Well this pearl may have lost its’ lustre over the years, the buildings along the Corniche past their heyday and slowly crumbling. Listed buildings with owners waiting till they fall so they can sell up and huge skyscrapers can replace their previously elegant beauty, blocking the views and even sunshine from the rows of buildings behind. Even the famous theatre which hosted so many famous singers, now knocked down and currently being replaced by huge complexes.
That said, the sun still shines, the sea still sparkles (so little no as you don’t look too close!). The fishing boats still bob about in the sunshine, Alexandrians still gather along the Corniche and the street food sellers increase during the warm weather to sell their wares.
At the eastern end of the city lie the Montaza Gardens. Previously the summer residence of King Farouk, the beautiful gardens and the elegant palms can now be enjoyed by the general public, for a small entrance fee. There are many restaurants as well as chalets and beaches to be enjoyed.
The Palace dominates the skyline with its extravagant but elegant design, now empty but well guarded. The Salamlek currently undergoing restoration.
The Royal Jewellery Museum is in the newly restored Palace of Princess Fawzia and displays many exotic pieces, giving an insight into the extravagances of the royal family.
Behind the Corniche and beyond the traditional shopping areas of the city centre, adventuring further into the ancient, and poorer, districts gems of history still lurk, awaiting modern visitors to wonder at their secrets and take their selfies.
The Catacombs of Kim el Shoqafa, surrounded by residential buildings towering over it were rediscovered as a man and his cart passed over and the donkey fell down the shaft, so the story goes. Down the circular stairway (they say 99 steps but I didn’t count!) the complex of pharaonic and roman burial chambers are revealed. Sadly the water table is now seeping into the lower levels restricting viewing, oh what tales the walls could tell… and to be honest, what tales some of the guides we heard were telling too! There are no cameras allowed, (other than videos which seems rather odd), and to be fair the numerous guides were remonstrating with those who tried, but I still managed a few sneaky ones when no one was around! The purpose of course is to compare them to those taken (legitimately) some 25 years ago, before they were part of the tourist trail! On the subject of tourists, we were amazed at the number of tourists we encountered, not just here but everywhere in Alexandria, most unusual over the last few years.
Not far from the catacombs are Pompey’s Pillar and the Serapeum. Standing high the pillar and its two guardians look down on the tourists as they arrive. Below them are the remains of the Alexandria Nileometer, sadly not as well preserved as the Cairo one. In the far corner of the complex the underground library can be found, previously housing the rolls of papyrus.
Back into the old central part of the city the Roman Amphitheater complex can be found. Less visitors here meant we could look around at our leisure. The marble floors preserved in the former habitations still show their colours, and we marvelled how creative and clever these ancients dwellers of Egypt were, when today we can’t even get someone to repair a parquet floor properly!
Qait Bey Citadel dominates the skyline from its commanding position at the end of the bay. So popular with the local groups of schoolchildren, teenagers enjoying a break, art students preparing beautiful drawings of the interior of the fort. The fresh sea winds welcome after the heat and humidity of the city. Watching the fisherman from the walls as he cast his line from a very precarious position on the rocks below, and his delight when hooking a small fish, a shy wave as he caught us watching him.
After a very good lunch at the Blue and White restaurant at the Greek Club, overlooking the bay a stroll along the Corniche, past the fishing boats bobbing, the animated Alexandrians enjoying the air, cantering caleches clip-clopping past, watching the sun going down, the wood burning ready for the corn to be grilled, the aromas of sweet potatoes cooking, was just what was needed.