August 15, 2011

Alexandria, 1/7/04

The fifth journal entry from my trip to Egypt in 2004

We arrived at Station Masr in Alexandria around 1:30 PM yesterday. The walk to the hotel appeared straightforward from the map, so I led us from the station, first right and then up towards the ocean. Except, we ended up walking for an hour and a half through working class neighborhoods.

Children and adults greeted us with English, Arabic and waves. The daily activities were ours to witness alone -- we did not see a single tourist. Eventually, we reached a small waterway and I was confused. I did not recall any water ways on the straightforward walk. We consulted the book once more and found that we'd walked to the opposite side of the peninsula. Several older men in robes to their sandals convened to help us. We found the square we were looking for in the book and repeated the name to taxi drivers. Eventually one of older men took us as his cause, hailed a cab and arranged our transport.

R tried to tip the older man 1 Egyptian Pound, but he said, "La, hamsa!" which means, "No, Five!" So, R counted out 5 ones and gave them to the man, assuming they were baksheesh. But, instead, the man handed them to the driver, paying our fare as we drove away. It was an adorable gesture.

From the backseat of the cab, we retreated through the neighborhoods we'd walked. We stopped to pick up what appeared to be one of the taxi driver's friends, who got out to get some money from the vegetable vendor in a quick handshake exchange. We dropped the friend at his destination and then finally, we made it to Midan Sa'ab Zhaglou.

We walked to the great library of Alexandria, but it was closed, so we enjoyed the view from a cafe and walked back to our hotel.

After a brief break at the hotel, we finally found a great meal in Egypt. Thus far, the food has been nothing to write about: dry pita-like bread and bland uninspired combinations of meat and vegetables. The guide book sent us to Restaurant Denis, a greek-style fish bar, and we were thrilled.

First we were shown a platter of frozen/fresh perch, trout, and calamari. We selected the calamari and perch. It was some of the best fried fish I've ever had and it was served with tahini, tomatoes and onions, fuul, pickled radishes and pommes frites. It was the best calamari I've ever had. We ate and drank stella until we were going to explode and then we stumbled home and fell asleep by 10 PM. It was a fabulous way to finish a day of Egyptian perfection.

Today we are off to Siwa.

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