Alexander The Great is counted among the best commanders of the world history. Almost 2400 years ago, he founded a big empire during his campaign of the world conquest. In his big, widespread empire, he established many new cities, most notable is Alexandria at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. At the first look, the vast expanse of Alexandria seems like any other metropolitan city covered with the forest of brick, concrete and mortar in the form of buildings, but amidst that concrete forest, Alexandria has a very important place in the history of Egypt due to its rich legacy in the past. If you are not aware of the history of Alexandria, you can mistake it with any other ordinary city in the world having high rises buildings, moving cars on the road, glittering hotels and sight of the young couples on the beaches.
Founded in 331 BC, it was once the only city in the world that could rivalled the Mighty Rome. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was among the World’s Seven Wonders of the ancient era and The Great Library of Alexandria was the center of attraction for the many high-profile educationists worldwide. It remained the epicenter of Roman Empire until 641 AD, and then, with the conquest of Muslim invaders on Egypt in the 9th century, it started loosing its charm and its glory.
Almost 800 years later, in 1798 AD, when Napoleon arrived in Alexandria, it was only a small village of the fishing community. All the symbols of its legendary past, The Lighthouse, The Great Library, The Big Harbour, had been vanished in the past.
Last year, when I got a chance to visit Alexandria, I was in a big dilemma. In the history books, its place is only after the Great Pyramids and Cairo, but in the tourist circuit, it doesn’t stand in front of other big names like Aswan, Luxor and Sharm-El-Shiekh. But It was the magic of the Mediterranean Sea and the Great Library that inspired me to visit Alexandria, and thus, in a beautiful morning, I boarded a train from Cairo to Alexandria.
In Alexandria, from the window of my hotel, I experienced a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea across the road. I was already familiar with the vast expanse of a sea, but till then, whichever sea I visited, there were small islands at continuos intervals, so those islands just limited the imagination of vast expanse, that I experienced with the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria. There was no island in the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria, so whichever direction I looked, I only found the vast amount of blue water and beyond that, far at horizon, that blue water was merging with the blue sky.
Although the coastline of Alexandria is very long (about 30 kms), but the most visited part is the 4 kms distance from the Citadel of Qaitbay (the site of old lighthouse) to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the modern library of Alexandria). In that distance of 4 kms, you can walk from the past legacy of Alexandria to the present days of a metropolitan city. Hence, I decided to spend an evening there on the coast.
In the afternoon, I reached to the Citadel of Qaitbay, that was only a walking distance away from my hotel. The Citadel is built exactly at the site of legendary Lighthouse of Alexandria. The lighthouse was completely destroyed by three massive earthquakes (last one was in 1323 AD) and in 1480 AD, the last of its remnant stones were used to build the citadel at the same site.
The panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and Alexandria City looked very spectacular from the upper portion, windows and walls of the citadel. At one side, as far as you could see, there was blue water of the sea, on the sea-waves were the small fishing boats, beyond those small boats, there was a big cargo ship and beyond them at the horizon, blue water was merging with the blue sky. On the other side was the legendary city of Alexandria, the extension of its skylines, fast moving vehicles on the road and lot of people on the walkway along the coast. Whole scene was amazing. The pearl of Mediterranean welcomed me in its grand style.
I clicked hundred pictures of the sea and the city, while walking around the citadel. and then moved towards a walkway that extended along the sea-coast. Near the harbour, everybody was busy in their daily chorus. A gentleman was trying to catch the fish, boats were waiting for the tourists and a bird was hovering over the water in search of the food.
I moved ahead on the walkway and suddenly heard a loud music somewhere. Its intensity was continuously increasing and then a bike appeared on the road. The music system was installed on the bike. Music System on the bike! I never found a bike like that anywhere except in Alexandria. But that was not alone. Almost every bike in Alexandria has such type of installation.
In the evening, it seemed that every youth of Alexandria get attracted towards the sea-coast. The sea-coast was buzzing with the people who came their for picnic. On the adjacent 6-lane highway, the youth were racing on their musical bikes and scooters. Lots of Caliche (Horse-driven carts) were also waiting for the tourist. I was also enjoying that beautiful evening, the sea, the beach and the city.
Suddenly, a group of 4-5 youths stopped my way. They were aggressively demanding some tip from me, because I was clicking pictures near the sea. They were very aggressive in the behaviour, so I got scared. Although there were hundreds of people walking around, but nobody paid attention. There was no policeman in the immediate vicinity. I was scared, but I denied them with a smile. After the hassle of 15 minutes, they cleared my way.
Egypt is a muslim country, but from last 10 days backpacking across the country, I understood that it is not like the other Arabian countries. I noticed many women and girls shopping in the markets till late night, irrespective of the location, from the urban markets of Cairo to the relatively smaller markets of Aswan. Almost every woman covers her head with the scarf (hijab), but except some rural communities in Luxor and Aswan, I didn’t find a single sign of Pardah System in Egypt. The Egyptian society is more liberal towards the women rights and perhaps, thats why there were many young couple at the sea-coast walking freely, away from the orthodox religious beliefs. I was more surprised, when I noticed that two beautiful young girls, who were walking in front of me, received the comments from the boys at least 4 times in that 2 kms. Can you even dare to look towards an unknown lady in other Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia? Indeed, the Egyptian social structure is more liberal towards gender equality, may be one of the reason behind this is its close bonding with the Europe.
Finally, by walking along the sea on a walkway full of handsome gents and beautiful ladies, I reached to the Great Library of Alexandria. That shiny new glass building of Alexandria has a rich historical legacy, that I will discuss in the later post. By the time I reached there, it was very late, so I didn’t go inside the library, but next day, I visited every section of the library. The building that appears grand from outside, is even more wonderful inside.
I moved further and after passing The Sea Bridge Statue, reached near a private beach. It was the private property of a resort, where they also had the facility of snorkeling. Some chairs were lying on the beach for the people, who wish to enjoy the waves of Mediterranean Sea from the coast only. Some parts of the sea-coast of Alexandria are the private properties of the hotels and the resorts, where general public can enter only after paying the required entry fee (generally, nominal charges). But, still a major portion of the sea-beaches in Alexandria are freely accessible to the general public including foreign tourists.
I had enough walk by then, so I didn’t wish to move further and returned back towards the hotel. Far away, the light blue colour of sky was slowly turning into an orange colour. Beyond the Citadel of Qaitbay, the sun was setting down behind the skylines of Alexandria. I clicked many pictures of that spectacular sunset. That was the grand end of a beautiful day at the Mediterranean coast. From there, I moved away from the beaches to enjoy the Tram Service of Alexandria City. It was dark outside, so there was no chance to visit any other place and, then, I returned back to the hotel. That evening at the coast of Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria became an integral part of my pictures and thus my life.
If you wish to get the regular updates from Solo Backpacker, subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the space provided on the right side of this page. You can also follow us on Facebook as well as on Twitter.