My three-day cruise from Aswan to Luxor (read more here) had been a really successful trip and on my last day there, I decided to take the train from Luxor to Cairo, back to my base. I had 3 more days to spend in Egypt and I wanted to explore the city of Cairo before leaving. On my second day there, I had found a friend who was Couch Surfing in Alexandria. Alexandria is a Mediterranean port city in Egypt and also a major city from the Greek times of Egypt. It’s named after Alexander the Great and is home to the world’s largest library, the Royal Library of Alexandria. I decided to take a day trip to Alexandria from Cairo. I bought a first class AC coach return ticket for 150 Egyptian Pound and was in Alexandria in just two hours, thanks to the fast trains. I was received by my friend who was humble enough to agree to show me around the city for the day. This is why I love Couch Surfing! J
Here are a few things we managed to do that I would totally suggest you try out if you plan to visit Alexandria.
The Citadel of Qaitbay:
This three-storeyed 15th-century defence fortress standing tall on the Mediterranean Sea is a sight to see. Apart from the historical importance of the fortress, the visual delight served by the white marble fortress standing in contrast with the enchanting blue sea is absolutely mesmerising. The fortress is built using the ruins of the great lighthouse of ancient Alexandria which used to be one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. The fortress in itself is not something extremely unique but the location, design and getting to know its defensive purposes during late 14th century, makes it a scintillating experience. It takes 60 Egyptian pounds to step inside the fortress. I was there during the weekend and it seemed to be a favourite picnic spot for the locals.
The Royal Library of Alexandria:
One of the most significant monuments in Egypt is the Royal library of Alexandria. It’s not only one of the biggest but also one of the oldest libraries in the world. The library was dedicated to Musses, the nine Egyptian Goddesses of Arts. The library even has ancient papyrus roll books and is considered the greatest centre of arts, culture and history by scholars all across the world. History had taken a dramatic turn when the Romans had burnt down the library after defeating the Greeks. The library suffered a great loss of books that could have otherwise provided greater insight of the ancient Egyptian culture and history. The library has been rebuilt in the recent times and an international competition was held to design the architecture of the building. The winning design by Snøhetta is such that, seen from above, proposes the image of the sun (Egyptian hieroglyphs show the sun generally as a simple disk). The library was closed on the day that I visited; the guard allowed us to roam around in the complex once he got to know that I was a tourist who had come a long way to visit Egypt.
If you drive around the coast of Alexandria, it’s hard to miss out on the 400m long bridge which stands out, not only because of its unique architecture but also due to its importance in the middle of the chaotic traffic of the city. The bridge looks magnificent, especially in the evening when the lights go on. Have a walk on the bridge and enjoy the blue sea on one side, with the city of Alexandria lying on the other. It’s one of those places which make you feel like you truly belong to the soul of the city.
The Montaza palace was built on a low plateau, east of central Alexandria, overlooking a beach along the Mediterranean Sea. The Al-Haramlik Palace and the Royal Garden were later added to the Montaza Palace grounds, built by King Fuad I in 1932 as a summer palace. The palace was unfortunately closed for restoration purposes when we got there, but we enjoyed a breezy walk around the Royal Garden while enjoying a view of the sea. If you are a person who loves the sea and walking along the beach, then this is definitely a place for you to visit!
Trying the Mediterranean Sea Fish:
Visiting a coastal town and not trying the seafood just doesn’t add up. The Mediterranean Sea fish tastes different than other sea fishes and the only way to know this best is to try it for yourself. We had a late lunch at a restaurant called the ‘Fish Market’. You can choose your own type of fresh fish, the cooking style and even the herbs to be put in the dish, and they will cook it for you. There was a great variety of dishes to try out but since I’m not much of a seafood lover, I restricted myself to the fish platter.
I didn’t have enough time to explore more places in Alexandria but apart from the above, there are a few more things you can add to your own list while you are there!
- Pompey’s Pillar
- Alexandria National Museum
- Lighthouse of Alexandria
- Alexandria Aquarium