The 223km drive from Cairo to Alxeandria took just over 2 hours on a highway where most cars traveled beyond the 100km/h speed limt, even when frequent speed humps, broken road and pollution appear to not make much difference.

Alexandria or Iskandar in Arabic became the 2nd capital of Egypt in 332 BC after Memphis, established 2800 years earlier. Of course, Cairo is the capital today as it has been since 969. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great from Macedonia who named it after himself after conquering the region. Today Alexandria sprawls over a 20km spread of beach against the Mediterranean Sea and at a population of 12 million Egyptians, is the country's 2nd largest city. This is also the location of one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World – the Pharoah's Lighthouse which was built in the 3rd century BC to the design of Greek architect Socrates. The 150m lighthouse became inoperative in 700 AD and then was destroyed in a series of earthquakes in the 12th and 13th century.

Sultan Qaitbay used the stones of the dilapidated lighthouse to build Qaitbay Castle, which house the oldest mosque in Alexandria. At the time of our visit, there must have been several school excursions, because thousands of schoolchildren suddenly descended on the castle – all curiously looking as us! A couple of security guards took interest in us, deciding then to give us a personal tour of the castle – showing us the 4 mosques, “intercom”, solders sleeping quarters, prison, toilets, Royal bedchambers, gun turrets and a port, where hot oil was poured on unwelcome invaders of yesteryear. They even cleared the way past these thousands of kids so that our trip would be unhindered. It was the first time we were treated like celebrities by the kids – “Welcome”, “How are you”, “What’s your name?” and “One picture” they asked as we walked past, obviously eager to practice the English they learnt in school. We are to them, the tourist attraction!

The Catacombs of Kom ask-Shuqqafa was an equally exciting visit, except that we now have to descend a stone spiral staircase, revealing two burial chambers, several tombs and a guestroom. The burial chamber, Egyptian in design (Cobras, sun circles with rays, Anubis – jackal like god, Papyrus representing the Lower Nile and Lotus the Upper Nile) had inscriptions of depicting life, mummification and judgment. The inscriptions had Roman and Greek influences in them. Although they were several levels of burial chambers, we could only access the top level as layers below were flooded. The one we visited had several hundred catacombs so there must be several thousand in that location.

Our visit to the Roman Amphitheater of Kom al-Dikka (Mound of the Rubble) was interesting with 13 tiers of marble seats surrounding a semicircle theater. The high tread between each tier of seats made climbing up and down a fun bit of a workout Similar in design to most amphitheatres we’ve seen, bath houses were discovered beside the theater and the ruins of Napoleon’s home not so far away.

Bibliothek Alexandria (the Library) houses publications dating back to Byzentime era, but it was rebuilt in recent time – loosing our interest in the process. Our last visit point in Alexandria was Montazah Palace. Built in the last century by a relative of King Farouk, the palace is now used by Hosni Mubarak, the present Egyptian President as his summer residence. Although we are not allowed in the Palace, the gardens which surround it are open to the public. Despite arriving Alexandria at 9.30am, we were completed with our “tour” by 1.30pm and checked in to our hotel at the private beach resort of Mamoura for the rest of the day.

 



Images of Alexandria

 

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Alexandria against the Mediterranean Sea
The city of Alexandria in the background as seen from Qaitbay Castle

People
The Eqyptians in our visit are at best described as Opportunists. It is safe in the sense that we didn't see the danger of being mugged or robbed - probably because penalties are severe. However, be prepared to be HARRASED big time! The underpreviliged simply needs to make a living but beware, not everone is underpreviliged. We rate this 2 out of 5.

Service
No, Nien, Niet, Mo, Nada ... 0 . OK, lets me nice about this.. There is potential for improvement.

Culture
This is what we came to Egypt to see and in Alexandria, we weren't dissapointed. Because of Alexander the Great plus the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte, a more distinct Roman and French atmosphere can be felt..
We rate this 4.5 out of 5.

Attractiveness
In comparison to Cairo and Luxor, this is a seaside resort , the holiday location of the Egyptian President and the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was well worth spending the day here ... otherwise we would though Egypt was nothing else but dessert, sandstorms and camels. We rate this a 4 out of 5.

Food
As Alexandria is by the Mediterranean Sea, seafood is on the menu. We had shrimp cocktail , fried calamari and grilled prawns which were quite good although for us, Egyptian food takes a bit of getting used to (a bit too oily for our liking). We love the pre-meal breads and dips though. We rate this 2.5 out of 5.

Cost
Egypt is NOT expensive from the viewpoint of accomodation and food on face value without adjust for the effects of hygeine, cleaniness and health by European standards. Remember, we are NOT in Europe but in Africa. We rate this 4 out of 5.

Overall
Everything considered; the sights, experience, food and cost - we had a fun time and rate this 3.5 out of 5.

Alexandria, EG

 

People

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Attractiveness

Food

Cost

Overall Score


Big Mac Index
ref: Jul 5th, 2007

Malaysia $1.60
Egypt $1.68
Russia $2.03
Australia $2.95
South Korea $3.14
Europe
$4.17