In my desperate attempt to see everything I can in Egypt before I f*** off for good – oh yes, I can’t wait! – Marie-Eve, Mario and I went to Alexandria last weekend, as none of us had ever been there and it’s meant to be a cool Egyptian city... Well at least, it’s got history. Anyway, what was meant to be a lovely day trip ended up being a nightmare! We first turned up at Cairo train station at eight o’clock that sunny Friday morning to buy tickets for the nine o’clock train, as many colleagues had told us we didn’t need to book tickets in advance because the carriages are never full... A fact which is certainly true in mid-winter but happens to be far from reality in June, when Cairo people flee the summer heat to the Northern – cooler – coast. All trains to Alexandria were fully booked that morning and we decided to play it the Egyptian way: we got on without tickets and hoped for the best... Obviously, people started sitting down according to their ticket allocations and we started dreading a two hours train journey standing... Luckily, three seats remained vacant in our carriage and we were able to enjoy the journey. However, we learnt our lesson and as soon as we arrived at Alexandria station, we decided to buy tickets for the return journey in the evening. No surprise, all the trains to Cairo were fully booked. Nevermind, we’ll do the same we did in the morning, now let’s enjoy our day in Alex – as Egyptian people call it.
Well, you probably all heard about Alexandria and how it used to be the centre of Mediterranean culture with its huge lighthouse and its wonderful library... back in the Ancient World era that is... Nowadays, Alex is just a mini version of Cairo: busy, chaotic, and dirty. What a disappointment – but certainly yet another reason to get the f*** out of this country! Ok, I’m a bit harsh here. It’s not as bad as Cairo and there’s a seaside resort feel about the city which gives it a lot of charm, but I guess my expectations were quite high and Alex certainly didn’t meet them. Apart from a couple of lovely greenish squares and a few old buildings reminding people of the city’s heroic past, it looks pretty dull. We first visited Fort Qaitbey, which is a citadel at the entrance of Alexandria harbour from where you get a fantastic view of the city. We went on to see a couple of old mosques which were actually beautiful and we went down to the Catacombs of Kom es-Shoqafa – 30 metres underground – where more than 300 Egyptian, Greek and Roman tombs were found at the beginning of the twentieth century. We decided to finish our day trip with what is meant to be Alexandria gem: the library. We turned up at the library and obviously, it was closed! Apparently, it’s closed on Fridays, when the library’s website says it’s open daily... The only thing that was supposed to take our breaths away was closed, that’s shit!
Now, the sun was setting on Alexandria and we had to think about going back to Cairo. We had spent most of the day walking around in the sun, we were quite shattered, and the thought of spending a two hours train journey standing – if we couldn’t find seats on the train back – was rather dreadful to the three of us, so we decided to take a taxi back home. It would be more than twice the price of a train ticket but it would be more comfortable. We found a taxi which looked comfy and whose driver looked friendly, we agreed on the price and off we drove to Cairo... that is until we got a flat tyre on the motorway! At this point, we knew we had made the wrong decision. It was ten o’clock at night and we were 50 kilometres away from Alex, in the middle of nowhere – there wasn’t a single building in sight and we could hear dogs barking in the distance. The taxi driver – being Egyptian – didn’t have a spare tyre in his car and called a friend to bring us one. So we started waiting on the roadside, looking at all the cars speeding by and feeling shit really... His friend only turned up at midnight! By then, we were exhausted and frustrated. We only arrived in Cairo at half past three in the morning, as we got stopped by many roadworks on the way... No need to say I went straight to bed when I got home.