There is another amazing place in Egypt. It is alluring. It is beautiful. It is magical. It has survived wars, prosperity and glory, it was ruled by the most astonishing historical personalities and it was once the Paris of the Roman Empire. The name of this place is Alexandria or they locals call it Is-kan-da-re-ya…
Every Egyptian I know outside of Egypt is from Alexandria – they love their country, they love their city, they are proud to be Egyptians, they are proud to be Alexandrians.
Alexandria hides its mystery in the deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The entire ancient world sank and got covered by the sea that embraces the coast of Alexandria.
Getting onto Alexandria’s Desert Road from Cairo was the most exiting and adventurous part of my trip. I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do. I found a ride for $80 and the only destination I knew was the Stanley Bridge.
The reason why it is called the Desert Road is because you see nothing but desert for two hours. Here and there you see some small villages and then you pass the Federal Prison ( where they held Hosny Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi) but nothing more fun than this.
Alexandria is the second largest city and it is also very heavily populated. But Alexandrians are a little bit different from Cairo’s residents. I find them more cautions but more relaxed and sociable – it is like when you meet a city person and then someone from the country side. Very welcoming, but a bit naive. Even thought Alex is a big city it doesn’t have as many tourists as Cairo does. But there are still tons of things to see and to do.
It is worth visiting The Royal Library of Alexandria ( Bibliotheca Iskandareya) – one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. It burnt down but then reconstructed and it has many activities to offer.
The Montazah Gardens and Palaces is another place to visit. It is a favorite place with the locals, with five beaches and many activities, such as boating, snorkeling, diving, tennis courts etc. It is also has a very beautiful park with a huge variety of trees and plants – some of them are quite rare. The Haramlek Palace, located nearby, has a very special history and it is definitely worth a visit.
Also, don’t miss Old Qaitbey Fort, located on the island of Pharos. It was build in 1480s and was a major port with two huge harbors. The lighthouse and it has a naval museum inside. There are many souvenir shops, and hore and camel riding.
Walk the Stanley Bridge. There is an iconic corniche running along the Eastern Harbor, with access to a private beach and many restaurants. But don’t try to cross the road there on your own – ask for help or simply find the underground crosswalk. Cars won’t stop for you!
Visit Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa – considers one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Age, and Pompey’s Pillars, a Roman triumphal column, the largest of its type outside Rome and Constantinople (Istanbul)
Alexandria also has wonderful museums, such as the Royal Jewelry Museum, Greco-Roman Museum and Cavafy Museum. There is also a fun zoo and aquarium.
As mentioned above, Alex has not been exposed to international tourism as much as Cairo, although many Egyptians from other cities travel to Alex during the summer. You may find disturbing poverty and many beggars, especially in touristy areas. It can get little annoying, but overall, people are very nice.
The best way to move around is by taxi and they are pretty cheap. There is also Uber. You can get on a bus but being stuck between 20 people in a 10 seat mini-van is pretty challenging. Just be aware and don’t forget my Egypt and its Pharaohs blog.
Although Alexandrians and Cairians don’t really like each other, they share one passion that belongs to Alexandrian’s coast – the beautiful North Coast <3
Fun fact: Alexandrians love rain! Sun days with clear blue skies are typical here ( but it can get little muggy and polluted). For visitors this is perfect weather, but Alexandrians are most happy when it’s pouring 🙂