Alexandria

November 16th, 2009 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

Alexandria is a lovely city – most of all it is clean, unlike Luxor and much of Cairo. It makes such a difference not having dirt and dust everywhere.

The hotel arranged a driver and car for only NZ$12 an hour. Unlike Luxor where there are formal tours, Alexandria is more the place where you just go the places you want to. I also did not want to be a full day tour, as the reason I chose Alexandria was partly just to have a nice place to relax for at least half a day. Holidays can be very exhausting!

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This is the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which is Latin for Library of Alexandria. It is to commerorate the original Library of Alexandria whose loss is one of history’s tragedies.

The ancient library was thought to be the largest in the world, The exact size is unknown but most estimates are that it was in the hundreds of thousands. The world would be a different place today if that knowledge had survived. Knowledge is what separates us from the cavemen.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is near the site of the original Library, and has shelf space for eight million books. It is also unique, being the only facility that has a copy and external backup of the Internet Archive.

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This is the Citadel of Qaitbay. The citadel is around 550 years old, but prior to that the site was the location of the Lighthouse of Alexandria – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.The lighthouse was built just after 300 BC and as destroyed in earthquakes in the 1300s.

The citadel is a pretty cool fort to look around in its own right also.

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A view of the harbour and Alexandria from the Citadel.

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This is Pompey’s Pillar. It is so named as legend had it that Pompey’s ashes were sprinkled at the vase of the pillar. This is unlikely though as it turned out it was constructed in 293 AD for the Emperor Diocletian.

Pompey was murdered by Ptolemy XIII in 48BC. The King thought doing so would please Caesar, but in fact Caesar was appalled that such a great Roman (even if his opponent) was killed in such a way.

The Pillar is 30 meters high and weighs 396 tons. and surrounded by various other artifacts, and also the subterranean remains of a Serapeum. This was a must see.

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This is a photo down in the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, one of the seven wonders of the Middle Ages. You go down a large spiral staircase to get to them.

Technically cameras are banned from the Catacombs but technically a Blackberry is not a camera :-)

The planks are quite wobbly and trust me you don’t want to find out what the water is like!

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These are horse bones – possibly killed during the razing of Alexandrina by Emperor Caracalla. The Catcombs were actually discovered by a donkey in 1900 when it disappeared down a previously unknown shaft. My guide told me that the donkey owner was very upset, and tried to get his donkey back, and only when they realized it had fallen 20 metres did they realise it was beyond help.

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Also went to the Alexandrina National Museum. It isn’t a huge museum but worth checking out. This is a bust of Emperor Hadrian – one of the better Roman Emperors.

Also ran out of books to read (I’m onto book eight already) so managed to track down a bookstore that sold some English books. Like everything else, one had to haggle the prices. Managed to pick up three old Egyptian detective novels by Elizabeth Peters that kept me occupied on the train.

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3 Responses to “Alexandria”

  1. Mike S (229 comments) says:

    Bibliotechec is Greek, not latin, I think.

    Alex is a lovely city, especially the old quarter going back from the Cecil. I enjoyed sitting in Cavafy’s favourite cafe there and watching the world go by.

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  2. Tauhei Notts (1,722 comments) says:

    Mike S; you are 100% correct.

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  3. backster (2,174 comments) says:

    Alex down at Central isn’t a bad town either.

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