Monday, December 11

Day Trip to Alexandria

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Must have been more tired than I thought. After breakfast, we set off for the City to spend the morning around the famous library. Alexandria in it’s heyday was a centre for knowledge and learning, some of the most respected of thinkers and churchmen based themselves here, and over time, a great library of 700,000 books was accumulated. Then one day in the 3rd century, it all was destroyed by fire. An unimaginable loss to the history of the written word.

To reclaim some of the standing of earlier days, the ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina’ was opened in 2002. An impressive, huge and stylish building, a fitting piece of modern architecture to house the current library of books. As with most modern architecture, I marvel at, more than love it, but it is an undeniably stunning piece of work, perfectly at home in this city of such class and heritage. The intention is for the library to house and restore manuscripts and rare books from Egypt, and the arab world.

Around the library there were hundreds of students milling, sitting, walking and watching. This is a place to gather and ‘to be seen’. Here, we met many young and educated Egyptians at leisure and very keen to try out their English. It is a shame that our Arabic is so poor. Conversations across the barriers of language and culture are something of a struggle, but, when both parties are keen to communicate, there is a definite sense of getting through. 

The rest of the day was chock full visiting places of public interest and political significance. There was an old gate tower from the Islamic period with some added roman remains. All rather shabby now and not too well cared for, but again, it was a place for people to sit, talk and meet. I heard the sound of singing, thought maybe some angels had shown up. It was a lovely sound to hear in a public place. 

Then a gang of guys appeared. they were up to 20 years old. They at first seemed quite intimidating but after a short time were friendly enough. I think they were making fun of us a little, but no matter, it was all good fun.

Took the tram to the railway station and from there, we find the coach station. Tomorrow at 7.30 am. we take the coach up to Cairo and the pyramids! Pretty cool eh! well perhaps not, – it’s reckoned to be much hotter in Cairo than here in Alex. Walked back to base, and tea. Early start tomorrow, so an early night for all. Good night!

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