By Aiah Yassin
Alexandria has a more of a Mediterranean vibe than an Arabian ambiance compared to the rest of the great Egyptian cities. It is the second largest city in Egypt and extends 20 miles along the Mediterranean coast. Many tourists overlook this city and prefer to visit the more touristy areas of Luxor or Sharm el Shiekh; however, a trip to Egypt cannot be complete without visiting the magical city of Alexandria.
Here are five reasons why we think the city of Alexandria should not be overlooked:
Before Cairo, Alexandria was Egypt’s Capital for thousands of years. It is nestled on the Mediterranean, which offers very convenient access to Europe and the rest of Africa. It is the home to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the Library of Alexandria) and to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which are both considered Ancient World Wonders. The city has Roman, Greek, and Arab influences which can be seen through the picturesque architecture and through the culture. Most importantly, Alexandria is the backdrop of Cleopatra’s and Mark Anthony's great love affair which later was the inspiration for Shakespeare’s masterpiece “Anthony and Cleopatra.” For a more Roman feel, visit the Roman Amphitheatre and enjoy the best acoustic concerts during the lively nights of Alexandria.
For breakfast, enjoy a cup of aromatic coffee at the Brazilian Coffee Roasters downtown, where you will get a whiff of the coffee on your way to the shop before you can even see it. For lunch, highly suggested is the “Singary” fish (fish fillet), which is stuffed with veggies and cooked on charcoal. Due to its location along the Mediterranean coast, Alexandria is renown for its freshly caught seafood but if you tend to shy away from such cuisine, fear not: Alexandria is also known for the falafel sandwich complemented with fresh tomatoes and Tahini sauce. For desert, rice pudding with a sprinkle of hazelnut and raisins topped off with milk ice cream is a must and an Alexandria specialty. In the hot Summer months, stay cool with the icy cold red “Einnab” or Karkade flower drink, very thirst-quenching!
Alexandria's beaches feature beautiful warm white sand, where you can enjoy a swim or work on your tan. If you are more adventurous and have your PADI license, then definitely scuba dive and explore the sunken city ruins of the Alexandria. The smell of iodine salty Mediterranean water all over city will make you long for Alexandria when you leave. One hour west of Alexandria is the honeymoon town of Marsa Matrouh, where the most famous beach is Cleopatra’s beach; yes, the queen actually spent a lot of time swimming there! It is clear water surrounded by rocks where, according to the legendary stories, Cleopatra came to bathe with her lover Mark Anthony. Rumors have it that there is a subterranean passage leading from Cleopatra’s villa to the beach, perhaps for night swims!
(4) Location, Location, Location
The amazing thing about Alexandria is how close it is to many of the must see attractions throughout Egypt. It is only a 2 hour train ride from Downtown Cairo to the El Raml Station in Alexandria. The cost of this 250km (160 miles) train ride is only about $10. If you still want to venture out of Alexandria then head 250 Km east of Marsa Matrouh. One of the most magical places in Marsa Matrouh is "Ageeba" Beach which means "unreal", and it is just that... unreal. There are also many cruises that leave for Greece from the marina in Alexandria, but that's only for after you have taken in all that Egypt has to offer.
The best thing about Alexandria, especially for backpackers, is that inexpensive compared to other cities in Egypt. There are vast accommodation options for you when visiting Alexandria. All furnished apartments along the beaches are for rent for about $30 a night or you can rent by week. As for really affordable prices, book your room at Hotel Transit Alexandria for $14 a night. The Hotel is about 10 minutes walk to the Library of Alexandria, surrounded by famous restaurants and cafes, and it is next to Hotel Cecil in Raml Station downtown Alexandria.
Alexandria is a place to live and walk like an Egyptian. For a relaxing and enjoyable trip to Egypt, designate some time to this magical city and who knows, you might catch some love from its air.