Saturday, 26 June 2010

An unexpected trip

We arrived back in Cairo with one day left before our flight home. As this was my second time in Cairo, I was happy that I'd seen all I wanted to, and F couldn't find anything else he was desperate to take a look at, so at the last minute we decided to take a quick detour and head over to Alexandria for the day.

We'd already met a couple on our first day in Egypt who had visited from Cairo for a day trip, so very early on our last morning we headed down the train station to buy a couple of tickets. This was trickier than we had anticipated - at first they wouldn't sell us 2nd class seats, then we discovered that the platform wasn't listed so we ran around trying to find the right place...finally we were on the train and spent a very pleasant couple of hours heading away from the dust and heavy air of Cairo and into the breeze and cooler temperatures.

Alexandria is a lovely city. Oddly, and perhaps because of its location, it doesn't feel as though it belongs in Egypt, being so different from the other large cities. It has a distinctly Mediterranean style, and walking along the sea front, looking out on crystal clear blue waters and watching boats glide past was a relaxing way to end our travels. The museum of Alexandria is a joy - with well-labelled exhibits and items from throughout the city's history. Obviously the greatest difference is the prominence of the Grecian and Roman eras, and the sites dotted around are worth a visit, all situated within walking distance of the train station, but without too much at them left to actually see (Pompey's Pillar is nice, but quite a walk from the centre). The park is particularly lovely to stroll through, with hidden mini waterfalls, ponds and cool places to sit tucked inside gorgeous sprawling foliage.

My one criticism of our trip to the city was that I experienced much more hassle there than any other place we'd visited. Walking down side streets to reach some of the sites, we realised that we were the only tourists in the area. It seemed that unlike other towns, most people were on tours, going around on coaches, not alone and on foot. This was a real contrast to other places, where whilst the tours were numerous, there were also lots of individuals as well. Whether a regular lack of tourists wandering around had anything to do with the increase in hassle I couldn't say, but it was far worse. Even very modestly dressed as I always ensure I am in Arabic countries, some of the comments were pretty over the top, and more explicit than the usual 'pretty lady' that every female tourist experiences. Maybe we just came at the wrong time...

To be honest, although a bit irritating, this was only a small dip in an otherwise great day. Modern, relaxing and a contrast to the rest of Egypt, Alexandria it is a great place to spend some time, and was a lovely way to finish the trip.

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