Alexandria Day 2 and Stuff I Forgot.

Day two in Alexandria was another “you’re on your own” day. This was Christmas day and we would rather have been on our own anyway.

We should maybe had jumped on this tourist bus, I mean it WAS Christmas day!

The 4 star we were in had an excellent buffet breakfast. Except that they served No Es Café instead of coffee.  We decided to walk the cornice and see where it led us. We found a group of maybe 30 fishermen retrieving a large net.

A group of fishermen had just finished bringing in a large net out of the harbor. If you look close you will see a cat helping himself to a piece of the catch

This guy was my favorite of the fishermen. His job was to guide the net while he was in the water. If you look closely he is smoking a cigarette which he managed to keep dry the whole time!

The cornice in Alexandria is miles long. We knew from our touring the night before that there was a 4 Seasons hotel with a Starbucks waaaay down there somewhere so we walked a couple blocks inland and took the trolley.

Mary Ann about to hop on a trolley. It was old, but comfortable. Slow but a wonderful touristy thing to do. We saw parts of Alexandria we would have missed otherwise. A young man from some war torn country in Africa sat across from us and asked if we had ever been to his country. How do your nicely say "not in this life bud". Anyway he was an art student at the U of Alexandria, and a Christian on his way to church for Christmas service. Nice kid. We suspect some missionary types got him the hell out of Dodge. We wished him godspeed.

Back in time…we knew about the Starbucks because the night before our tour took us to see the royal gardens. As we entered the gardens some officious guys in black leather bomber jackets (always a bad sign) stopped the bus. The head guy made our guide pull out all his IDs, asked questions about how many people were on board, basically got very unfriendly. We got in ok. It was already dark, so the guide was saying things like “look, palm trees” Yeah yeah yeah.  But these gardens surround the Royal Palace of King Farouk, the last king of Egypt. His palace is now the Guest house for foreign potentates when they visit Alexandria.

A beautiful Italian style palace. When the revolution came, the king fled to Italy, leaving this palce and the gardens behind. Overweight charges on his airline I guess.

This little excursion became memorable on the way out when the same power trippers in bomber jackets stopped the bus. One actually stood in front of it so we could not move. Our guide got out and an argument ensued. Our guard, the dude packing the semi-automatic was riding shotgun, got into the argument through the window. All the leather jacket dudes surrounded our guide, hence there was no one in front of the bus.  Sorry, I did not feel like taking my camera out and asking them to say cheese.  The guide jumped back on board and yelled at the driver “DUECE DUECE DUECE” which is Egyptian for “Haul Ass”. He did, and the leather jackets were running behind us yelling to the guards at the gate “STOP THEM”. We did not stop, even for the red light at the intersection outside the gate (no one in Alexandria obeys lights anyway). We were now fugitives from the black leather jacket brigade. Some people watched out the back window as we made our way back to the hotel. When pressed by the tourists what these guys wanted the guide said “entrance fees”. There is no entrance fee, so it was a sanctioned hold-up attempt.

OK Back to our free day.

Starbucks was Starbucks. It does not matter what city in the world you are in. At least they sold real coffee, not NO ES CAFÉ. The only thing we had planned for the day was another visit to the library The library has a planetarium. The two O’clock show was “The Stars of the Pharos”. Sounded good to me. We got there very early, bought our tickets (about $5 apiece) and then we went to the library museum. In the tradition of the original Alexandria Library, the new version is also striving to be a learning and cultural center. They have a modern art museum. Classic art museum, and an antiquities museum. We skipped this last one, hell the whole country is an antiquity museum.

This sundial is on the grounds of the library. I checked it against my cheapo watch. The sundial was right on time!

I got busted for taking this picture in the art museum. It is a drawing of the original light house of Alexandrai. The light house, excavated a bit in the last 20 years is now being turned into an underwater museum to show all the antiquities laying about on the harbor floor. It should be ready in another 100 years or so. Enjoy this foto because I really had to talke my way out of trouble to get it. They think I deleted it!

Books I found and liked.

The most interesting of the museums was the museum dedicated to Anwar Sadat. If your recent history is not clicking, Sadat signed the Camp David Accord. Still lost? Didn’t read the papers in the 70’s? The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 17, 1978, following twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David. This could be called the only successful peace negotiation in the Middle East, ever.  It was Jimmy Carter’s greatest achievement and has survived to the present. But Sadat did not. One of the displays is the blood stained uniform he was wearing when he was gunned down with an automatic weapon while watching a parade on a holiday. One of the vehicles in the parade had Egyptian soldiers in it. Two jumped out and ran to the dais blasting their guns and Sadat was dead. The museum has an original letter from Carter to Sadat suggesting the meets at Camp David, and many photographs of him with foreign leaders and the Pope. The funniest was Sadat and Nixon. Nixon looks like he has to pee and would rather be anywhere else.

The planetarium show was marvelous. I actually learned a lot. It cemented my resolve to return to Egypt and go to Luxor in the south. There are great temples there, and I feel an urge to see them.  We will go in summer 2012, when it is warm and there is no fog.

On the way home we found a Shisha house. Shisha is the local way of saying Hookah, or hubbly-bubbly. We had delicious fruit flavored Shisha.

I can't name the flavor. No one spoke English in this joint I just ordered what the old mand next to us had. They gave us new hoses in a sealed bag. The old time regulars all brought along their own hoses. I related it to having your own bowling ball. They also bring a really good glass of tea. Shisha joints are a fantastic bit of culture, very civilized and a "should do" item for any tourist. Price? About 50 cents!

 

We returned to the hotel and werte met by Santa.

Santa in front of our hotel. Egypt is 25% Christian, so this was just a little bit of a surprise.

 

We had our Christmas dinner there. With my dinner I had a bloody Mary. It was nowhere as good as Joan’s Bloody Mary’s at the Cosmic Crab. If you are ever in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, they are the #1 attraction in the whole town.

We each got our own Santa hat

Mary Ann challenged my writing skills. She said that if I could describe this Christmas dinner experience at all, she would finally give me credit for my talents. Well let me try. The restaurant was all decorated for Christmas . Sleigh bells, Christmas tree bulbs. Lights. They had a Flamenco Guitar player plucking along. They had a fog machine, and even a bubble machine. Everyone had their own Santa hat to wear.

They had a set menu, here it is. OOPS sorry, I cannot figure out how to make my scanner work. The instructions are in 18 languages, and I am not going to figure it out just now. Let me just tell you about it.

It is printed on fake papyrus paper. It starts off with the words HRISTMAS SET MENU. Maybe they did not have spell checkers back when they used papyrus. It describes a 5 course meal, each an adventure in gastronomical spelling.

Course 1

Smoked salmon in Pineapple boat, duet of white and yellow lump eggs, cocktail sauce

Salmon and Pineapple is not a combo I ever thought of before, but it was delicious. I never figured out what the lump eggs were.


Course 2

Zucchini and Eggplant Pontage Scented Saffron

Course 3

Roasted Turkey medallions farced, with chestnut sauce served with seasonal vegetables and potato chateau

Course  4

Chocolate passion mouse laced with cinnamon and berry sauce

mmmm mmmm good.


Course 5

Trio of cheese platter with grapes, and salty crackers served like coffee or tea and Christmas cookies.

OK OK maybe I should have put that up on Facebook. I apologize. But  we had a great time sitting there listening to Flamenco music with bubbles floating over the artificial smoke and wondering what lump eggs were, laughing at the creative use of language.

An attempt to capture the ambiance in the restaurant.

Our Trip Home

Just before dinner we ran into someone from our group. She asked what flight we were on going home. We told her the 3 a.m. flight “No your not” she said. That flight had been cancelled due to fog, and we would be leaving at 10 a.m. Cool with us, we got to sleep longer. Then after dinner she found us again and said the 10 a.m. flight was postponed until 12:30. I was not really worried, but Air Arabia has but two flights a day out of Alexandria to Sharjah, the 3 and the 10. If both were cancelled, what would getting on a flight at 12:30 be like?

The last official act of our tour was “Transfer to Alexandria Airport”. At least it was not in THIS bus.

I am not sure if this is for people who have traveled too much or had too much fun travelling.

When we got to the airport, for some reason the gendarmes would not allow the bus to pull up to the terminal. Our guide told the driver to hop the curb. We got half way to the terminal before we were stopped cold. We had to get out about 200 yards from the entrance and carry our bags ourselves. 2500 years of learning how to deal with tourists does not seem to apply to anyone flying. Inside the airport was pure madhouse zany craziness. Our group hung together like lost children, which in effect we were. There was one little sign that said Air Arabia. It did not look like the ticket desk, but it was. Everyone else was pushing and shoving and cutting in line. One of our group took it upon himself to be our hero. He collected all of our passports and pushed and shoved his own way to the counter. He made it clear that we were all members of an Air Arabia sponsored tour, and we all had to get back to work in Sharjah, and he would not accept any nonsense. He managed it! We all had boarding passes and checked baggage.

The flight home, being  daylight, was beautiful. The Red Sea, Mt. Sinai were all clear. We got into beautiful Sharjah Airport and home 15 minutes later.

Impressions of Egypt.

I shall return. Only because I did not see Luxor or the Valley of the Kings. I feel like I must. One person I met in our group asked me “If Cairo did not have the Pyramids, would anyone come here?” he asked me that right outside the Egyptian museum. I could not quite agree with him that the pyramids were all there were of interest  and I’ll repeat the words of Alexander the Great, Marc Anthony, Napoleon,   and Jerry Garcia once again, “oh maaan”. They make the traffic and the overall dingy grey of the city well worth the visit. If you get the chance to go, just do it. I will take this opportunity to thank my wife for the experience, a bucket list item crossed off.

 

Thanks for reading. Tell a friend, and PLEASE leave a comment.

About forrestwalker

An expat living overseas, traveling with my wife extensively and sharing the experiences with you!.

Posted on December 29, 2010, in Alexandria, Alexandria Lighthouse, Egypt, Jerry Garcia, pyramids, UAE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Ok here’s my theory on the Lump eggs, Lumpfish roe is an excellent caviar, every so slightly cheaper and more “Eco” friendly that caviar from the Sturgeon!
    Do I get a piece of the pie?
    Loved the piece and the photos. Happy New Year to you both and may your incredible adventures continue in the coming year.

  2. Excellent! I feel like I have been there.
    Happy New Year Forrest and Mary Ann

  3. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who accurately knows what they’re talking about on the internet. You as a matter of fact know how to bring an issue to light and make it amazing. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  4. Hola Forrest! I would definitely ride on El Rehab Travel Bus because I have both traveled too much and had too much fun traveling. You have put Alexandria on my list, especially the planetarium. Someday…sigh. Keep on keepin on!
    pura vida,
    Dawna

  5. Congratulations for posting such a useful weblog. Your blog isn’t only informative but also very artistic too. There usually are extremely few people who can write not so simple articles that creatively. Keep up the great writing !!

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