We arrived at Cairo train station where we would take the train to Alexandria. The station was packed with people, with no sort of organisation. A quick security check and we were inside. Looking for our platform, we asked one of the guards in his smart green uniform. “platform 4” pointing with his gun.
The train pulled into the station, it was a shiny silver colour and it looked surprisingly clean. Our tickets had coach 1 stamped in the corner. Of course we were at the wrong end of the platform. Making our way to our coach we were met by the guard, who kindly took our heavy bag inside.
The train was nice and cool, a welcome break from the heat. There were two seats either side of the isle, that were more like armchairs than seats.
The train departed on time at 14:00 and we had a 2.5 hour journey to Alexandria. We were amazed that Cairo city seemed to extend almost all the way to the coast. With half built houses the main view until arriving.
We arrived in Alexandria as the sun was setting. Outside the station we hailed one of the black and yellow local Lada taxis. We explained the best we could where our hotel was and in the end the driver just asked to use our Google maps. Our bag was a bit too big to fit inside the boot of the car, but this didn’t seem too much of a problem for the driver, who stuffed it in the best he could and just left the boot lid open.
The journey to the hotel took about 45 minutes. The boot lid bouncing the whole way as we watched the sunset on the corniche from the car. There was a lot of traffic because it was the Prophet’s birthday and there was a large event going on in the city.
The Cherry Meryski hotel is where we would stay for the next 8 nights whilst we waited for Zebra to arrive. We were given a Deluxe room on the corner of the hotel, it wasn’t bad for the price we paid. A nice double bed, a desk with two chairs, a sofa and 3 large windows.
We took the evening to relax as the following day we had a few tourist attractions to visit.
We got up early and made our way to the old site of the Light House of Alexandria. Part of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos. It was used to help guide trade ships into its busy harbour of Alexandria. Damaged by several earthquakes, the lighthouse eventually became an abandoned ruin. Now the Qaintbay Citadel stands on the original site of the light house. The Citadel was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the 15th century AD
We spent a few hours at the Citadel learning about its history and taking some pictures before we headed for lunch at the White and Blue restaurant. We were lucky to get a table right on the terrace in front of the sea. The restaurant was full of local people, which we always feel is a good sign. The food was fantastic and we left completely satisfied with our choice of restaurant.
Deciding that was actually enough for the day, we headed back to the hotel for some drinks on the rooftop and to watch another amazing African sunset.
The next day we had another early get up. This time we tried Uber which we had heard works well in Alexandria. Our driver arrived right away and we were soon on our way to the Montaza Palace. The 17.5km taxi ride took 45 minutes. We arrived at the large gates of the palace where our Uber left us.
Inside the gates were the Royal gardens, with beautiful flowers and winding stone paths. The palace was built in 1892 by Khedive Abbas II, the last Muhammad Ali Dynasty ruler to hold the Khedive. We took a nice walk through the gardens up to the palace itself. The palace was actually closed but we still managed to appreciate the grand building from the outside. We had lunch in one of the cafes in the grounds, nothing compared to our meal of the previous night but the food was still good and we had some delicious fresh fruit juice.
We called another Uber to take us to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The library is a major cultural centre. It is both a commemoration to both of the Library of Alexandria that was lost in antiquity, and an attempt to rekindle something of the brilliance that this earlier centre of study and erudition represented. We entered the huge building from the busy street to be welcomed with complete silence. The air inside this vast space was cool and fresh. Students sat studying between the long lines of book shelves, over the 11 cascading levels of the library. The 20,000 square meter building contains room for an astounding 8 million books. It was so peaceful.
We decided to take a desk and to catch up on some admin. This is where we are currently sitting writing this post.
We have another day in Alexandria before the boat arrives. We can then start the port process and finally get on the road and start of journey south.