Saturday 8 September 2018
One of the options taken by me to shape this tour was to exchange a day at the resort centre on the Red Sea and instead have a day exploring the marvels of the city of Alexandria, nested on the Mediterranean Sea. Adding time for traffic in Cairo and in Alexandria it was a three-and-a-half hour trip each way. We left at 6.30am and arrived back at our lovely hotel by 6.50pm – a full exhausting but exhilarating day!
Alexandria – founded by Alexander the Great in around 331 BC is the second largest city in Egypt – with around 8 million people. The day was picture perfect (if a tad hot in the afternoon – high 30s) We visited the Montazah Palace, built for the Royal family back in 1892, restored in 1932, and now serving as a Presidential address and meeting place for visiting dignitaries.
Next we saw the New library complex which is two buildings connected representing a solar disk and an eye! We looked out across the bay to the place where the old lighthouse stood – one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient world – upon which a 14th century fort now stands. Both the old lighthouse and the old library (destroyed by fire) were created by Ptolemy 2nd – the son of Ptolemy (to whom this city was given after the death of Alexander.)
We weaved our way through the back streets of Alexandria – marvelling at the local businesses at play; the chaotic traffic and the locals who walk wherever and whenever they like despite the volume of cars and trucks around! We visited the sight of Pompeii’s Pillar – a misnomer if ever there was one – the legend has it that after his death Pompeii’s head (or ashes) were placed upon the top of this 28m high granite pillar flanked by two Roman Sphinx’s. The problem is that Pompeii had been dead for over two hundred years by the time the pillar was erected in the 4th century. But the name has stuck! The site first contained a temple complex erected by none other than Ptolemy 2nd (an enlightened intellectual). Upon a breakout of violence between the pagans, using this site as their last refuge, and the pillaging Christians, in the 4th century, the local authority called upon help from the Romans. The legend has it that this violence also was the cause of the fire which destroyed the famed library of Alexandria. In thanks for their support in quelling the riot – this pillar was erected.
Our last stop were the impressive Roman catacombs, discovered by accident in 1900 when a poor donkey fell down a well. We went far below the ground to see family tombs decorated with paintings which are a hybrid between Egyptian and Roman beliefs. It was interesting to reflect that we had over the course now of a week seen Egyptian symbols and Gods morph over 3500 years but be clearly recognised still. These tombs were in my opinion far more impressive than the ones I have seen in Rome. We were not allowed to take photos so again google Alexandria catacombs to get a sense of what I am saying.
After a long drive back to the Hotel through some chaotic and at times scary traffic in Cairo, the hardy Nine had their last meal together in Egypt before heading off to Jordan tomorrow (Sunday 9/9)
Depending on Wi-Fi availability will determine the timing of the next post!
Montazah Palace built in 1892
The view of the Mediterranean Sea from the gates of the palace – stunning day and vista!
New Library – part of the building – in shape of Solar disk – The God ‘Ra’
The other part of the Library – the ‘Eye’
In the background – over Judy’s left shoulder (2nd from right) is the sight where the Light House of Pharos stood – one of Seven Wonders of the World.
Market day every day
I didn’t bring my Myki
Only shade behind the Pillar!
Last glimpse of the Great pyramid – you would not believe how close the suburbs are to this wonder