Thursday, May 13, 2010

Alexandria with Amanda

As implausible as this may sound we planned a trip to Alexandria and successfully accomplished everything we set out to do without nary a hang up. Clearly this is nothing short of miraculous.

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We took the 8:00 AM train up to Alex and it arrived on time. We walked past the amphitheater to the Korniche and ate snacks while overlooking the Med. That’s short for Mediterranean. Andrew called it “The Med” so we called it that all day, too, partly to make fun of him and partly because we’re pretty tight with the Mediterranean.

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We hired a taxi to take us out to Pompey's Pillar and the Catacombs, which were quite a long walk from where we ended up on the Korniche.

Pompey’s Pillar was still big.

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It was rather sunny outside and I had neglected to grab one of Miriam’s sun hats so I fashioned a turban for her out of a burp cloth. She was stylin’ and still ended up getting a little sun-kissed. Every one got burned on this trip, actually.

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Last time we visited Pompey’s Pillar we looked at the pillar and then left without visiting the caves which are believed to have housed the overflow from the ancient Library of Alexandria.

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It’s always fun to see new things and since we all have strong library ties we all were far too excited to be down inside part of an ancient library—even if it was just the overflow section.

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If all goes according to plan Andrew will be back in the library ranks this coming fall semester.

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Perhaps one of my favourite things about this day was that right before we left the house Rachel ran over to her toy box, exclaiming, “Wait! I forgot my camera!”

She spent the entire day snapping pictures on this tiny, plastic, pink camera after commanding people to pose.

“'Mile!” she’d say. She always leaves the initial S off that word. Then she’d heavily sigh and lament, “Or not.”

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I think she picked that up from me because she never wants to smile for the camera anymore and usually ends up running away before I have a chance to snap a picture. Thus the “or not.”

From Pompey’s Pillar we headed up to the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, which are apparently sometimes found on lists of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World. We went down without a guide this time and even took Miriam inside. Last time they were enforcing ridiculous rules like mandatory tour guides and no babies allowed. This time they merely confiscated all our cameras.

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My favourite part about the catacombs, besides walking on platforms and looking into the water-filled tombs, is the bas relief of the god Anubis wearing authentic Roman garb and sculpted in the traditional Roman posture. It’s so great.

The part of Alex that the pillar and catacombs is rather, as our taxi driver described it, شعبي. Shabby, or folksy, common, vulgar. That sort of thing. It’s a complete false cognate to shabby in English, which means ragged and poor. Shabby in Arabic doesn’t necessarily mean shabby in English, although it could since the neighbourhood was rundown and poor, in addition to being filled with commoners.

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Most of what we’ve seen of Alexandria has been very well-kempt, colourful, and clean. Much cleaner than Cairo, even in the shabby neighbourhoods.

Our next stop was the Fort of Qait Bey. We spent quite some time relaxing on the jetty. We bought a proper sun hat for Miriam and Josie stuck her foot in the water, which for some reason was a putrid reddish-brownish-green colour and smelled horrible. I blamed the oil spill. I was then informed that the gulf everyone is talking about is the Gulf of Mexico. This whole time I was thinking it was the Persian Gulf and couldn’t figure out why the United States was so concerned about it. Everything makes much more sense now.

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While we were walking from the jetty to the fort we lost Andrew and Josie. Amanda and I walked with the girls all the way to the entrance and then walked around to the side of the fort and then all the way back to the entrance and then back to the side of the fort before we found them. They had stopped to look at fake Rolexes. I don’t know how we missed them. one minute they were right in front of us and the next minute they were gone.

Rachel was running out of steam by this point in the day so I told her that we were actually visiting the Diamond Castle. We dodged cannon fire and hunted down bad guys while hiding from scary monsters and she ended up having a great time.

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Right inside the citadel is the “pout” of the reservoir. We are assuming that, like Rachel, they sometimes forget to stick the S at the beginning of their words.

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We’re actually not sure what it was because now it’s just a wind tunnel. We had some fun letting it blow our hair around.

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At the request of my adoring fans (ahem, Andrew) I pulled the Blue Steel look from Zoolander. I’ve never actually watched that movie but that’s okay because I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking.

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There were some veiled girls watching us goof off and one of them remarked that she wanted to do it, too, only she couldn’t because her hair was covered. They tried just sticking their face in the wind but somehow it’s less fun without hair.

We had fun exploring the castle once again. Rachel screamed. A lot. And shot several invisible bad guys.

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We tried to take a “couple picture” but Rachel decided to be in the picture with us. Now it just looks kind of awkward because it’s like a family picture, but without Miriam.

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Afterwards we had gelato at ‘Azza. And it was fabulous.

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They have lemon, orange, vanilla, or hibiscus. I had a scoop of orange and two scoops of lemon. It took me quite a while to convince the server that I wanted two scoops of lemon. I probably could have done with three scoops of lemon but the server really wanted me to branch out.

He wasn’t sure what the red gelato was—first he called it strawberry but when we asked for strawberry he said they didn’t have strawberry. They had grape. So we asked for that.

The cashier, who looked like he could have perhaps been the owner of the shop, informed us in Arabic that it was hibiscus but that they had no idea what it was in English so Amanda wrote the word out on a piece of paper for him and he practiced saying it a few times.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. The lemon gelato, however, was. We found a few lemon seeds in it, which witnessed to its fresh, intense flavour. Rachel called it the “spicy” ice cream. It was so good. The orange gelato had bits of orange in it and was also good, just not as good as the lemon stuff, though Miriam seemed to think it was to die for.

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Our final tourist stop for the day was the Library of Alexandria so that Amanda could go and nerd-out inside. Josie went inside with her while Andrew and I stayed outside with the girls who tragically aren’t allowed inside.

But that’s okay because we visited the super-rad play area instead. Rachel was completely over stimulated. She couldn’t decide what to play on first and was running around in circles muttering to herself.

“Okay, okay! I will slide first then ride the car to the horse and…no! I will do the horse first and then ride on the bugs and…they have bikes?! *Squee!*”

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Unfortunately the play area closes at around 4:00 so we weren’t there for very long before they kicked us out. I still think that Rachel somehow managed to get on everything at least once. Miriam, on the other hand, slept most of the time so I just sat in the shade with her. She woke up right before we left. She didn’t even know what fun she had missed.

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We spent the remainder of our wait time enjoying the plaza. There is a sundial set up where you stand in a particular location and can tell the time with your own shadow.

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There’s the Death Star. It’s actually not the Death Star. We’re just not sure what it’s supposed to be.

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And there are reflection pools.

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Rachel wanted to get in the water so she started droning on and on about it. When I told her that she had to stop she looked up at us and yelled, “Well! Blue isn’t my favourite colour!”

She was quite argumentative about everything after that so when Amanda and Josie reemerged from the library we headed straight to linner. We ate at Taverna’s again because it really is a great restaurant as far as Egyptian restaurants go.

We had just enough time to make our way back to the train station before catching our train and heading home without any delays.

I’m still reeling from how well everything worked out. Every time we go to Alexandria we enjoy it more so I’m really glad we went back after the first time we went…that first time didn’t really work out so well…


  1. Really enjoyed reading your post. Will make sure next time I go to Alexandria to read your post before hand..

    PS: Gelato Azza is the best ;)

  2. I agree with the previous comment! I am so taking notes from this post when we visit Alex.

  3. So fun! The wind tunnel looks like a blast, and gelato....oh gelato! Yumm.

  4. As always an enjoyable post. Rachel is so funny, she really cracks me up! I wonder if Rachel is especially funny or if I just haven't been around kids for so long. My favorite, though, is: "I am Egyptian, I am thirty pounds." Hilarious!