Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sites in Alexandria

Our TEFL class location was within view of Stanley Bridge right on the coast, so we got to see this view every day. However, most of the time we were inside the classroom, so one weekend we decided to stay a night in Alexandria itself to see the sites.

Stanley Beach was always very crowded.

Here's Stanley Bridge at night.

This wall overlooking the sea was a popular site for singles and couples. Note the beautiful mosque across the way.

Though Alexandria is a very historical city, it has relatively little to show for it. It was founded by Alexander in 331 BC and served as Egypt's capital for a thousand years. As one of the most famous cities in the ancient world, Alexandria was well-known for three things: the Pharos Lighthouse (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), the Library of Alexandria, and the catacombs of Kom al Shoqafa.

The lighthouse, built in 280 BC, was destroyed by earthquakes through the centuries, and now all that is left to show for it is the Citadel of Qaitbay, built in 1480 on the exact location and using some of the same stone. Once this impressive fortress guarded the coast; now it serves as a less-than-thrilling museum filled with stuffed puffer fish.

Feelin' the breeze on the sea beside the Citadel.

As for the most significant library of the ancient world (which flourished from the 3rd century BC until the Roman conquest and attempted to house every known manuscript from dozens of cultures), it's long gone as well. Exactly how and when it was destroyed isn't known, but there are lots of theories. However, in its honor, the Egyptian government opened the Biblioteca Alexandrina in 2002, which is quite impressive from what we hear. It has shelf space for 8 million books, a planetarium, research centers, archives, and exhibitions. Unfortunately, we were told we couldn't enter with children.

That leaves the catacombs - and I am happy to say that they were wonderful and not to be missed! The only bummer was that photography was not allowed. Misha loved descending the circling staircase that led to tunnels and rooms far below the ground. Though not huge, it was big enough to feel like you were exploring, and we made our way through various paths and admired all the "cubby holes" where bodies galore were neatly stored away. The tunnels were dug in the 2nd century CE and the catacombs were used for burials through the 4th century. The site is interesting in that it shows influences from the Romans, the Greeks, and Egyptians.

Though this is not my picture (I found it online), I would have taken one just like this had my camera not been confiscated.

At ground level were displayed several artifacts and statues from the catacombs. These we could photograph.

Misha with a sphinx, belting out "Barbara Ann." The guards would often talk to Misha and ask him what he was listening to. Sometimes Misha would share one of his ear buds, and soon the guard would be bopping his head mumbling "ba-ba-ba" along with the Beach Boys.

Another favorite site we visited in Alex was the Roman amphitheater. (I love amphitheaters - this one was, naturally, similar to the one in Lyon.) This site dates from the 2nd century CE, though it went through many modifications until the 6th century. Misha loved climbing up and down the stairs and experimenting with how his voice echoed.

If you look closely, you can see a tiny Misha at the base of the bleachers in the center of the amphitheater.

Misha again, running towards us.

Misha and the guard.

Sitting on the steps of the amphitheater, ready to watch some gladiators, or better yet, a play...

The guard "let us" (for a small tip) through the gate for a behind-the-scenes look at the passageways that curve around the back of the theater. These were the dressing rooms for the actors.

Very cool!

Family shot in the back chambers of the amphitheater.


Bill said...

Wow Misha looks tiny in that amphitheater!

kate said...

More awesome shots of Misha. He will totally remember so much of his trip. I like the pictures of the beach.