Alexandria Shenanigans

Alexandria Travel Blog

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This next post is about a weekend in Alexandria. But first I need to introduce myself.

My name is Brian Caperones and I am graduate student at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. I came to Cairo to volunteer with a program called Marhaba: Volunteers in the Middle East. Jamie who was in the same program as me informed me of this blog her and another student at her school co-founded and I was interested in document my experiences here in this blog.

On my first weekend with the Marhaba Crew we went on a group trip to Alexandria. We took the train from Ramses Station in the Downtown area to the Alexandria. On the way the train made various stops at villages and smaller cities en route to Alexandria. At some the stops people would get on the train and jump from car to car selling treats like Simsimmeya, Sudaneya, and Nuts. I bought a Simsimmeya, which is sesame seeds put in a hard sweet sugar and formed into a circle that is maybe ¼ inch thick. This was really good. The train was good because it gave the others and I a chance to see how the Egyptian terrain changes as you go from Cairo, which is a serious concrete jungle to a village on the Nile River Delta where there is a ton of agriculture. It was really nice to see greenery on the way in Egypt, which is a rare sight.

When we arrived in Alexandria we got off the train found some cabs and it took us to our hostel. Oh, The Hotel Normandy! This was the place we stayed I would not recommend this place to any!!! The bathrooms were extremely dirty. The rooms were a mess. One of the rooms had so many cockroaches that the people staying in it slept in a car. So in order for us to sleep in the place we had to take matters into our own hands. I will get back to this later.

After leaving our stuff at the hostel. We take cabs to the Montaza. This is a place on the beach in Alexandria where there is an old castle. There is also and also garden and lots of palm trees all over the place. It is basically a big park in on the coast in Alexandria. We came here to watch the sunset. Everywhere we went in Egypt was to watch the sunset it seemed. I don’t think I have seen more sunsets in my life that I saw in the 2 months I was in Egypt. As we were walking around the Montaza there were a lot of wedding parties taking pictures, as the place is very picturesque. A few of the wedding parties grabbed some of the blonde girls in our groups and made them take pictures with the bride and groom. This brings me to another point people in Egypt have a thing for blondes. Not just blonde women but blonde men too. It is really crazy as blondes walk down the street people stare, take pictures, and come talk to them.

After the sunset we walked to this restaurant in the Montaza and ate on the beach right next to the ocean. The food was so-so, but the scenery was awesome. At one point during the dinner the waves came up underneath the table. It was a really cool experience.

We went back to the Normandy and went to this famous café. The shisha here was really good I believe that made it there. It was probably the second best shisha in Egypt. (The best shisha in Egypt is at Groppi in Midan Roxy in Heliopolis.) Post shisha smoking and Turkish coffee drinking we went to this bar down the street from the Normandy. The bar was called the Mermaid (in translated Arabic the sign read The Meermaad.) The bar was really weird it should have been no more than a bar but they tried to make it into some kind of dance place. There were two speakers in the bar and there music selection was pretty terrible. But like in all bars/clubs in Egypt you are guaranteed to hear house music once it passes 2:00am and before that you will hear the song Suavemente. This song gets played anywhere and everywhere in Egypt. It is really funny after a while because you can almost start to guess when the song is coming. This was the same night Michael Jackson died, and when the news broke all of our friends from the states called or text us to let us know. We immediately told the “DJ” and he played the only Michael Jackson song he had. And then, “We danced the night away!” Well not really but one of us did, Efosa. Random Egyptian guys started challenging him to dancing competitions and obliterated the competition. During this dancing we figured we needed to be heavily intoxicated in order to sleep on the beds in the Normandy Hotel. We then shut the bar down and then chilled on the Corniche watching the waves smash against the rocks on the beach until about 4:00am.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to go to the Catacombs. This is a definite must for anyone who visits Alexandria. This is the site of an old burial tomb for a family that turned in to a burial tomb for the village. (Don’t quote me on the actual people who were buried here.) In the tomb there was an old Egyptian man who showed us around, but he didn’t speak any English. Luckily, in our group was Noura, who is Egyptian and translated the tour for us. The tour was awesome he took us to places that were still being discovered in the tomb and if anyone asked what we were doing he said we were part of the archeological team working in the catacombs. I think we made the guys week, because at the end we gave him a 100 LE tip for showing us around.

When we left the Catacombs we walked through the backstreets of Alexandria. Here we ran into many extremely nice Egyptians. People showed us how they made bread, juice, and a variety of other things. The people talked to us and wanted to know all about us and our thoughts of Egypt. This was truly Egypt here in these backstreets of Alexandria.

During our walk from the Catacombs to the train station to buy tickets back home it happened to be the same time as the Friday prayer. The Friday prayer rings out throughout the town from every mosque for about and hour in the Muslim world. It is a truly amazing experience hearing the Friday prayer every week. The devotion of the people who pray regularly is awesome. Everywhere you go you are reminded how Allah(it is how you say God in Arabic. And you use Allah regardless of your religion.) is present and with the people. When you tell a cab driver your destination he repeats it back to you and says inshallah, God willing. As we made our way to the train station you could hear the Imams preaching and the voices and tones changed.

When we finally came to the train station the entire place was shut down. People put down rugs to pray on and there were at least 500 people praying in the train station. We made it hear right at the end of the prayer and as I watched it was the closet I have ever felt to God. Something came over me that afternoon at the Alexandria train station. I was watching the prayer and I was taken back by the power in the room from the people all praying together. It brought tears to my eyes. This was by far the most unforgettable and awesome experience of my trip to Egypt. I couldn’t believe what I say and what heard at the end of the prayer. The entire room right end all shouted “Allah w Akbar!” (God is Great!) The room echoed from the people praying then fell to complete silence all I could do for a few minutes was sit there and stare in awe at what I just saw. Again the experience was a truly breathtaking.

From here we bought our tickets and went on to a fantastic lunch at the Greek Club by the Citadel. I had a grilled fresh that was just caught from the ocean. It was so fresh and very well prepared. The meal was great and so was the view from the restaurant as it overlooked the Mediterranean Sea from the balcony. I would recommend the Greek Club to all visitors of Alexandria. Thanks to Lonely Planet for the advice on the Greek Club.

After lunch Neha, Jamie, and I walked along the corniche back to the infamous Hotel Normandy. Along the way we checked out the scenery watched the people climbed the stone fence and sat on the rocks by the ocean, and I almost got impaled by a kid throwing a sharp stick into the air to knock of dates from a tree.

I would consider the trip to Alexandria a success. We made the best of what we had and saw some truly amazing things in the process.
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Alexandria Hotels & Accommodations review
Stay away from Hotel Normandy
This was probably the worst hotel/hostel I have ever stayed at in my entire life. The place was small. The beds sucked. The bathrooms were dirty, extr… read entire review
photo by: Nzelvis