Our first day in Alexandria started with a wonderful breakfast on the outside roof patio at our hotel. The beautiful breeze from the sea was very welcome after having spent the rest of our trip in the desert regions. Alexandria overall has a Mediterranean feel and was much cooler in temperature. We were very excited to explore this beautiful city.
Our first stop was at the catacombs located in the middle of the city. Upon arrival at the site you have no idea what actually lies underground. After a quick look at the artifacts spread around the entrance, we listened as our guide wove the tale of this fascinating site. This massive burial site was found accidentally in 1900 when a cart accidentally fell into a pit and magically led to the discovery under the ground. The underground tunnels date back to the Greco Roman period and at the time of the 2ndcentury was dug down 35 metres (115 feet) and consisted of three levels. It was likely originally a private tomb but over the years was later converted to a public cemetery and could accommodate more than 300 corpses. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures underground.
We entered via a spiral staircase that brings you down into a large area with benches and we were told by our guide that many people would come first to have a burial feast, then again 40 days later and then annually on the death anniversary. There are several burial chambers each holding a sarcophagus. There are also many shelves built into the rock that house coffins. The carvings and symbols inside are in several different styles including Greco-Roman, ancient Egyptian and Pharaonic. After exploring a few of the passageways and learning about the different symbols inside we surfaced to the top and started on our way to our next stop.
The Citadel of Qaitbay is a stunning fortress built on the sea dating back to the 15th century. It is built upon the site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was destroyed over the years due to several earthquakes. The original building constructed on this spot in the 14th century was destroyed in the 1800’s and the existing building was rebuilt around the turn of the 20th century. Many of the stones and columns came from the original tower that was there originally. Inside is a mosque and naval museum. There are some lovely mosaics on the floor but inside there is not a lot to see. The outside views however are spectacular. We walked around the entire structure including climbing up to the top to see the sea. It was incredible and we could have hung out there all day!
We then stopped for lunch at a wonderful restaurant on the water and had a fantastic fish lunch. It was so fresh and super tasty. A fantastic way to spend an hour enjoying the breeze and a stunning view. And we also then stopped at the Starbucks on the main street – and you wouldn’t know that you were in Egypt. It is one of the most consistent brands I have seen everywhere across the world.
Our last stop for the day was the El-Montazza. Located here is a beautiful palace that was built in the late 1800’s but is not open to the public. You can wander the well-maintained gardens in the park that surround the palace. We also walked out to the end of a breakwater where we could enjoy the waves crashing in front of us. The views in Alexandria are really very beautiful and it was so very nice to be by the water.
After returning to the hotel we had a rest and then headed up to the roof patio to have drinks and dinner. It was a wonderful evening – our last with Karen and Geoff. It was an evening of singing, dancing and wonderful company. Such a fantastic end to the day.
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