Egypt, April 22, 2007
Alexander the Great made his own cities
It is a Friday in Egypt. A day of prayer and medication for those pious, a day off for everyone else, a day to travel for me. With Luxor too far for a day-trip, I sped north on a swank Egyptian train, for day by the seashore.
Rolling out of the train station, I was immediately greatly by ancient Roman ruins. Kom el Dikka was beautiful and while unimpressive in size, it, as much as the pyramids, made me realize just how old Egypt is. The site is below street level, and with apartment buildings rising up behind it, you start to realize just how much history is right under your feet.
I used my feet to walk to the Kom el Shokafa catacombs, old Roman burial chambers cut into a limestone hill. Sadly, the insides of the chambers were stripped of almost all their original wall coverings and all of the bodies, but the experience was still quite powerful. More than any cemetery, these catacombs made me feel close to the dead of centuries past with cool walls, still air, and overwhelming silence of the tombs.
Reaching the surface again, it was time for a beach brunch odyssey. Reading the Lonely Planet guidebook, I made the decision to head east from the city and find a beachside cafÃ©. A long walk and longer taxi ride later, I would up just west of the city centre, just past Fort of Qaitbay.
There, fresh fish and seafood satiated my hunger as I tanned in the afternoon sun. Around me, Egyptian families also enjoyed the beach, but I dare say, not as comfortably. I was the only one in swim trunks. The Egyptian boys were in jeans, sans shirts, while the girls were fully clothed as they played in the surf. The women ranged from conservative Western attire right up to fully hidden under burkas - none enjoyed the surf or sun.
After lunch, I walked down the beach to the very interesting and photogenic Alexandria shipyard. With all manner of boats under construction and repair, from dinghies to impressive yachts, I was amazed at the industry undertaken on the beach. Realize that this beach is not in the harbor, a normal spot to build boats, but along a whole other section of beach, with grand ships pulled onto the sand and apartment buildings lurking in the background.
Still in awe, I rounded a bend and saw the joyous crowds of Fort of Qaytbey. The promenade leading to the fort was filled with families strolling, tourists gawking, and touts selling every manner of Egyptian tourist trinket. Stopping for tea, I met up with a local Egyptian computer geek and we talked the evening till my train home to Cairo.
Overall a great Friday in Alexandria experience.