As I sit here, planning out my travels for my remaining weekends, I remembered that I forgot to write about my travels to Alexandria weekend before last! It was one of the best weekends I’ve had here in Egypt, yet I somehow neglected to write about it.
Our train tickets were for 7 p.m. on Thursday, and we all intended to get to the train station with ample time to spare. But when you are travelling with 12 people, this doesn’t usually happen. We made our train with barely two minutes to spare!
The train station is quite confusing for foreigners as our tickets were entirely in Arabic with Arabic numbers. It was difficult to find our train and even more difficult to find the right carriage! We had bought second-class tickets, as they were cheaper, and we anticipated some uncomfortable crowded seating. But when we entered the train we were pleasantly surprised as each seat was plush and roomy with ample legroom!
Two and a half hours later we arrived and poured out of the train. We had a hard time getting a taxi because none of them had heard of the hotel we were staying at and almost none knew of the street it was on. We got in a taxi whose driver said in Arabic that he didn’t know exactly where the hotel was but he knew the general area. We got there and went in the building with the sign of our hotel hanging above.
The hotel was actually on the top two stories of a general office and business building. We piled in the elevator and pressed the button. As we rose, the elevator played an Arabic song, which we soon realized was part of the Qur’an, sung as it usually is in the call to prayer. I’ve heard my fair share of elevator music, but this was new to me!
Egypt has almost no rainfall, but the entire time we were in Alexandria it was cold and rainy. Not the typical weather you imagine when you think of Egypt, that’s for sure. While I was there I wore everything I brought all at once, simply to stay warm! We started our days early and tried to see everything we could.
On Friday, we first tried to go to the Greco-Roman Museum, and after getting extremely lost, we learned that it was under renovation. We then went to the Alexandria National Museum, which was perfect for a museum lover such as myself. I won’t bore you with the details or my many pictures of the Egyptology collection.
After spending some quality time with the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, we moved on to the Roman Amphitheatre. We were the only people there for a long time, as it was so cold and rainy. Walking up on the “stage” of this theatre, we all were talking and laughing when all of a sudden my voice was booming, amplified much louder than normal. I was standing right at the sweet spot, which the Roman engineers had created through their architecture. All amphitheatres were created in a way that the actors’ voices would project to the audience, even if they were speaking in a whisper. This is evidence of the earliest microphone, so to speak.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant called the Fish Market. Here you went right up to the iced case of fish and pointed to whichever fresh fish you wanted. The chef then suggested the best way to prepare it, and he hurried it back to the kitchen. I chose sole, and it was delicious.
To the catacombs
The next morning we woke up and headed to the catacombs. On our way there we were waiting on the sidewalk when an Egyptian mother and her three small children walked by. They were laughing and chattering as they approached us. One of her daughters, about age eight or nine, was just looking at us with wide eyes. Her mother joked with her and then dropped her hand and left her right in front of us, laughing as she walked past, as if to say, “You want to stay with them? I’ll just go on with your brother and sister.” It was all very lighthearted.
I smiled at the little girl and her face lit up and she smiled and ran back to her mother. As she was walking away, hand in hand with her mother, she looked back at us. I smiled and waved at her and she quickly turned away embarrassed. She turned back to me again when she worked up her courage. I waved at her again, and she smiled widely and waved excitedly at me. Her family smiled and laughed along with her as they continued on their journey.
We got to the catacombs as it was pouring rain and descended down the steps, into the abyss. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, the rooms opened up, and it was a series of large underground chambers with extremely high ceilings, which is generally not associated with the word catacombs!
The first chamber was a triclinium, a dining room where the Romans would dine during their visits to their dead ancestors. Squeezing through nooks and crannies, we saw many other chambers with cut-out sections intended for bodies, although there were none, to our disappointment.
We saw carved out of the stone the images of the ancient Egyptian gods such as Anubis, some still with remnants of their original paint! Going down further, we went through a part where we had to walk on boards raised above the ground because the catacombs had flooded.
After that, we went to a juice bar called Malak al Mango, which all the tour books had said sells the best juice you will ever taste in Egypt! Malak al Mango was amazing, with a tiki hut atmosphere and oranges hanging from the ceiling. I had fresh-squeezed mango juice, and when I was finished with that I had coconut juice. I have never had juice that was this delicious! Here in Egypt, I have been spoiled by all this fresh, delicious juice. I will suffer greatly when I have to return to the States and have juice from concentrate! The horror!
We caught our train shortly thereafter, and I returned to Cairo with my lungs filled with fresh air and my stomach filled with tasty fruit juice.