Tuesday, July 27th
In most ports, Kathy and I have done an afternoon “city orientation” tour. This has worked out well. We don’t have to rush off the ship, and we can start getting an idea about parts of the city we might want to explore. Maybe we have a chance to hit an ATM and get some local cash. If we are really lucky, we can get some kind of map..
According to our tour description… Alexandria lies northwest of the Nile Delta, and is one of the major summer resorts on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the largest port in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, the city flourished beyond all expectations into a prominent cultural, intellectual and economic metropolis, the remains of which are still evident to this day. It was the renowned capital of the Ptolemies and the scene of the most thrilling drama involving Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Octavius.
According to our observations… Alexandria is struggling today. As in other countries, people are flocking to the city in search of work. It is overcrowded and many people are without work. There doesn’t seem to be enough public investment. Meanwhile, there is a HUGE 4 Seasons hotel that went up and blocked the ocean view for 200 existing buildings (at least according to a local I spoke with). And right up against the water is this amazing New Alexandria Library.
Next to the ship is a beautiful port terminal. But it is eerily empty. Obviously built to house shops, but no tenants. We board a bus and head out through the city. We are heading to Montazah Palace former home of King Farouk. Well it was a “summer” residence… It was built in 1892 by Abbas II. All children born to the dynasty have been given names beginning with F, which is considered lucky. The Kennedy clan will appreciate this. Right Karen, Kevin, Keith , Kenneth and Kate? Sorry about that Michael.
Next stop the new Library of Alexandria. The ancient library of Alexandria once housed the largest collection of manuscripts from everywhere. These were copied for preservation. Unfortunately the library was destroyed. It has been built anew. One side faces the bay and we were lucky enough to see the rising sun gleaming off this round surface. It is supposed to resemble the sun rising from the ocean and it does. The back wall is granite and is covered in letters from ancient alphabets. Inside, besides the operating library are two museums, an archeological one where cameras are NOT permitted, and a “scripts” library where cameras ARE permitted. There is also an Anwar Sadat room and a planetarium both of which we saw on a separate visit to the library.
Last, a visit to Citadel of Qaitbay. Build on the site of one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the citadel was destroyed and rebuilt twice. It now looks like something that was built for especially for tourists to take its picture.