Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alexandria 1 (9/17/10)

[Catch-up blog again. Sigh. You know the drill, no editing, lots of pictures.]
We met in the dorm lobby this mornig at 7:00 am to meet the bus from the campus dorms that would take us to Alexandria. I was a little late coming down to the lobby because I was running slow due to last minute issues (mostly having to do with being super quiet for the new roommate) up in my room.
I got to the lobby at 7:05, to find my friends already waiting. Then we waited together for an hour and half for the bus from new campus to arrive. By the time it did, I was more than ready for my early morning nap, which lasted me almost all the way to Alexandria (about a three hour drive). It was one of those nice naps where I was asleep enough to not be bothered by anything, but awake enough to hear my music and avoid snoring and/or drooling.
I mostly listened to MIKA and Molly Lewis during the drive. Here's one of my favorite songs of Molly's, called Our American Cousin: (the actual song starts at about 57 seconds.)

Our first stop in the city was the Citadel of Qaitbay. It was built on the ruins of the lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the world, and it was the closest I've ever gotten to exploring a medieval castle. We took lots of pictures, including some really touristy ones. Our group for this trip is about twenty-five people, and only seven are from Zamalek. The smaller group of my friends included Emily, Jen, Michelle, Cheryl, and myself.
the citadel

view through an arrow slit
window grills
really really touristy picture
up on the battlements
After exploring the citadel, we went to lunch at a famous seafood restaurant. The pita and various dips were delicious, especially the yogurt dip, which I really hadn't expected to like. However, then they brought out the main course:
well, i liked the rice
Here's the view from our table, out across the Mediterranean:
None of of ate our entire lunch, some because it was looking back at them, but me mostly because it didn't taste very good. It may have been caught that very morning, but I didn't care, because it tasted exactly like the Nile and the Mediterranean (in some parts, at least) smell on a bad day - full of pollution and dead things.
After lunch, we visited the Library of Alexandria, or the Bibliotheque. The ancient library of course hasn't existed for hundreds and hundreds of years, but the new museum and library on the site was opened in 2001.
alexander himself!
It's a gorgeous building, full of skylights and glass and most importantl, books. It currently holds 1.5 million volumes if I remember correctly, but has enough space for 8 million.
the outer wall, with writing from all over the world
the guestbook we signed, in 4 different languages
the stack and study desks
the library skylights, designed to look like eyes
Our visit wasn't very long and I look forward to returning one day to actually browse the shelves and even see the only surviving scroll form the original library itself.
Also, the library has an extensive online presence with databases ad catalogs open free of charge to anyone; you can find that here.
We checked into our hotel (fundoq Kaoud) after visiting the library, and found it only slightly creepier than we thought it might be.
It's not really the kind of hotel to leave towel surprises for its guests, either. If it did, we probably wouldn't like them. (Speaking of towels, we had three people in our room and just one hand towel. And toilet paper that ran out after one use. We spoke to reception and got more towels, but they never did give us the toilet paper.)
Here's the view from our hotel balcony, out over the Mediterranean. It almost made up for everything else...
sunsets are the best part of the day

[edit to add: at least we didn't have cockroaches, like some of the guys I talked to. Makes me think they saved the 'nice' rooms for the girls!]
After a few hours rest in our rooms, the five of us set out for dinner and adventure. Our first step was the beach right across the street. We crossed eight lanes of traffic using a handy (and safe) tunnel underneath the road.
tunnels for safety!
We took lots of pictures of the beach for a while, and then I climbed down to the next lowest level to touch the water. The sea spray was amazing, and it was a phenomenal experience. I didn't even come close to slipping on the algae and cracking my head open like a melon.

When it started getting dark, we began to look for a place to eat dinner. After wandering about half an hour with no luck, our group met up with two guys also from AUC, and we split up, Jen and Cheryl catching a taxi downtown with them to search for food, and Michelle, Emily and I returning to the hotel to order Pizza Hut delivery. We like to keep it classy.
It took a really long time to order and actually receive our food, but it was totally worth it. Egyptian pizza is so good. Now it's time for bed, and with any luck we won't run late tomorrow so we won't have to miss visiting anything extremely cool, like the catacombs or the Roman theatre. And with any luck this blog will get posted tomorrow night along with tomorrow's blog [Hey look, I did it!]
Also, here's my newest video from themicrowavesafe:

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