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I’ve arrived in Alexandria.
My first reaction is that I like it a lot more than Cairo. It isn’t as busy, dirty or crowded. Also, I have yet to have anyone “welcome” me to Egypt and try to sell me crap. I’m staying about 2 blocks from the Mediterranean Sea, in a hotel which would be a dump in any other circumstances. However, I’m so used to such accommodations at this point, I don’t even bat an eye at it. This is also the first time I’ve laid my eyes on the Mediterranean Sea.
For an historical city, Alexandria doesn’t have much in the way of buildings left. One of the books I read earlier on my trip was the story of the body of Alexander the Great. After he died in Persia, his body was stolen by Ptolemy and taken to Egypt where it was eventually entombed in Alexandria. There are mentions of it over the years and at least as late as when Julius Caesar came here chasing Pompey, the tomb still remained as Caesar paid a visit. At some point, the glass coffin which contained his body was lost.
I’m near the harbor which was the location of the Lighthouse of Alexandria; one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. It was destroyed by earthquake in the 14th Century. The stones of the lighthouse were used in the construction of a fort, now located on the site. There are also stone located in the water just off the harbor.
While an Egyptian city, it really has nothing to do with the ancient Egypt of the Pharaohs. For most of its life it was either a Greek or Roman city. This is the city which Alexander the Great founded, where Julius Caesar lived for several years, where Marc Anthony and Cleopatra took their own lives, where Pompey was killed, where Octavian conquered it in the name of Rome, and where the great library stood and eventually burned. It also was/is the center of Coptic Christianity.
The city eventually sort of died off after the Arab conquest of Egypt, but was resurrected in the 19th Century.
It is colder here than in Cairo, but it should be an interesting few days. In addition to the few Roman ruins in the city, I will also be making a short trip to a nearby World Heritage site (Abu Mena) and I might go SCUBA diving if the weather permits.