Alexandria is Egypt’s second-largest city and main port on the Mediterranean Sea. A Greek architect named Dinocrates, begun construction of Alexandria in 331 BC by order of Alexander the Great. Since those times, the city has flourished into a cultural, political and economical metropolis.
This city was our final destination in Egypt before our tour group would head back to Cairo and say our goodbyes so we dived right into exploring Alexandria. We hopped on the local tram and walked through the city until we arrived at the Citadel of Qaitbay, a harbour fortress built in the 15th century. Along the boardwalk many men were fishing and there were market stalls selling souvenirs mostly consisting of jewellery and seashells. On the way back to our hotel we walked along the Corniche, the main road where the city meets the sea.
You can’t visit Alexandria without eating the seafood! Our Intrepid tour group visited Seashell Restaurant for dinner. We were seated, our drink orders were taken and then 4 by 4 we would go next door to pick the fish of our choice. The fish were nicely presented on ice however the smell was overwhelming. We picked our fish, it was weighed and then it was sent to the kitchen to be cooked. Interesting experience! There were 15 people in our group which meant it did of course take some time for the food to come out but it was worth the wait.
Below are images of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina that we visited. It’s a modern library holding over 8 million books! Photo credit: Cairo Scene.
The El Morsi Abu El Abbas Mosque is the largest in Alexandria. It was the only time we needed to wear headscarves during our time in Jordan and Egypt. The mosque was quiet, peaceful and almost empty. In a corner of the mosque, our group took a seat on the carpet in a circle and we had an in-depth talk about the Muslim religion with Mohammed, our Intrepid tour guide.
The most important thing Mohammed wanted us to understand was that there’s no right or wrong religion. There are extremists within religions and those people will break the values of the religion and commit horrible acts. As a result of attacks, people across the world unite stronger together. During our time in Egypt we had been to several places where these attacks have occurred and I’m glad it didn’t deter us from visiting them.
In Alexandria, we visited The Catacombs of Kom Ash Shuqqafa. It’s the largest Roman burial site in Egypt and it was discovered by a donkey! On September 28th 1900, A donkey was carrying a cart full of stone and it stumbled into a hole uncovering the catacombs. The crypts are 20 metres below the ground with a maze of chambers holding over 300 bodies. It’s believed that the catacombs were built in the 2nd century AD and were used over the following 200 years.
The name Kom Ash Shuqqafa means mound of shards because the families of the dead visited them with food & drink in pottery and afterwards they would smash the pottery and leave them in a pile. Inside the catacombs there’s a spiral staircase, funerary chapel, seats carved out of stone, funeral banquet hall, a Greek temple and a hall where the bones of men and horses are buried. The lowest level is flooded making it inaccessible and the second-lowest level you walk on planks of wood over the flooding around the catacombs! Also, photographs are not permitted inside.
El Alamein is located 106 km west along the Mediterranean from Alexandria. We visited this small coastal town to learn about its significant role in World War II. Winston Churchill once said, “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.” The El Alamein War Museum contains information, records, artifacts and the museum has a great layout. It covers all perspectives and is not biased in any way. They honour everyone who lost their lives. The Commonwealth Cemetery across the road holds memorials for 11,945 soldiers who lost their lives at El Alamein. 4,074 British, 1,234 Australians, 1,108 New Zealanders, 495 South Africans, 198 Indians and 34 Canadians are laid to rest here.
Alexandria is 180km and a 2.5-hour drive north-west of Cairo. The easiest public transport options is to catch a train with Egyptian Railways or a bus with Ask Aladdin for less than 5USD. Within Alexandria you can get around via local bus and tram for a very small price.
Four Seasons Hotel – 8.9 rating (Booking.com) – The hotel that has it all. It features an outdoor infinity pool, indoor heated pool, private beach, a 2-storey spa and fitness centre, restaurants and lounges.
Sunrise Alex Avenue Hotel – 8.7 rating (Booking.com) – Sits on the private beach and has 2 outdoor pools, spa and fitness centre. The hotel contains multiple restaurants and bars.
Tolip Hotel – 7.8 rating (Booking.com) – This hotel features an outdoor pool, spa and a fitness centre. All suites are equipped with a balcony, living room and dining table. The hotel bus can transport you to the hotel’s private beach.
Qaitbay Fortress (40EGP) – It has nice views over the ocean and the city.
Montazah Palace & Gardens (20EGP) – A beautiful palace that overlooks the Mediterranean.
Pompey’s Pillar (20EGP) – The tallest ancient monument left standing amongst ruins.
Ras el-Tin Palace – The oldest royal Egyptian palace that is still in use. Not open for visitors however it’s just as beautiful from outside the gates.
Alexandria National Museum (80EGP / 5USD*) – A 4-storey museum laid out chronologically and holding 1800 artifacts.
White and Blue Restaurant – The freshest seafood in Alexandria. Must book in advance!
Balbaa Village – This restaurant showcases Mediterranean and Middle Eastern barbecue & grill in the heart of the city.
Fish Market – A beautifully decorated restaurant situated on the Corniche overlooking the sea.
Santorini Greek Restaurant – Take time to relax and take in the views of the sea at Santorini’s. Not a single bad review about this restaurant!
Roberto’s Italian Restaurant – A clean, spacious and lovely restaurant featuring all the Italian classics. Located inland near Alexandria National Airport.
*Based on currency rates at the time of being published.