Weekend Trip to Alexandria
Friday, September 11th
The night before, I was up pretty late with some local friends. We went to a nearby place, and there was a soccer match on…Zamalek vs. El-Ahly. Each time Zamalek scored, the room cheered. I really want to go to a live soccer match and experience all the excitement. Soon, Inshallah!
I got up at 5:45am. I called my sister and my friend who both have their birthdays on 9/11 because Cairo is 6 hours ahead of NYC time. Then I got ready because our bus was leaving at 7am. Cairo is 188 km or 117 miles from Alexandria. It was about a 2.5-hour drive (with some crazy highway driving). The bus driver was excellent in not getting into any accidents. I was quite surprised and thanked him when we returned safely.
We passed through miles of desert before we started seeing some green, then finally right in front of us, the beach-line of Alexandria. It looked like Florida for a bit with all the palm trees. But soon enough, it ousted Florida in comparison. Alexandria has Roman and Greek influences and you can see that throughout the construction of buildings. Alexandria, named after its founder, Alexander the Great had no difficulties creating the city.
Our first stop was the infamous library of Alexandria, built by Alexander’s successor Ptolemy. It was one of the greatest and largest libraries in the world. It was built in 3rd Century BC, until a fire destructed it some centuries later.
Our next stop was the Qaitbay Citadel. The fortress was constructed in the 15th century by Sultan Qaitbay. It had views of the Mediterranean. There was also a small mosque inside.
After taking various pictures inside the Citadel, we went to the Fish Market for lunch. They served us an actual fish (which we all didn’t really expect). It was delish. After lunch, we checked into the Regency Hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. We had a few hours of leisure time until we got back on the bus at 7:30pm to go to the Green Plaza Mall. My friends and I spent that time relaxing and talking on the beach. We dipped our feet inside the water and the temperature was perfect. It was nice and cool. The water was a nice light blue and green color. The sun was starting to go down; it was definitely beautiful.
7:30pm arrived and we boarded the bus. I didn’t really shop (just bought some shawls). A friend and I discovered a mini-amusement park in the back of the mall. The RA’s didn’t mention this to us at all, as if this was normal in the US. There was a go-cart ride in a huge tank of water that my friend and I had to go on. It was 7 pounds for the ride. It was awkward at first because all the locals were looking at how excited we got when we saw it. Though we had a blast on it.
We boarded the bus at 11:30pm and arrived back to our hotel by around midnight. When we got back, my friend had could not find her wallet. She and some other friends went back to the beach to where she believed she left it. One of the workers at the beach said they had it, but the man who returned it had already taken out the money before it was turned it. At least she got her wallet back, which had sentimental value. My friend and I talked until about 2:30am even though we were exhausted.
Saturday, September 12
I woke up at 8am to the sound of wind hitting against our windows. The breeze from the beach was pretty strong in the morning. I took a shower and got dressed for breakfast. It wasn’t all that great (the best part was the shay- aka tea). We left for Catacombs, which was a burial site for the rich. It was accidentally found when a donkey fell into the shaft in 1900. It didn’t survive. There was capacity for 27,000 bodies inside this underground site. We went a few stories down and saw these massive boxes created in the walls where 4 bodies could fit into a box. There was even a meeting area for friends of the dead. The Catacombs is one of the seven medieval wonders of the world.
Our next stop was the Roman Amphitheatre, which was a huge outdoors theatre, seating thousands. This was the site for Egyptian opera and the steps were made of marble. One area was reconstructed with cement in a similar set-up for the site of concerts today. It was certainly historic.
We left for lunch afterwards at the Balbaa’ Restaurant (one of the most famous local Alexandrian restaurants). I’m not sure I really enjoyed the food (just liked the pasta and dessert). I think I’ve had better local food.
After lunch, I bought some more shawls on the street. My friends and I decided to go across the street to the Mediterranean side for some pictures. Crossing the city streets here are a journey. Sometimes, you think you won’t make it. It literally takes us a few minutes to find the opportunity to sprint across (because cars don’t like stopping for people to cross). We finally got to the other side, took pictures and were trying to run across again to board the bus. This time, some guys saw us in distress, but thought it would be funny to scare us even more. They started making sounds to scare us, which we didn’t really find funny until after we crossed the street. We’re so sad! I’m afraid I’ll come back to the states finding myself crossing streets all in the worst ways possible.
We finally arrived back to Zamalek (home) at around 5:30pm and see the need to start my homework. Classes are tomorrow. Still find it weird to have school on Sundays, but hey, I still have a 4-day/week schedule!