We set out early one morning for our 3-hour drive from Cairo to Alexandria, a city situated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the northern part of Egypt. As previously mentioned, we booked our Egyptian tour with Ramasside Tours and they handled our transportation. And were we glad that we weren’t driving in Alexandria! While the drive to Alexandria was uneventful, once in the city the traffic got pretty crazy. Consider getting yourself a driver when you go to Egypt!
Our first stop was King Farouk’s palace, a gorgeous estate located near the water in a beautifully landscaped park.
Our guide told us that King Farouk was known for spending obscene amounts of money, and it was obvious that no expense was spared in constructing this palace. He told us it had become a joke among Egyptians to say, “Who are you, King Farouk?” when someone spent a lot of money on something.
We did not stay long since we couldn’t tour the palace. So we set off towards our next stop, the Fort of Qaitbay (or Citadel of Qaitbay). Qaitbay was on the opposite side of the city. We had the chance to see and learn a lot along the way while sitting in the slow-moving traffic. One such tidbit that our guide shared with us was that the entire city of Alexandria had been rebuilt over time on top of itself. They were able to build on top as the city was sinking. There are routine discoveries of buried treasure and ruins! How cool is that?!!. At one point we stopped to soak up the sights along the waterfront.
We eventually arrived at the Fort of Qaitbay — a 15th-century defensive fortress built along the Mediterranean coast. The Fort is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast.
The fortress was built in the exact spot of the former Lighthouse of Alexandria which stood 400+ feet tall and is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! The crazy thing is that there are no drawings or images depicting what the Lighthouse actually looked like, only ideas and guesses, and drawings based on those ideas. Laura recreated a drawing we both really liked in her travel journal.
Lunch time! Our guide recommended what turned out to be a fantastic restaurant called Fish Market. For starters, the restaurant was right on the water and provided great views of the Sea from it’s second floor windows. But the highlight, and the reason it was called Fish Market, was the spread of fish that you could choose from to build your meal!
Laura picked Shrimp and Red Bream fish for her meal, while Dax stuck with the boring but still delicious choice of Sea Bass. The fish was accompanied by rice and salad and a bowl of pita bread with 6 types of hummus-like spread, each more delicious than the last. To top it off, we each got a lemonade infused with mint, a perfectly refreshing drink that we had a lot of in both Jordan and Egypt.
After lunch we visited the largest mosque in Alexandria. Our time inside the mosque actually coincided with one of the 5 daily prayer times for the Muslims in the area. Our guide explained the process of the prayer and told us a bit more about the religion, then joined the others in prayer for a few moments.
It amazes us how much time Muslims devote to their religion, every single day. It’s an extreme dedication to their beliefs. We are glad that this stop was included in our Alexandria tour because it helped us to better appreciate a culture that we were previously completely unfamiliar.
Not to be outdone, our next stop was the oldest church in Africa, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. (In Dax’s notes from the trip, it said it was the oldest church in Africa. Our guide probably mentioned that, but when we give it a goog we get different information…it’s old, that’s all we know!) It had a lot of really cool mosaics on the walls which we appreciated.
After leaving the church, we continued on to our final stop of the day, the Library of Alexandria. This place was massive! According to Wikipedia, there is shelf space for 8 million books! Although we vaguely remember that they only have something like 5 million on hand. We walked around the facility and toured through several areas of the library which were more like small museum exhibits. Quite a library!
Our day in Alexandria concluded at the Hotel Tolip. The view from our balcony was the best part about this hotel, otherwise it felt almost deserted. Another indication of how poorly the tourist industry is performing in Egypt.
All-in-all, it was a great day spent exploring and learning about Alexandria. It would have been nice to extend our stay to at least two days. We explored the city in one-day which felt a bit rushed at times. That also would have given us the opportunity to spend more time in the Alexandria Library. Overall, it was nice to visit a beautiful city, and a nice change from the ruins in Cairo.
Sign up for our newsletter to receive regular travel tips!