Tag Archives: Alexandria

Have You Ever Made A Last Minute Decision To Splurge That Was Worth Every Penny?

Luxor
Driving by ancient homes en route to the Valley of the Kings

By Lakshmi:

We did on our last trip to Egypt and it turned out to be one of our most memorable spends.  We were returning back to our hotel after an amazing visit to the Pyramids of Giza when our guide asked if a trip to Luxor and Karnak was on our eight-day itinerary.  When we stated that we wanted to explore just Cairo and Alexandria on this visit, he looked at us like we were crazy.  How could we make it to Egypt and not make it to one of the most significant parts of Egyptian history?  A place where it feels like the monuments and statues lean over and whisper the history of Egypt. Within minutes, he had made a few phone calls.  Getting there during Easter holidays was next to impossible…there was one way to do so and it entailed flying business class on Egypt air in the darkness of the night from Cairo and returning back very late into the night.  Our trip would include round trip air tickets for the three of us, a car and a guide when we got to Luxor and finally entry to all the attractions.  The price? $1,200.  We conferred amongst us….a message was hastily sent to a faraway spouse to get consent and within minutes we had reservations to get to this bed of history and Egyptian civilization.

After our brief flight from Cairo (really mom, you finally get us in business class and there is no time to enjoy complained my younger one), we landed in Luxor.  We were met by a car and a guide and knew right away that the guide would offer little and we would be left to figure out the places on our own.  He was sleepy, looked almost a tad upset that someone would awaken him early in the day for this!  Ok….so we paid all this money for what?  As we started our day, we heard what would come to be his defining statement for the rest of the day….”Do you need me to come in?”  Why don’t you guys go in and see all the rich history and meet me by the gate when done.”  I asked if he planned to take us to all the places promised and he nodded affirmatively.

So out came our trusted National Geographic and Frommer’s guidebooks.  Each of us took turns to read and know about every spot we would visit during that long day.  Between our long reads and eavesdropping on tours in each of the areas and discussing our own lessons in history, we were blessed with one of the richest cultural and historical experiences one could fit in a 24 hour period.  An added bonus?  When we finished our very long, very hot day, we stopped at a local hotel and got luxuriant pedicures.  The women at the salon spoke no English, we spoke no Arabic and yet we spent two hours communicating about the beauty of life, Luxor, Nefertiti and more!

Over the next several days, we will bring you a visual journey of what we experienced.  We hope you will come and visit and share our adventures through Luxor, Karnak, the temple of Hatshepsut and more.

If your ever make it to Egypt, we would strongly urge that you spend time here to learn about, absorb and live in a tremendous era from the past.

Our Day in Alexandria, Egypt in Pictures

These pictures were taken on a Spring day trip to Alexandria from Cairo.  It is a city seeped in history and a beautiful escape.  You can read more about our day at http://pauperswithouttravel.com/2012/06/21/a-day-trip-to-alexandria-from-cairo-you-can-do-it-on-your-own/

The train to Alexandria
Alexandria’s sea face dotted with palm trees
The stunning exterior of the library
Another view of the exterior of the library
A view of the interior of the beautiful library
As far as the eyes can see – Alexandria
One of many divers that constantly look for sunken treasures
Another view of the seafront
A couple chatting privately in a public space
Another couple in their own world

A Day Trip to Alexandria from Cairo – You Can Do it on Your Own

By Lakshmi:

Alexandria – Just the name of the city conjures up so many images of Egyptian history.  Alexander the Great, the Library, the Alexandria Lighthouse, Cleopatra, the list could go on.  So on our trip to Egypt, visiting this ancient city was a must do.

Against many a well wisher’s advice, we decided to do this day trip on our own. Our concierge got us train tickets to get out of Cairo early morning, returning back late at night.  We also asked the concierge to write down the Arabic names for the library and the light house locations, so that we could get to these places easily.

We got to the train station really early for a 6:00 am departure and it immediately felt like I had been transported to Mumbai.  The ambiance, the food stalls, and the people all seemed like a case of deja vu.  The three hour 15 minute train ride took us through towns and villages, leading us through tremendously congested areas and open expanses.

Upon arriving in Alexandria, we were immediately accosted by multiple cab drivers.  We walked briskly away from the train station, hailing a cab from a side street and quickly providing our destination to the driver.  The drive was interesting to say the least.  We passed through some poultry markets, witnessed a street fight, watched people shopping and then drove along the ocean side promenade to get to the library.   (A side note – when we saw the uprising in Alexandria on TV, it was a bit eerie that we could recognize some of the areas).

The Bibliotheca Alexandria also known as the New Library of Alexandria was designed at the location of the old library to capture the spirit of the original  which was completely destroyed.  Designed by a Norwegian architectural firm, the library is a stunning masterpiece not just visually, but for all the usability issues that were considered in its design including lighting for the readers to avoid eye strain, energy recycling, etc.

The ultra modern design against the blue of the ocean and the palm tree-lined promenade is just an amazing juxtaposition of elements.  We spent several hours admiring the various facets of the library, including partaking in a free tour that showed us the various rooms and special exhibits, including a very informative one tracing the life of Anwar Sadat.

To me, this library along with the Library of Congress in Washington DC are just very special places of learning.  After several hours of immersion, we were ready for a leisurely lunch at the on site cafe, taking turns to watch the ocean and the people.

At the end of our visit, we took a long walk to see where the original lighthouse was in Alexandria.  While this ancient wonder of the world is no longer there, there are plenty of divers trying to find artifacts in the Mediterranean Sea.

With mixed reviews on the Catacombs, we decided to spend the rest of the day perched on the wall overlooking the Mediterranean.  We people watched for hours, our most entertaining moments coming from watching a persistent diver dive multiple times, each time emerging with the same prize….a soda bottle!

After taking a brief stop to have a coffee and some snacks, we continued to watch the people of Alexandria in this beautiful sea breeze soaked ambiance.   We watched college girls giggling, tempo buses dropping people off from work, guys just talking and arguing and couples walking very respectably along the waterfront.  It was also a great place to flood the mind with all the images from history, trying to imagine what this crucial historical city might have looked like thousands of years ago.  It was one of those days where we could have just sat there forever.

But we needed to catch our 7:30 pm train back, so we headed back to the station.  As we grabbed our magazines, snacks and drinks, a guy who had been observing us walked over and asked where our tour guide was.  When we replied that we just adventure on our own, he told us we were a gutsy group!  He was a businessman from California, back in Egypt to visit family.

We don’t remember much of our ride back, since we all fell asleep, only to wake up as the train pulled into Cairo at the end of a really full and enriching day.

To learn more about the Bibliotheca Alexandria, click here:

http://www.bibalex.org/home/default_EN.aspx

To get train timings from Cairo to Alexandria, click here:

http://www.seat61.com/Egypt.htm#Cairo – Alexandria