Alexandria, as I mentioned before, is a good place for you to start your sightseeing in Egypt. It does not have too many places that can be classified under ‘must-see’s’ and hence does not really warrant a trip back and forth from Cairo (where a lot of other flights land).
The winner in the Alexandria ‘must-visit’ list is the airport! Yep, you heard right. This quaint little single block building is probably only a little bit bigger than your neighbourhood McDonald’s and definitely old-world. (though the exterior has been spruced up). Manual checking of luggage seems all the rage while the single luggage X-ray track is largely ignored by the Egyptians and is only availed of by us ‘foreigners’. With a single flight landing and taking off in a day – the funniest part was watching all the airport officials pack up and leave for the day once we were done with our immigration formalities.
Again – be very careful about getting duped by the cabs standing near the airport. Our cab guy asked for about 250 LE (Egyptian Pound) for a trip from the airport – catacombs – city railway station with an hours wait at the catacombs. We brought it down to 180 or so and were off on our way feeling really proud of our bargaining skills. Little did we know that we had ended up paying about 100 LE extra!
The Catacombs are a maze of underground burial chambers with the main chamber containing three sarcophagi. Though most of the chambers look like holes in the wall, the main chamber is an interesting visit with its carvings of the Sun God (Amon-Ra –you’l here a lot about this dude in my next post) as well as the Anubis – a famous Egyptian figure that is half man and half jackal (Remember them from The Mummy Returns?). You don’t really need a guide for this. If you are very keen on knowing the nitty-gritties then just hover within hearing distance of some of the other groups who have guides and shamelessly eavesdrop (the key being to look rather disinterested in what they are saying).
After a brief visit we stopped for our very first sip of authentic Arabian ‘chai’, hot and sweet, at this roadside café appropriately painted with Pharaoh images. You will get to see identical such cafes peppering all the roads of Egypt – with small wooden tables and chairs, lots and lots of sheesha and men who seem to have all the time in the world!
For those who want to linger…my friends have recommended a visit to the ancient library. Once the largest library in the ancient world – today only a modern emulation of it can be found near the original site. We however, took off for the station…on our way to Cairo (more about that in my fourth and final post)
Contributed by Payal