Contiki Egypt & The Nile – Day 8: Alexandria
Even though the Contiki itinerary ended the previous night in Alexandria, I decided to stay an extra day and take a trip to Alexandria. Located just over two hours away from Cairo, Alexandria seemed a bit more modern than any other city we’d seen in Egypt, mainly due to the fact that its economy benefits from natural gas & oil trade. Our first stop was to take in the scenic Mediterranean Sea in front of the modern day library of Alexandria. Its predecessor was one of the most famous libraries of the world & attracted many of the world’s most prominent philosophers and academics before its destruction around 300 BC at the hand of Julius Caesar when he set fire to it. We did not go in the new library, but the façade was very memorable.
We also walked along the promenade next to the Mediterranean Sea to observe daily life in Alexandria.
Our next stop was the Citadel of Quaitbay which was built just before 1,500 AD to defend the city from naval attacks from the Turks. The Citadel is located at the same location as the famed Lighthouse of Alexandria which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World until it was destroyed by several earthquakes. We had the opportunity to walk around the entire premises and take in the breathtaking views from the battlements, art & architecture.
After the Citadel, Sharif took is to one of his favorite ice cream shops in Egypt & it did not disappoint. It was the perfect balance of sweet and refreshing which hit the spot on a hot day!
Our next stop was the Al Mursi Abu Al Abbas Mosque. Anyone is able to go into the mosque, but Sharif suggested we all say that we are Australian as if we said we were Americans they would follow us around to make sure we were safe, which was not necessary. It was my first time in a mosque, however, I would imagine that this one was more beautiful than most.
We then visited the Alexandria National Museum which is housed in the building that used to be the American consulate before it was relocated. There museum is intended to provide an overview from Ancient Egypt to today’s Egypt which was unique because we really hadn’t learned a lot about what Egypt is today. It featured things like canopic jars which were used to store the organs of people in the afterlife, artwork from different time periods & even traditional Muslim clothing.
Our next stop was the Roman Amphitheater. It was very similar to other amphitheaters I’ve seen across Europe, but was still very impressive. It also had several well preserved pieces of artwork & was also a part of a complex with a Muslim cemetery and bath houses.
After a quick trip in our van, we arrived at the Serapeum of Alexandria which was a temple designated to house part of the collection of the Library of Alexandria. While most of the items of note like statues are located in tunnels below ground, there is a large pillar named Pompey’s Pillar which is the tallest free standing column constructed outside of Rome or Constantinople.
We then got back on our van & headed back towards Cairo where I said my goodbyes to the rest of my group and headed for the airport. The trip to Egypt was definitely the trip of a lifetime and brought my history books to life. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the documentaries I see on TV and the ability to see everything I saw firsthand is something I will remember for the rest of my life. The people I spoke with were so proud of their country and happy to show it off to tourists from the West. Egypt was also safer than I could have imagined – people thought I was crazy for going & I now can tell them they’re crazy for not. There was not one minute that I felt unsafe. I hope I have the opportunity to go back one day & spend a bit more time in that beautiful country!