Since our trip to Cairo was longer than anticipated, we didn’t really make it South to Aswan and Luxor. To make up for it, me and Nora decided to at least visit Alexandria before leaving the mainland Egypt. Alexandria is a city with historic significance on the Northern coast of Egypt, located by the Mediterranean Sea. The city was named after Alexander the Great, who founded the city more than 2000 years ago. Yet for me the most interesting part of history was the fact that Alexandria used to host one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World täpsemalt siis Pharose tuletorn. Inglise keeles kutsutakse seda tihti küll — the Lighthouse of Alexandria.True, the lighthouse has sadly been lost in time and does not exist anymore, just as most of the Wonders of the Ancient World. The only still preserved Wonder is the Pyramid of Giza in Cairo. Visiting Alexandria was still significant for me, as it was the third location of an Ancient World Wonder that I had visited.
Modern Alex is very different from the ancient fortress it used to be. Nowadays Alexandria is one of the biggest cities of the whole African continent and the second largest city in Egypt. It’s also an important tourism destination, being mutually beloved by international and domestic tourists. As a foreigner it was a nice breath of fresh air to take a day trip to the North Coast and return to Cairo by night. We took our morning bus quite early in the morning, at around 7 o’clock, when most of Cairo was still in deep sleep. Egyptians love their slow mornings and prefer to be active in the second half of the day. Then again it means that my friend Youssef, who’s working for the Egyptian government, has to hold the occasional roundtables and meetings as late as 2AM, only to return to the office at a more-or-less of a decent time in the morning. But for me it was nice to get moving early in the morning, as the whole city was still empty. Even the vendors hadn’t put up their little shops yet on the streets.
The trip from Cairo to Alexandria can take anything from two hours up to five hours. No one is really sure. It depends on the traffic, the time, on the weather and on the mood of the bus driver. Trains are usually slightly more organised than buses. They don’t go as often as buses, but the schedule is more reliable. Since mine and Nora’s hotel was right by one of the central bus stations, it made more sense to spend a few more hours listening to music on the bus, instead of wasting our money and nerves on finding the train station.
We arrived in Alexandria at around noon. It instantly charmed us with the summery vibe only a Mediterranean resort can have. The city was noticeably warmer than windy Cairo. The temperature was well over 20 degrees, despite the fact it was still only January. The winter sun was so sharp that we actually had to protect our heads with local-styled headscarf-turbans.
The city itself left a magnificent impression on me. Alexandria felt vibrant and alive. We were lucky, as our day trip happened to take place on a Friday, which is the holy day and the only day of the weekend for most of the islamic world. This means that people use this day to go to the mosque and spend time outside with their families. It seems surreal to even think that back then holding a picnic outside was not only legal, but completely normal. :)
The promenade was Alex was spectacular, connecting one end of the city with another. It was a perfect market place for all kinds of street food, such as barbequed corn, a variety of local seafood, different kinds of nuts and jams and ice cream in every thinkable colour. The luxurious city centre hotels seemed rather empty, but the promenade and surrounding parks were completely filled with people. A classy Southern European architecture alternated with crowded slums in every few blocks, surrounding gorgeous mosques decorated with gold. Alexandria was a city of contrasts, with not much to do; at least during the slow season. Yet as a day trip it was more than worth it to take a break from the city rush of Cairo.