3 – Welcome to Alex
29th Nov 830pm, New Excelsior Hotel, Alexandria
Arrived at Alexandria (Al-Iskandaria) International Airport at 130am. Took forever for everyone to clear customs, collected my bag.Almost all the passengers were Egyptians returning home. Cab too overpriced (I never fail to get charged tourist prices at the first cab on arrival at a location) so decided to wait till morning outside the airport. 16 degrees celsius, brrrr…I am in my windbreaker shivering. The best part is I didn’t bring along any shoes for this trip. Will need to buy a pair eventually, especially before Ethiopia (or Sinai even). There were a few others sitting around. A Michelle Tan from Sichuan, China (but working in Shenzhen) came over to talk. Amazingly my limited Mandarin got handy here to break the ice. She’s with medical sales and jets around to show customers the products. And before hitting Alexandria, she came from Athens, then somewhere in Germany to meet her customers. She’s headed towards the Sheraton Montazah but figured a lone girl carrying 3 bags (1is a chunky suitcase containing her medical device!) at 2am in the middle of nowhere isnt the best situation to be in. It ended up with me taking the cab to her hotel (60 EP) which is like, really out of the way, before I dropped off (50 EP, after my first succesful bargain) at Midan Ramla. Still tourist price =(. Actually, Michelle, who’s company paid for a room with double beds, offered to put me up for the night. Tempting, I get to stay in a 4 star hotel, but I declined, since i would then be far away from the sights and action.
At Midan Ramla at 6am, looking for a place to stay. Union hotel was full. So were the next two budget hotels in the Lonely Planet. I walked up and down the area, panicking a bit. It is high season, and tourists (locals & foreigners) fill up the rooms. The next 3 I could find were full too. I started to regret not taking up Michelle’s offer. And I was frigging tired. Only on the 7th, the Nile Excelsior Hotel had rooms to let. And it is here now I’m writing this. At 100 EP, it is very pricey (1SGD is around 4 EP). But the room has all the amenities I might need (and some I don’t). Clean bed, fan, TV (Rush Hour II playing now), fridge, private bathroom. Later in the day, I made a reservation at another place I found, basic and minus fridge and TV, but also 60EP only. Will move there tomorrow =). And so, after taking a quick shower, at 8.30am in the morning, I had my first proper sleep on a bed.
1pm today, got peckish, went out to find some food and walk around the town. Alexandria is a fantastic waterfront city. Each shot I take would make a postcard shot. No one’s really bothering me as I walk around and take pics. I don’t think in Cairo it would be this easy to get around. Explored the Midan Ramla area, all the way down to the Biblioteque Alexandrina, the library (very artistic architecture with statues & exhibits around) inspired by the old Alexandria library which was a major centre of learning in the old world. On the walls of this library (the new one!) are characters from every written language known to man. Wandered around somemore, through parks. Here’s something I noticed. Alexandrian boys don’t walk, they swagger. In packs. Brash young men with chests puffed out and flailing hands as they make their point to the shop owner, cab driver etc. Oh yes, it is still cool even in the day. Walking around without a decent windbreaker would be suicidal.
In the evening had dinner at El-Shark, a restaurant just outside my hotel. Egypt would be a meat eater’s paradise. Had rice bologna and chicken liver soup! There are numerous cheap little shops, which I would no doubt order from had I not so much trouble trying to read the menus. The system is you order, pay up at the cashier, who gives you a receipt. Use that receipt to redeem your order. I really need to pick up some Egyptian. Hello and thank you is not enough to get by. After dinner, the locals sit around at the shops drinking tea, and watching tv there (local football match was showing) and some were on sheesha.
Tomorrow I have all day in Alex. Edit: today (30th Nov) went to the souq and got lost, the roman amphitheatre, catacombs of al-shuqufa, pompey’s pillar. will post next time round =P