So I’ve just returned from a week in Luxor and Dahab and my brain is exploding with all kinds of experiences and foods and sights–but I’m going to try and crank out the rest of Alexandria first, starting with the activities we got up to, before I really forget them.
Our first day, as I mentioned, was just strolling down the Corniche and enjoying the sea views and calm(er) atmosphere with a creepy movie to wrap things up.
We took a luxuriously long breakfast the next morning, me peeking through my Egypt travel guide, and decided to visit the National Museum (which, unfortunately, doesn’t allow pictures unless you pay an extra 50 pounds, which we didn’t feel like doing–so no proof!) and set off on foot. It wasn’t a terribly long or a terribly quick walk, and as it was a Saturday things were fairly quiet. We passed some very scenic streets and a few fancy European-style cafés, and finally arrived at the museum.
I’ll freely admit that the museum is delightful–it’s small but thorough, covering Ancient Egypt, Roman/Ptolemaic Egypt, and Islamic Egypt within the context of Alexandria. The pieces are informative and very well lit/maintained, and it was a nice way to spend an hour and a half or so!
Without strict plans for later, we decided to walk around a bit and found ourselves in what I can only call a comically dilapidated park/garden, which was just falling to shambles. (At some point later I saw an old picture of it in its prime, and it was lovely then!) We chuckled about it as we walked around, and then headed back in the direction of downtown where we perused a book market, some shops, etc. Relaxing was the goal for this trip, and we succeeded. Dinner was at a shnazzy joint called The Greek Club, which I’ll write about later, and was luxurious in its own way.
Scheduled to head back to Cairo Sunday afternoon, we spent our last morning drinking coffee with breakfast on the terrace again and headed off to the Bibliotheque Alexandrina, the modern-day version of the Great Library at Alexandria that burned down all those thousands of years ago. I had a connection who gave me the number of a gentleman who works for the library, and he was kind enough to let us into the rare manuscripts room for free.
Basically, I spent a good 15 minutes there (as our tour was due to start at noon, we had limited time before!) drooling over ancient books with yellowing pages and beautiful calligraphic writing. Many were Qur’ans, Bibles, ancient texts on astronomy and astrology, etc. Many were donated to the library.
We then took a brief modern tour of the library, which is designed to impress–they’re really trying to bring back the glory of academia here. The main reading room has eight levels, and the ceiling is speckled with windows that are mathematically shaded to allow maximum lighting without damaging books. There’s even a platform to shuffle us tourists onto (with surrounding glass) to view the room without disturbing scholars.
The rest of the tour was informative about the construction of the library and showed off contraptions like a printer that can reproduce a several thousand page book in some ridiculously short span of time, etc. Some of it didn’t quite seem to be used, but I think the library itself just needs a bit of time to become established and reach its full potential. Overall, it’s exciting to see–literature doesn’t get enough promotion over here, if you ask me. (But then again, I’m a nerd, so for me it’s really never enough!)
To be quite honest those are the only main attractions we saw in Alex. We were mostly there to eat and relax and view the sea–more about the former in the next post!