Anum's Blog Rotating Header Image


Posts Tagged ‘Citadel’

Ohh Alexandria..a way to remember it the 2nd time around

September 23rd, 2009 4 comments

So I had 3 hours of sleep before I had to wake up at 6am to get ready. We met at 7am to take a cab to the train station. We bought first class sleeper cell tickets to Alexandria for 41 pounds (less than $10). It was a very comfortable ride. It took us about 3 hours to get to our destination.

When we arrived, we tried to figure out where the beach was so I took out my Egyptian phrase book and asked the cabbie where it was. He had no idea what I was talking about and then pulled over next to me the second time to ask me where I got this book from. So that didn’t work. I saw a woman on the street and I asked her. She replied in perfect English, “I don’t speak English.” It was the funniest thing ever because she had the most serious look on her face when she said it. We asked another 3 people before we headed in the right direction and the Mediterranean was in sight. As we were walking along the water, we passed by a crowd of people taking boat rides and just hanging out on the beach. As obvious tourists, we attracted attention. These girls wanted us to take pictures with them. Then, this guy insisted I take a picture with him. I wasn’t sure what to say so I said okay. His friend took our picture, then he said shook my hand and shukraned (thanked) me. It was a bit weird, but the beginning of many pictures to be taken with locals. Oh how we didn’t know!

After lunch at the Fish Market is when our journey of craziness began. We walked to the Citadel. We found out from some locals that Egyptians only had to pay 2 pounds to get in and foreigners had to pay 25 pounds. We didn’t want to pay the foreigner price so we thought we would ask some local guys to buy us some tickets to get in. They got us the tickets, but as soon as the lady saw our tickets, she knew we weren’t Egyptian. Our backpacks screamed “TOURISTS!” We had to get other tickets, but at least we paid student prices of like 15 pounds. We went to the top of the Citadel to take pictures and all of a sudden a group of guys started watching us and taking our pictures. I wasn’t sure at first until I saw the cameras pointed directly at us. The roles were reversed. We were the objects of study. These guys then wanted to take pictures with us, so we agreed. One by one and two by two, these young guys were standing up and taking pictures with us. They would then shake our hands and thank us which we thought was interesting. We felt like some sort of Hollywood stars, until the unimaginable happened.

We finally (well my friend) mustered up the courage to tell the guys that we were done taking pictures with them. We literally spent 10 minutes going around and having our pictures taken with these locals. We got down and started to exit. We didn’t realize until the group of 20 boys or so that we took pictures with were following us. They were following us all around and it got to the point where it was so crowded that was got physically violated. I’ve never had that experience in my life. We had two guys with us, except one just disappeared off somewhere so we had one male guarding us. We had to run from these mob of guys. When we finally exited, some boys saw us and asked me, “Remember me? One more picture?” I didn’t know how to say no so my friend told them a straight “NO.” I’ve never been more creeped out. We apparently were attracting a lot of attention. A lot of locals were coming up to us and taking pictures with us and trying to have conversations with us. From young newlyweds talking about going to Texas soon to little kids trying to sell us single cigarettes. We finally got out of there and went elsewhere.

We cabbed to the Catacombs area, except the cabbie didn’t drop us to the exact location. We had to walk in a local neighborhood to get to the place, which once again attracted much attention. We saw 10-year olds on motorcycles and young girls who wanted to shake our hands. We finally got there around 5pm right when it closed. So we walked back through this local neighborhood and realized we couldn’t stay in one place for some time because we grew mobs of people that liked to surround us and sometimes bother us.

We cabbed out to the beach. We entered a hotel entrance and told them we wanted to take pictures just so we didn’t have to go to the public beach where more people would have bothered us. The hotel receptionists were nice and let us in. When we exited, we found out that the room rates were $200 for locals and $400 for foreigners per night!

After the beach we had dinner. At about 7:30pm, we decided to cab back to the train station and got there at 8:10. We had some challenges figuring out where to buy our tickets from and where our platform was. We thought the next train would leave at 8:45pm so we casually started to walk to our platform. We asked a guy if this was our train and he said yes and it would leave in a few minutes. We ran to the train and just as we thought we made it, we realized the first class sleeper cell was all the way in the front end of the train while we were all the way on the other end. We ran so fast, again. As soon as we entered our cabin, we were out of breath and all the passengers could see how we were gasping for air. Two minutes later, our train left the platform. We completely confused the 8:45pm time with the 8:15pm time.

We got back to Cairo at about 11pm. We got a cab, however the minute we told him we were American, he wanted to charge us $15 instead of 15 Egyptian pounds (equaling to about $3). We said no and that we would just take another cab then. He agreed, except it was like sitting in deathcab. The most awkward thing about the ride was how he slipped on his seat belt. I have never seen this with all the cabs I have been in Cairo. He did it with such ease. The seat belt was already buckled, he just swung it over his head and that is when I wondered why he put it in on and how we weren’t able to. Yet, we made it all safely back home, Alhumdulilah. We survived this strangely adventurous day in Alexandria.

Post to Twitter

Weekend Trip to Alexandria

September 12th, 2009 5 comments

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!

Post to Twitter