NOTE: LONG POST AHEAD!
From the excitement and the lack of sleep (only 3 hours), this tour had a mad schedule.
Our welcome plate of fruits, not that we had the energy or time to eat this...
Best hotel ever!!... This was the Helnan Palestine Hotel in Alexandria... 5 stars!! And we only stayed here for a few hours!! Ridiculous!
I woke up just in time to catch the sunrise over the Mediterranean sea... If you travel by sea towards the left of this picture, you'll end up in Greece!
The beautiful beach in the vicinity and view of our rooms. The big white building in the distance used to be the summer palace of King Farouk.
A clearer picture of the palace. Having the privilege to stay within the grounds of the palace's botanical gardens is an amazing feeling.
The view of the pool and large scale chess board.
Breakfast in the hotel coffee house...
We were one of the first ones up that morning.
More Foul Medames!! This time you can see I've piled on more beans... *whoops*
Finally! A breakfast buffet that includes chicken sausages... I've been tired of not having meat.... the entire journey was filled with options of beef sausages, beef, steak, etc.. you get my drift... being someone that doesn't eat beef, you can imagine how difficult this was for me.. the Boy however... was in luck =)
I apologise for the many pictures of the hotel, but it's just so pretty and nice compared to all the other ones we had to stay in =)))) Even the grumpy people from the night before were a lot chirpier after a few hours of rest in this 5 star luxury hotel.
A night here would normally cost USD$450, luckily this was included as part of our tour.
Xmas time and they've got the decorations up in the Middle East too! Alright fine, we weren't in the middle east.. more like North Africa.. but you get my point =P
Waiting for the bus outside, I noticed that the ceiling had stars for decoration, not unlike the ceilings that one finds within the ancient temples/buildings...
After breakfast we made our way to Alexandria's National Museum. On the way there, we saw the newly constructed Alexandria library (Bibliotheca Alexandria), which unbeknownst to the developers at the time, was built in the grounds of the ancient library of Alexandria which was lost in ancient times due to fires.
Once we arrived at the Museum, we were given free time to see the artifacts on our own.
Of course, everyone started off with taking pictures (just in case time ran out), and I was no exception! Kiasu-mah!
A very nice map of Egypt greeted us upon entering.
The museum was divided into 3 levels, showcasing different periods in Alexandria's rich history.
A lot of the artifacts on display here are found through Nautical Archeology, as a lot of Ancient Alexandria is now underwater...
In particular, the grounds of Cleopatra.
Also on display are the usual artifacts from the Pharaonic period.
This is the only museum which allows pictures to be taken. WE concluded that this was because it was very dark, most of our pictures didn't turn out (no flash allowed).
We found it better to just take in the displays which the museum had on offer for us. If only the Cairo museum had the organised layout of the Alexandria Museum, instead of the chaotic haphazard placement of artifacts, methinks that more people would visit and appreciate the artifacts within the Cairo museum.
An extremely bumpy bus ride later, we were take to visit the Catacombs of Kom El (ash) Shuqqafa. Story has it that the discovery of these tombs were made when a donkey fell through the shaft of the main spiral staircase.
No one tells you what happened to the poor donkey! Again, no camera's were allowed into this structure, but I found this on the internet!!
It was an interesting visit to the catacombs. At one point, whilst walking through the narrow passageways underground, the lights went out. Felt a bit like tomb raider then. Luckily Big Sis came to the rescue with her torchlight! Yayy!
Next stop, Pompey's Pillar.
A massive 30m-high column, hewn from Aswan granite (again from the same quarry), is the only thing left of the ruins of the Temple of Serapeum, which in it's time, was the second greatest library of Alexandria.
The remains of the ancient capitals that graced other columns within the temple compound.
Instead, they have now build a beautiful platform, bridge and staircase leading to the pillar along the perimeters of the temple.
From the base of the pillar, if one were to look up at the clear blue sky, dizziness will ensue.
Back on the bus, on the way to Fort Qaitbey, we passed by a memorial to an "unknown soldier" in El-Shohada square.
A beautiful monument nevertheless.
Not much is known about this memorial, except that there are guards honouring him.
Fort Qaitbey! I'm so overjoyed!
Built along the narraow peninsula by the Mamluk sultan Qaitbey in AD 1480, it sits on the remains of the legendary Pharos lighthouse.
Thus, technically, we have been and visited the ancient Alexandria Lighthouse... although it no longer stands =( Damn you, earthquakes!!
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