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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Sunday, December 18, 2011 09:22:04

Egypt 2011: 4 - Alexandria

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yesterday afternoon we had a sandwich and then played cards in the waiting area of Sharm's modern airport. The flight was smooth and on time. I sat with Adrian so I could put my legs on his side of the seat and Marilynn's seat mate was an Egyptian developer who was building a new subdivision of hundreds of houses in Sharm El Sheikh. When we arrived in Cairo he insisted on hiring a taxi van for us, and then insisted on paying for it. It is wonderful how the Egyptian people have gone to great lengths to make us feel welcome.

Shepheard Hotel is one of the grand old hotels on the banks of the Nile in Cairo. There is lots of marble, and the rooms are large. We headed for the restaurant to ease hunger pangs and have a drink, but the food was so bad as to be classed as inedible -- I got by on beer after a couple of bites of horrible food.

We drove through famous Tahrir Square on the way, where the riots have been happening, but all was calm. There are a couple of dozen tents in the center and around the sides of the traffic circle where some protesters seem to have set up camp, but not a lot of people around. When we were out on the balcony above the road that goes along the Nile Embankment we saw a number of police vans pull up, discharging about 25 riot police who headed off in the direction of the square. It is only a couple of blocks from the hotel.

This morning we left the hotel before 7 AM to taxi to Ramses Station, the principal train station of Cairo. The first class non-stop express train was on time, and the seats quite comfortable, however it was very difficult to see through the filthy windows. An airline type cart passed down the aisle where it was possible to buy tea and snacks. Tray tables were located in the armrests of the seats, however they seem not to have been cleaned since they were new - grunge was will embedded. The food card fellow covered them with napkins. As with the previous train, toilets are to be avoided.

On arrival in Alexandria there was quite a debate between a group of taxi drivers as to who would take us around - we did insist on someone who could speak English. The cost was a fixed price of 200 Egyptian Pounds (about $33) from 10:30 AM until 4 PM when we had to be back at the train. The standard tour covered all the important sites.

Our first stop was the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, which were discovered when a donkey fell through a hole when the earth under it gave way. It is a fairly extensive 3 level set of catacombs started by the Romans in the second century AD, cut about 100 feet deep into the rock.

At Pompey's Pillar, built in 292-297 AD, there are extensive grounds around the column, with more catacombs. It is supposedly the tallest ancient monument in Alexandria. After a long walk around the site we drove past Stanley Bridge on the waterfront and along an upscale beach area to the Palace of King Farouk, the last king of Egypt. It is still not permitted to enter the palace, but we drove around the huge grounds and stopped in front of the palace gates. It was apparently also used by the much hated President Mubarak.

Stopping for lunch cut us short for time to explore the Fort at Qait Bay, apparently built to defend against the Turks in the 15th century on what is said to be the former site of the Pharaoh's Lighthouse. There is also a museum we would like to have seen with Cleopatra's boat in it, but we couldn't go into either as they had closed. On the way back to the train we stopped to photograph the Mosque of Abu al Abbas, the largest mosque in the city with 3 domes and a tall minaret built in 1775 in the Andalusian style over the tomb of Abu Al Abbas Mursi, a Spanish scholar and saint who died in 1286. We were out of time, so couldn't go in.

The train back to Cairo also left on time to the minute. When we were going back to the hotel by taxi we found Tahrir Square had livened up. We passed a group of 5 guys carrying baseball bats and large sticks who were obviously looking for trouble. The crowd of other people seemed quiet. Later at night we could see protestors blocking the road along the embankment below our balcony, causing massive traffic jams. Now and then a car would run at them, opening a passage that other cars could get through, but we went to sleep to the sound of honking horns and different groups shouting at each other and at drivers.