On the shores of the Mediterranean - Alexandria (Egypt)

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Magnificently blue-green waters have an instant soothing effect on the mind. In this case the soothe factor came from the visual charm of the vast desert meeting the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea at historic Alexandria. Our star attraction of Central Alexandria was Fort Qaitbey which has the most visible location in Alexandria. It is said to be on the very spot where the legendary lighthouse of Pharos stood. Estimated to have been between 115m and 135m (above 400 ft), it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The fort oversees the entrance to the Eastern Harbour, and also has the vast Mediterranean as a backdrop. The panorama was stunning as the winter wind blew hard and lashed huge waves onto the sturdy fort walls. The fort was constructed on the orders of the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbey, apparently using masonry from the destroyed lighthouse.

A closer look at the great pillars of red granite proved that fact.     Three floors of the fort now house a naval museum displaying Ottoman weaponry. The sea was magnificent there — a rough and dazzling combination of blue and green waves crashed angrily on the boulders splashing us with the cold and salty Mediterranean water. The area around the fort is also the dive site which is currently under exploration.     Earlier the Qaitbey dive has recorded hundreds of objects, columns, statues, parts of obelisks, granite blocks which are presumed to be a part of the remains of the Pharos which was one of the last wonders to fall (in the 12th century); now the pyramids at Giza are the lone survivors. A statue discovered from this dive site has recently been discovered and has been put near the entrance of the Library of Alexandria. 

The ancient library of Alexandria contained the greatest collection of writings in antiquity. When it was destroyed in the 5th century AD, a vast trove of ancient wisdom was lost forever. The new Library of Alexandria, or Bibliotheca Alexandrina, opened in 2002 and is widely viewed as one of the most important architectural works of recent decades.     The library is magnificent yet simple; a diagonally sliced building with a standing cylinder whose geometric clarity has much in common with the great edifices of Egyptian antiquity. The south-facing wall of the cylinder is clad in granite slabs that were split from huge blocks, not sawn. Their surface is uneven, with soft contours. These granite plates are inscribed with alphabetic symbols from around the world. 

    Collective tickets allow entrance to the Library, exhibitions and museums of antiquities and manuscripts. The most interesting of all was the ‘Impressions of Alexandria,’ a collection of original engravings, lithographs, rare photos and maps that reveal artists’ and travellers’ impressions of Alexandria from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The planetarium hosts variety of shows, the cosmic voyage and the oasis in space were the most beautiful ones. 

    Food was also important in Alexandria, especially when we could sit facing the Mediterranean and enjoy fresh seafood. A snack which we found interesting was ‘termis,’ roasted yellow beans served in paper cones; quite similar to our concept of ‘chana jor garam.’     Our days in Alexandria usually started with a stroll along the Corniche, enjoying the vast expanse of the sea and feeling the cool breeze all over and we ended the days with the sunset, mostly at the Fort walkway, listening to the roars of the waves and watching the bright sun dip in the horizon….absolutely majestic!!!

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