewhere depicting the direction of Mecca, so that they will know which to face for prayer. Our Istanbul hotel room came equipped with a Quran and a prayer rug.

We spend some time in Alexandria tomorrow morning and then it is back to Cairo for our last Egyptian night!

Next time... All roads lead to Cairo


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