4 -Walk like an (Alexandrian) Egyptian
30th Nov 10pm, Clement’s House Hotel, Alexandria
Despite the rather drab sounding name, Clement’ Hotel (60EGP) located just a few doors from the Brazilian Coffee Store along Sharia Saad Zagloul is a neat place with large clean rooms. Mine is a room with 3 beds! It overlooks the street below and I can see the nightlife plus all the honking as all the cars are stuck in a jam for what must be at least an hour. Closing the window helps lots. The hotel doesn’t appear in LP, but I’m recommending it, for the price, cleanliness and proximity to everything. The funky lift looks like a scenario right out Silent Hill, the console horror game.
Around 12pm today, made my way south towards the Roman Amphitheatre (around 750m from Midan Raml). 20 EGP entry fee –> it’s the only one in Egypt. Ruins and some structures dug out from the sea. Lots of excavation ongoing in Alexandria, especially near the Fort Qaitbey area (the site of the old 7th wonder of the world: the Pharaos Lighthouse).
Next headed southwest in a general direction (no map now). Got a bit lost but was it was fine, soaked in the sights and sounds of local residential areas. Finally saw the unmistakable named pillar, and bounded towards it. The Pompey’s Pillar (20 EGP, ask for Amud El-Sawari as the locals know it by that name) was actually built back then as a gift to someone for something (forgive my ignorance: yes i know, I’m bad at this). It’s about 26 metres high in total, and the surrounds used to hold temples to Isis, Heposis and one other Greco-Egyptian god.
The next sight was the catacombs, the security guard said walk 5 minutes and you’ll reach it, but i must have made a wrong turn somewhere, for i reached a school, and backlanes of the local neighbourhood district. I retraced my steps, had a breather, ordered my leavened bread with meat from one of the shops. I sat there waiting for my order, unable to convince them that i’m from Singapore, so i had to indulge them with my best Jackie Chan moves. Left the place (everyone there was my friend now haha). And saw some 3 tour buses. Trailed them for some 5 minutes before I reached the Kom El Shokafa Catacombs. The tourists behind the bus’ glass windows snapped pictures as the bus passed along the streets. I’m luckier, I get to interact more. =) . The Kom El Shokafa Catacombs (35 EGP, no cameras allowed) is as described, a 3 storeyed deep series of tunnels plus a macabre underground funeral dining room. Did not really enjoy it, no thanks to the fact that i was squeezing in the place with 3 busloads of Japanese, French and Spanish package tourists, with their guides rattling on in 3 languages in one echoey chamber.
Got some local guy to drive me back home on his beaten car for 15 EGP since my sense of direction was totally messed up by that point. Took a break before going off again to Zanqet Al-Settat or “the woman’s squeeze”. Got the translation and recommendation to go to this souq from the excellent Al-Ahram Weekly. The paper went to town with the Egypt vs Algeria violence during the World Cup Playoff (Egypt lost 1-0, they played in Khartoum, Sudan and violence erupted before, during and after the match against the Egyptians. Ok. Back to the souq, it is so named due to the narrow 2-3m wide warren of alleyways. To get there, from the corniche, at the point where the shrine to the Unknown Soldier is, go inland towards Midan Arab. When you reach Midan Manshiyya, turn right into France Street. Alleys leading to left from this street all lead into the souq (LP labels it Souq). There was everything from clothes to toys to jewellery. I lasted all of 15 minutes in there…I have been walking all daya and I figured if i don’t get out then, I’ll be lost inside for the next few hours. That being said, I took another half hour to find my way out; i am thankful for my compass. Then went to the only wifi joint i saw over the last two days, posted yesterday’s entry over oily but tasty onion rings and an ice mocha (26 EGP). Tomorrow is a busy traveling day –> decided to travel by day to Siwa.