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For our last day in Egypt I planned for us to see Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city on the Mediterranean coast, north of Cairo. It was a 2.5 hour drive one way so we got an early start. I don’t mind road trips and someone else was driving! We enjoyed the ride and spent our time conversing with Adel on past and current events, politics, religion, business and family.
Since the beginning of time and up until the last century Egypt has been defending its sovereignty. There are more celebrations of independence here than most places I know. The Assyrians and Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans, French, English and finally the Israelis all invaded and claimed Egypt for a time. The country’s very strategic location has certainly made it attractive to those seeking power and wealth.
Alexandria’s role in Egypt’s history is important for many reasons due to its location on the coast. I thought it would be a nice idea to see another city and take in the history of this seaside city. We visited the famous Catacombs of Koh el Shoqafa, the Alexandria Library (exceptionally impressive and modern), the Citadel, where Pharos Lighthouse once stood, and at the gardens on the grounds of the Montaza Palaces, once the private residences of Egypt’s royal family. The kids even got to swim in the Mediterranean Sea and hang on the beach.
The Catacombs of Koh el Shoqafa
The Citadel and Waterfront
Palace Park Grounds
[HOT TIP: If I had to do it again I don’t think I would add one day in Alexandria. I would either spend another day in Cairo, or add a day and spend the night in Alexandria and enjoy the beach.]
TIPS FOR TRAVEL IN EGYPT
It’s helpful to understand the Egyptian concept of ‘backsheesh’ before your trip. This is a customary tip, paid even by Egyptians themselves. This is not a way for locals to take advantage of tourists, rather it is part of the culture all over the Arab world. Don’t be surprised if someone goes as far as to remind you to give them a tip, be it a waiter or a bathroom attendant, who are ubiquitous. It helps to have some small bills and coins available to be ready for this is a common practice.
Hire a guide to take you to see some of the sights. Even our experience at the Egyptian Museum, which you can easily do on your own, was so much richer with an expert to teach us more about what we were seeing. Well worth the money, they will take care of the details, the driver, negotiating in Arabic and educating you. There are many well rated tour companies on TripAdvisor. I used Tailor Made Egypt and highly recommend them.
Try the local food. Not only is it delicious, it’s mostly all that’s available. You won’t be popping into 7 Eleven for a toasted ham and cheese here. You can, however, enjoy Starbucks, if you can find one.
Last but not least, relax and have a good time!