Day 13 – Alexandria

Breakfast was included at the hotel restaurant down on the second floor. For breakfast there was pita, omelette, foul, cheese, and drinks. Another plain and bread heavy breakfast. But we ate so we would be able to get on our way.

Our first stop on our tour of Alexandria was the catacombs, a 3 story cavern that was once filled with mummies, but no longer, they have all been removed. But you can spend time wandering through the tunnels and seeing what are essentially open graves. You could only go to the second level and not down to the third because the water table meant that the third level was mostly under water.

The read adventure was getting to the catacombs. The roads are small and narrow. They often have cars parked along one side essentially making them one way streets. There is traffic in both directions and occasionally a pot hole. Some of the pot holes are so large they are now sink holes and an attraction in themselves. There is also the adventure of chicken, wondering which driver will pull to the side first to the other can pass, generally the bigger vehicle wins. But the drivers of the tuk-tuk motorbike carriers can be pretty crazy and reckless.
At the catacombs you enter through a small circular stair way that winds around a shaft that was used to lower the bodies in to the tomb. Even in the second level many of the floors had raised platform to walk on because the ground was covered in water. And by platforms I really mean 2×4’s of wood across large cement slabs.
There are hundreds of graves in the tombs. One of the others thought about getting in the tomb but figured it could be bad luck and would be disrespectful. We spent time jumping out at each other from around corners and talking about what mummies (or well preserved zombies) could be left in the lower level and if they would want to eat our brains.

After we surfaced we got back on the bus to take the same route and head to the Alexandria Library. The original Library of Alexandria was built around 300BC by Pharaoh Ptolemy I and his successor Ptolemy II. It was the largest and most famous library of it’s time and was a place of great scholarly pursuits before it burned down in 48BC. It was so large a second “daughter” library was built to hold the over flow of scrolls and books. After the fire the library steadily declined due to continued conflict in the area. The library was so completely destroyed that there is no knowledge of what it looked like or where exactly it was located. The daughter library was also destroyed in 391CE.

The new library is a modern design. It was built as a circle and on an angle to represent the rising sun. The roof part of the library is pyramids, the Egyptian symbol of eternity. The reading room is large and full of books in a variety of languages. There are also a number of rare collections and exhibits at the library.
We were given time to see the History of Alexandria exhibit, the rare book exhibit, and the art exhibits that rotate through the library. It was a pretty amazing place that made me wonder why I never got into Egyptology.
After the library we tried to go to lunch but the traffic was bad and lunch was in the opposite direction of our next destination so we sucked it up and went to the Citadel of Qaitbay. This fortress stands at the place where the Ancient Wonder, the Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood before it was swept into the sea. The citadel was a great place to explore and take pictures.

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