Sunday, January 06, 2008

Alexandria, Egypt, Part I

Our whirlwind tour of Egypt has begun! Eva and I arrived in Alexandria yesterday afternoon and jumped right in to the hustle and bustle that is this crazy city!

Even the airport is crazy! Going through passport control, we handed our passports to the agent and they were slid down a shoot and we were instructed to wait with a group of other travelers. Not knowing what to expect, we were shocked when the whole group's passports were handed to one traveler in a stack and he was appointed the task of giving them out to everyone! Needless to say, we were very relieved when we retrieved our passports! At baggage claim, the craziest things came off the plane: bedspreads, big garbage bags, a cooler, and even a jug of water:

We hurried through security where everyone had their luggage inspected - Eva's even had to go through an x-ray machine. Mine didn't get inspected at all though! I guess I don't look that suspicious!

After a death defying cab ride (seriously, we almost died....twice!) we arrived at the lovely Hotel Union, right on the Mediterranean. Eva and I have a private room with a sea's gorgeous!

We spent the evening wandering the city, marveling at the insane traffic and the fact that the drivers don't use headlights - unless they are flashing them at pedestrians - and that they use their horns very liberally. There are no crosswalks, so pedestrians literally hurl themselves into traffic and the cars just swerve and honk to avoid them. Imagine this crossing eight lanes of traffic!!

Here's a picture of the outside of the newly built Biblioteca Alexandria:

We had dinner at a little restaurant called Mohammed Amed and our entire meal for two which consisted of Foul (Egyptian fava beans) with fried egg, two salads, two bowls of lentil soup, pita bread, bottled water, fried cheese (an Egyptian specialty) and dessert for only four dollars!! That's about what we'd been paying for bottled water at restaurants before this. Plus, it was delicious!

Alexandria at night is a bit like a carnival. Everyone is out on the streets and there are bright lights everywhere. The shops are open late and cars are whizzing by narrowly missing pedestrians. It's quite a sight to see!

We were both tired, so we got a good night's sleep so we could get up early and start our second day in Alexandria.

This morning we headed to the train station to book our sleeper car to Aswan for tomorrow night. We were dismayed to find out the trains had been canceled until further notice but luckily a very helpful travel guide helped us to book a train to Cairo tomorrow afternoon so we could take an overnight train from Cairo to Aswan. We even got a VIP behind the desk tour of the ticket desk:

The sleeper car from Cairo to Awan is $60 and puts Eva and I in a private cabin and includes dinner and breakfast for the 14 hour trip. We were told the fare couldn't be paid in Egyptian pounds! We had to go to the money exchange office and exchange our pounds for dollars to pay for a train ticket in Egypt! Bizzare! Luckily everything worked out and we'll (hopefully) be on a train to Aswan tomorrow afternoon!

We checked out the Roman amphitheater near the train station:

Next we hailed a cab to the Catacombes, a series of tombs underneath Alexandria that was unearthed when a donkey fell through the ground many years ago! No cameras were allowed inside, so you'll have to visit yourself! We hired a guide for $5 and he gave us a very in depth tour with all the history and explanations of the designs and areas inside the Catacombes.

Pompey's pillar, one of the famous sites associated with Alexandria was extra fun because we befriended a policeman at the Catacombes who met us there and got us free, VIP entry. No admittance fee and we got access to the parts that no tourists are allowed to see!

Lunch was at a hole-in-the-wall pizza place, where it was made to order right in front of us. Greasy, cheap and delicious!

Tonight for dinner we're going to have fresh seafood at one of the best spots in Alexandria. Given the 6:1 exchange rate, it's nice to be in a place where we can afford to splurge a little!

I can't even describe how Eva and I are being treated here. Every where we walk, people stop what they are doing and watch us. The children come up to us on the streets and stare at us. When I smile at them they get really excited - it's clear they don't see too many blonds. I was really surprised at how much of a novelty we are, but apparently not that many American tourists make it here. They are definitely missing out and I recommend this city highly! Keep in mind though, nobody speaks English and all the signs are in Arabic! Other than that, people have been going out of there way to accommodate us and we are enjoying the attention!

Don't worry though, Mom and Dad, I'm definitely staying out of trouble!!

1 comment:

the patient said...

You mean the dollar us still "strong" somewhere?