Our second day in Alexandria started with one of the most famous sights located in this city – the Library of Alexandria. Interestingly the current library is a very modern building. The first library was founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals named Ptolemy I back in 283 BC. Since Alexandria was the main port there were international ships coming from all different countries so the rulers took it upon themselves to “request” books from the ships that would come in and they would either keep them or sometimes copy them to put in their centralized knowledge centre. The museum was a place for studying and over 100 scholars lived there to write, lecture, research or translate and copy documents. It has been estimated that at one time there were over a half million documents within the premises. There are several stories that have been recounted about the fire that ultimately destroyed the library but one of the more popular, points the finger at Julius Caesar. In 48 BC Caesar was cut off by an Egyptian fleet at Alexandria and in retaliation ordered the ships in the harbor to burned. Unfortunately as a result the fires also spread onto land and eventually burned the library to nothing taking with it ancient history, literature and learning.
The existing building wasn’t completed until 2002 even though reviving the library was originally proposed in the early 1970’s. Now the beautiful and modern building is a library, a cultural centre and even houses a school for training professional staff to work in libraries in Egypt and the Middle East. The inside is absolutely stunning with multiple levels and slanted huge windows from floor to ceiling on one side. You can find books by authors from all over the world – we even located the Canadian authors section.
The library houses both permanent and guest exhibits and collections on a variety of topics and interests. Some are included with your admission and others are at an additional cost. The facility houses many research centres and there is cutting edge technology at this site as well. One example is a table that show the human body and all it’s inner workings for medical students to use. And during our tour we were informed that you can access millions of complimentary books from their online archive just by registering for a membership. They believe in sharing all their resources and a large project is ongoing to place all their materials online. This is not your average library – it is an incredible site to see and really must be toured with their guides.
We spent a couple of hours exploring the library and then we were off to visit the Roman Amphitheatre located in the centre of Alexandria. This amphitheatre dates back to the 2nd century and was found by some workers sent to clean up the area during the 1960’s. The amphitheatre has a diameter of 33 metres and consists of 13 rows made from European white marble however the columns were made from granite that was transported from Aswan. Unfortunately, during one of the major earthquakes in the area much of the amphitheatre was damaged. Based on the size of the structure it is suggested that it was built for meetings of important figures and officials and likely not for theatre or concerts. For it’s age and the fact that it was covered by sand and gravel for so long, it is in really great shape and is the only one of it’s kind in Egypt.
After wandering around the Roman structure, we drove around the city taking in the sites, sounds and smells of this vibrant city. The bustling markets, the stunning architecture, the mobile tea carts, the friendly people are all what contribute to this amazing city. We loved everything about it and will definitely be back.
Our touring was topped off with a massive lunch at a BBQ restaurant and then it was time to head back to Cairo. The drive seemed shorter on the way back to the airport where we dropped off Karen and Geoff at their hotel for the night. We had a later flight to take us on to Hurghada for a few days of rest and relaxation.
We had a quick hour-long flight, we were picked up by our driver at the airport and whisked off to our seaside resort. It had been a long but certainly enjoyable day.
Continue to Day 11 - click here.
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