Or Alexandria is like Cannes with acne. Thanks to Michael Palin I knew what to expect.
Alexandria was the French Riviera with tones of Bombay thrown in. After all, Egypt WAS India, wasn’t it?
“Ah, so you are going to Alex!”, my teammate said.
I was a little confused. “No, I am going WITH Alex.”
“Ohhh. Yeah we are going to Alex.”
But, we are getting ahead of the story. Let’s rewind to the day I tapped Alex (the person) on his shoulder in the hotel lobby. That was the day I reluctantly bid farewell to my plans of seeing the Pyramids of Giza & Sakkara and the Cairo Museum (cue sobs) over the weekend and shifted my gaze to the lovely Mediterranean port of Alexandria. Yes, the one with the Lighthouse of Pharos. Yes, the one with the Library. Yes, yes, Cleopatra’s capital- and those of all the Ptolemaic Pharohs.
Yes. the. bloody. selfsame. Greek-styled. city.
So, what ruins does this historical city have?
Nothing, ladies & gentleman. Alexandria has NO trace of ANY history older than the 19th century. If you want colonial architecture, you are better off near Flora Fountain or CST, trust me.
The lighthouse? Thy have built a castle (aptly named Citadel) over it.
The Library. Burnt down gazillion times. The newest avataar was opened in 1999.
Okay, so you get the picture- there are more than shades of Bombay thrown in. (On an aside, I keep yelling “Marine Drive” when I am riding along the Corniche El Nil in Cairo. Sigh) Where’s the Cannes?
Uhm. It’s not really Cannes either. There’s a 20 km long Corniche (read Marine Drive again) that runs from the ex-lighthouse of Pharos to the new Palace of the now-deposed king. Fancy.
So, it’s an extra-long Promenade d’Anglais. Yes, it’s kinda Nice.
But, I am being extra mean to Alex here.
It’s a lovely, lovely port city. The sea flashes blue-green. The yachts are moored off the harbour. And all is well with the world.
Insert random Egyptian ruin #1: Pompey’s pillar. A large free-standing pillar that was once part of a Ptolemaic temple. It is also surrounded by ruins of a piscine and a Roman bath.
Insert Catacombs: Old Graeco-Roman-Egyptian tombs for noblemen.
Insert Fish Market: The food’s good.
Insert Citadel: The port looks positively serene.
Insert Montezah Palace: Lovely gardens.
This blog wasn’t meant to end this way.
I was planning to tell you about the train journey to Alexandria (TGV meets Venad Express), the taxi ride at 2 AM to the hotel in peak hour traffic and the monotonous chant of the disco-Koran till we almost went mad, the women jumping into the water fully dressed, the prettiest lighthouse in the whole of the Arab world, the party in the North Coast we almost went to and the 42 degree Celsius heat.
Next up: “How many chickens for her?” and other top Egyptian pick up lines in Luxor & Karnak.