Friday, October 22, 2010

Adventures in Alexandria

Alexandria is pretty relaxed - a beach town - and I'm sure it feels even more relaxed when you just came from Cairo.  I found I had timed this part of the trip perfectly.  A day was enough time to see most of what I wanted to see here with time to spare for a long nap yesterday afternoon.

The catacombs at Kom ash-Shaqqafa are cool!  You go down into the little subterranean area and walk through them with hardly any other tourists in your way.  Plus, they are partly under water, so you have to walk across all of these boards laid out everywhere so you don't fall in.  I had to check my camera at the door, but I still had my iPhone :)

Walking the Planks into the catacombs
Pompey's Pillar was also much cooler than I thought it would be.  I was expecting, well, a pillar.  But there was also a pretty cool subterranean space with little cubby holes in the stone that evidently held papyrus documents back in Caesar's day.  It was supposedly a "daughter library" of the legendary Alexandria library.

Speaking of which!  I also saw the Biblioteca Alexandria, the replacement library of the one that Caesar "accidentally" burned down in the process of setting fire to his own ships (if you read Vesuvius, you'll get the significance of this...).  The new library was closed but the outside is really neat - it's built next to this huge fountain and is designed to look like it is sinking into the sea, a nod to the loss of the ancient Alexandria library.

Alexandria Library Falling into the Sea
From the library you can see Fort Qaitbey, a big castle located where the Wonder-of-the-Ancient-World Alexandria lighthouse once stood.  Fort Qaitbey reminded me of Castel dell'Ovo in Naples.  Many adventures to be had there.

So I now board a taxi, then a train, then a metro, and finally an overnight sleeper train to Aswan.  So don't be alarmed if I drop off for a day.  I assume there is no Wi-Fi on Egyptian trains.  If I drop off for two days, be alarmed :)  Viva Aswan!