Feb 14, 2015

Travelogue - Alexandria

“You can get a car of any make done here. Half of the city drives a BMW”  - remarked our guide Ahmed, as he wriggled us through the narrow lanes outside Alexandria railway station. It was an exaggeration.. However, for those who wonder where the second-hand / third-hand vehicles of the developed world end-up, the answer is Africa.  An average car-workshop guy here should be much more skilled than a car-mechanic in the West. Here to succeed he needs to mix and match. Body of a Benz, engine of a Chevy, I guess you can find any combination here.

We reached Alexandria after a three-hour train ride from Cairo. Though I did harbor expectations of capturing at-least fleeting images of the Nile Delta, those were quashed quickly. The feeling that you get while the train approaches ‘Misr’ station is exactly the same as that of train approaches to Mumbai or Delhi. Cramped & incomplete houses, people struggling to make ends meet, it is as good as any metro city in developing world in those aspects.

Alexandria - Corniche
Alexandria was ancient world’s gateway to Africa. It does not have the importance that it held in those days. But you can see remnants of the bygone era. Greco-Roman buildings, monuments, Italian influence, Turkish & Mediterranean style cuisine. This would be one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Africa. We even came across a movie theatre which was playing Shah Rukh Khan’s “Happy New Year”

As you navigate through the old city, you could see posters of Hosni Mubarak, Morsi & Sisi in various quarters showing how politically charged-up the atmosphere is.
Pompei’s Pillar & Roman Catacombs –  Most tourist guides would cover these two for you.  The historical significance apart, these might not appeal much to an average visitor.

Citadel at the place of 'Light House of Alexandria'

The sight of the Corniche blew away our tiredness.; Yesteryear’s wonder – “The lighthouse of Alexandria” is no longer there. Only a castle stands at its place. That’s from where you can get the best view of the Corniche skirting the Meditteranean.   This is where the legendary Mark Antony & Cleopatra lived once upon a time - a time when Alexandria was perhaps the center of the world.

I was surprised to hear that lot of Indians frequent to this city – And the reason behind that – 100 odd Kilometers to west of Alexandria lies this place – El Alamein, one of the prominent battle grounds of World war II . Thousands of soldiers of various nationalities lay buried there. Their relatives visit those sites even now.  Alexandria has a massive library – Bibliotheca Alexandria – One of the largest libraries in modern world.  We didn’t have enough time to cover that.

Alexandria left an impression of an old wise man in me. Someone who refuses to be taken lightly, yet who is not quite powerful to fight its way into prominence, but quite content with the age-old wisdom & intellect.