Egypt Diary 7

Chapter 7

Day 8

We started from our hotel right after breakfast at 8am. It was a beautiful day and the drive was good. Our first stop after driving for about an hour was for coffee after which we headed straight to Alexandria and reached there almost 3 hours after leaving Cairo.

Kom el-Shogafa.

Our first stop in Alexandria was Catacomb of Kom el-Shogafa,  a place which was discovered by accident in 1900. Legend has it that on 28 September 1900, a cart full of stone was travelling when the donkey took a misstep and disappeared in a hole. When people tried to rescue the donkey, they discovered a set of rock-cut tombs in an ancient catacomb. It is a matter of record that somebody by the name of Monsieur Es-Sayed Aly Gibrah reported that he had accidentally broken into a vault of an underground tomb.

The catacomb is truly an amazing structure 100 feet below the ground constructed in 2nd century AD in a mixture of Egyptian, Greek and Roman styles.  It is believed that this catacomb was initially started for a single family but was later expanded for reasons yet unknown to us.   There are stairs leading to the base of the tomb with places for sitting. There is a round shaft in the middle of the structure.

In excavations a lot of pottery was discovered which were bought by the people bringing in food for those buried there. Bones of horses, were also recovered proving that the favourite horses were also laid to rest there. The entire area outside the catacomb is littered with the archaeological finds.

Inside the catacomb.
Inside the catacomb.
Inside the catacomb.
Catacomb of Kom El Shoqafa.
Catacomb of Kom El Shoqafa.
Catacomb of Kom El Shoqafa.
Catacomb of Kom El Shoqafa.

Pompey’s pillar.

Our next stop was the only surviving Seven Wonders of the World, Pompey’s pillar or the Memorial of Diocletian. It is a 28 m high red granite pillar and the highest memorial column in Egypt. It has a diameter of 2.7 m which tapers to 2.3m near the top. On its top,  on the western side, there is an inscription  that the invincible Postumus has erected this monument in honour of the Roman Emperor, Alexandria Diocletian between 284-305 AD. Around the pillar is the Serapium temple which lies in ruins now. It was dedicated to Egyptian Greek God Serapius and was built by Ptolemy I in 300 BC. It was destroyed in 391 AD by a Christian mob led by Bishop Theophilus.

Serapium temple
Pompey’s pillar
Pompey’s pillar
Inside Pompey’s pillar

After this we headed to the Fort Qaitbey built in the 14th century by Sultan Qaitbey to defend Alexandria from the Ottoman Empire who actually took charge of Egypt in 1512. The fort is built on a narrow piece of land which extends from the cornice. It offers a fantastic view of the Mediterranean sea. The fort was badly damaged by the British in 1882 but was later restored around the turn of 20th century. Currently it houses a small navy museum.

Fort Qaitbey
Inside Fort Qaitbey
Fort Qaitbey
Fort Qaitbey
Model of the Fort Qaitbey

Next we headed for lunch at Athineos for a typical Egyptian grilled fish and rice lunch. It was an awesome lunch and view of cornice from the restaurant window was simply superb. From here we went to Alexandria library.

The Royal Library of Alexandria was one of the largest libraries of the ancient world and was dedicated to Muses, the nine goddess of the arts. It flourished during the Ptolemaic dynasty, from 3 century BC to 30th century BC. There were lecture halls, meeting rooms and gardens in it. Most of the books of that time were on Papyrus scrolls.

Sadly Julius Caesar’s army burned it down. During 1980s, a new library was built here by contributions from many countries around the world notably the Middle East and France. On 17 October 2002, 1600 years after the original was destroyed the new library was commissioned.

The new building has a Conference Center and a Planetarium apart from the main library. There is a library for visually impaired people and a restoration library. The building can house 20 million books and currently has 200,000 copies, 10,000 manuscripts and 50,000 rare books apart from a state of art book binding and a automatic copier on premises. It has been designed to last two centuries and currently receives about 800,000 visitors per day.

From the library we returned to Cairo bringing our Egypt holiday to an end. We returned home via Duabi  with a truck load of sweet memories of mystical land Egypt.

Library of Alexandria. All languages of the world find a mention here.
Model of Library of Alexandria.
Ist printing press.
Eco friendly interiors of Library of Alexandria.
Reading hall of the Library of Alexandria.
Outside the Library of Alexandria.
Planetarium inside the Library of Alexandria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egypt Diary 6

Chapter 6

Day 7

Our flight from Luxor landed in Aswan before time.  Luxor was cold and windy when we left but in Aswan but there was no wind, though it was cold too. At the Airport, it took a very long time for our luggage to arrive and by the time we reached our Hotel it was midnight. Being Thursday night Cairo was in a mood to party hard, and there was a lot of traffic on the roads. We finally checked in our hotel and headed straight to our room. Since we had not planned anything for Friday we were planning to sleep late.

Felfela, for breakfast in Talat Harb.
Cairo Tower.
Akher Saa. We had lunch here.
Shawarma.

After  a relaxed morning we gave a miss to Hilton’s breakfast and instead headed straight to Felfela in Hoda Shaarawy Street, off Talat Harb in downtown Cairo for breakfast. I would definitely recommend this place to anybody visiting Cairo. After breakfast we roamed a bit in downtown Cairo, had a nice lunch in Akher Saa and came back to the hotel to take rest. In the evening, we had booked the Nile Dinner Cruise.

In the evening, we were picked by the tour company and taken straight to the jetty. Our boat had not still arrived. It was cold and very windy so we preferred to wait in the car. The boat arrived late but the 2 hours  cruise on the Nile in the night was really worth the wait. Nile looked simply beautiful in the night with colourful city lights.

The Jetty from the boat.
Nile by night.
Nile by night.
Nile by night.
Nile by night.

The food on the cruise, was okay and not that great or may be the food in Hilton Ramsesses had spoilt us, but the in-house entertainment on the boat was really good. The belly dancer, an American and the spinning Tanoura artist were really good as was the singer who was accompanied by foot tapping live music.

As the cruise ended, it was really hard to say good bye to the boat and return to land. But we had to as we were leaving for a day’s trip to Alexandria but we returned with loads of beautiful memories.

Tanoura.
Tanoura.
Belly dance.
Belly dance.

Egypt Diary 5

Chapter Five

Day Six.

After a good Egyptian Kebab lunch we headed straight to the Aswan Railway Station to catch our train to Luxor. The train and platforms were much cleaner than I thought they will be. The seats in the train were comfortable and our ride to Luxor took three hours. While on the train, we also got an opportunity to see a bit of Egypt countryside, which was quite greener. We reached Luxor in the evening. The Luxor station was more crowded than Aswan.

Platform, Aswan Railway Station.
Our train to Luxor on platform, Aswan Railway Station.
Inside the train.

From there we went straight to our Hotel. The Hotel, Emilio in Luxor was in the middle of the market overlooking the Nile. The views were very good but our stay was average.

View of Nile from our room in Emilio.
A Hot air balloon takes off in Luxor.

Our first stop the day after, was The Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile. It was a long drive from our Hotel but totally worth it. At present in the valley, there are about 63 tombs dating back 500 years from 16th to 11th century BC. All these are royal tombs cut into the rock for Pharaohs and other powerful nobles. Among them is also the famous tomb of Tutankhamen.

Sphinx in the Temple of Hatshepsut..
Temple of Hatshepsut.
Paintings inside the temple.
Paintings inside the temple.
Temple of Hathor.
Temple of Hatshepsut.

Most of these tombs have been plundered and looted of the riches, but they still gives a fair idea of their opulence. The floods, the toxics in the air and even mass tourism have taken a toll on them. So now only a few tombs are open to tourists. Yet the Tutankhamen tomb remains most famous archaeological sites in the world. It is part of the World Heritage site.

To avoid further damage dehumidifiers have also been installed inside and the tombs are opened on a rotation basis to tourists. To protect the paintings on the rocks photography is not allowed inside the tombs.

The tomb of Ramesses II.

It is a complex tomb about 125 meters long, from the entrance there is stairway leading to the 1st corridor with small annex on either side.  This then leads to a second corridor leading to a dead-end room. This is because by miscalculations they hit another tomb and abandoned the work. Later Ramesses III continued with the 3rd corridor, though access to it for tourists was blocked and we were not allowed to go further.

Tomb of Tutankhamen.

Most of the things that were found here have been moved into the museums.

Next on our tour was the Temple of Hatshepsut.

This temple lies beneath the Deir el Bahari cliff and is a very beautiful structure. There were terraces, gardens of frankincense trees and other rare plantations. It was built by Queen Hatshepsut and there were a number of her portraits on the rocks which were later destroyed on royal orders after her death. In the surviving portraits, she appears as a male pharaoh with royal headdress and kilt and sometimes with a false beard.

There is a ramp leading to the courtyard and from there is another ramp leading to the terraces, where off course access to tourists is not allowed.

Our next stop was the Temple of Karnack. It is huge complex which was built over 2000 years and has many temples dedicated to God Amun Ra. Although most of it is in ruins it can still give a run for their money to many modern-day structures. Their size and grandeur is unmatched even today. You just keep wondering, how did they do it in those days thousand of years ago.

Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.

It is the largest religious place ever built and had been a place of pilgrimage for almost 2000 years. It is spread in 61 acres and is virtually impossible to see it in one day. So we visited the most important sites.

The Hypostyle hall is 54,000 sq feet and has 134 columns and is most definitely the largest hall any religious place has in the world. Apart from columns there is a beautiful lake which is now artificially filled with water. There were gardens and aviary surrounding it. The festival of Opet used to commence here and the procession ended at Luxor temple, 2.4 kms away.

The Hypostyle hall
Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.
Natural lake in the Karnack temple.
Karnack temple.

From here we moved to our last stop in Luxor, the Luxor Temple. During the early days Thebes, the city of hundred gates stood where the modern town of Luxor is now. It was the capital of Egypt. The Temple of Luxor is built on the banks of river Nile by Amenhotep and completed by Tutankhamen. Later Ramses II also added some structures. The granite shrine near the end of the temple is dedicated to Alexander the Great (332-305BC).

From Luxor temple we returned to the Airport for our flight back to Cairo.

Unknown figure from Roman times in Luxor temple.
Luxor temple.
Luxor temple.
Ramesses’ court in the Luxor temple.
Under this beautiful mosque is a church in the Luxor temple.
Luxor temple.