December 20, 2011
Dear Family and Friends,
The four hour ride northwest from Cairo to Alexandria is less than scenic but Alexandria itself is a worthy and picturesque city.
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt with a population of 4.1 million, extending about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving approximately 80% of Egypt's imports and exports. Alexandria is also an important tourist resort.
Alexandria was founded in c. 331 BCE by Alexander the Great. It remained Egypt's capital for nearly a thousand years. Alexandria was known because of its Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, its Library (the largest library in the ancient world); and the Catacombs of Komel Shoqafa, , one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Ongoing maritime archeology in the harbor of Alexandria, which began in 1994, is revealing details of Alexandria both before the arrival of Alexander, when a city named Rhacotis existed there, and during the Ptolemaid dynasty.
Our small group of speakers from the IOETI Conference* first visited the Catacombs and then the site of the ancient lighthouse - the Citadel of Qaitbey that overlooks the harbor. Later we visited the new Library and finally a neighborhood teeming with traffic, food stalls and dry goods shops.
No photos were allowed in the underground Catacombs but the Citadel was an inspiring sight in the bright Mediterranean winter sunshine. The area around the Citadel is a do-it-yourself recreation park for fishing, shooting pool, strolling with friends, hanging out or even making out.
The Library was closed so… I attached the long zoom lens to my camera for a candid photo shoot of the mostly young folks wandering by, I assume from a local University.
Residential neighborhoods are always a favorite. The trams are clanging, women are shopping, men smoke a hookah or play dominoes, the bakers are baking (I bought a kilo of bite-size pastries for our trail snack), and the fruit vendors display pyramids of bright orange oranges.
As we ride back to Cairo, we anticipate tomorrow’s tour and even more pyramids – at Saqqara and Giza.
*For everything you wanted to know about the conference: