Friday, July 30, 2010

Art

Inside the library, works of art are scattered everywhere. The marker says: Demetrius Phalereus (350-280 BC). The inspirer of the foundation of the Ancient Library.

Here are more works of art I noticed inside the library. Enjoy














This one is designed like a flowing, hanging curtain. Very pretty.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The library in Alexandria is a aesthetically awesome. The moment we alighted the taxi and walked up to the entrance, I felt a simmering energy just under the surface. I was very excited to visit it.

The entrance and the interesting facade. A Norwegian Architecture firm won the rights to design the rebuilding of the library.
There is a small entrance fee. I can't remember how much it was, but it was worth whatever I paid for. And there was a free tour in English, which we didn't know they provide. Just ask the front desk for the time of tour. We didn't really know but we asked if a tour was available. This was an interesting tour - about 30 minutes long.
This is the roof from outside, all glass, and being cleaned. All these glass give out natural light to the interiors.
This is the roof from the street level. It is designed to imitate the rising sun. The architectural design is indeed pretty elaborate.
We walked up and down the stairs - to get some photos - after the tour.
It's huge. HUGE and so bright and airy.
From Wiki:

The dimensions of the project are vast: the library has shelf space for eight million books, with the main reading room covering 70,000 m² on eleven cascading levels. The complex also houses a conference center; specialized libraries for maps, multimedia, the blind and visually impaired, young people, and for children; four museums; four art galleries for temporary exhibitions; 15 permanent exhibitions; a planetarium (pictured above); and a manuscript restoration laboratory. The library's architecture is equally striking. The main reading room stands beneath a 32-meter-high glass-panelled roof, tilted out toward the sea like a sundial, and measuring some 160 m in diameter. The walls are of gray Aswan granite, carved with characters from 120 different human scripts.

The collections at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina were donated from all over the world. The Spanish donated documents that detailed their period of Moorish rule. The French also donated, giving the library documents dealing with the building of the Suez Canal.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina maintains the only copy and external backup of the Internet Archive.


PERSONAL NOTE/ANECDOTE:

After the guided tour and our personal tour and photography sessions, we found there was plenty of time left. And while I was lingering on the art installations, my fellow travelers were up on the front desk requesting computer access. Apparently the library allows for a free hour computer use. Since I was eager to check in with my family, I went up to see a line has formed for the access. My gal pals were at the head of the line and I was at the very end. Then all of a sudden the first Egyptian girl (college age) walked to where I was standing and grabbed my arm and spoke to me - while pulling me to the front of the line. I politely said I wouldn't mind waiting my turn. She spoke to everyone behind her in line (all girls - separate lines for male and female) and everyone smiled and voiced no objections. I couldn't say no after that. Not even the woman behind the counter giving the access said anything, just handed me the access code. That was very sweet of them. I don't know if they do that for everybody, but I was the receiving end of random act of kindness and it felt good.

When I located the computer that was assigned to me, I saw two older gentlemen sitting at the table. I politely asked them to use the computer. They asked for my permit. They carefully inspected the paper I handed to them making sure I was at the right station. Then they asked me where I was from. When I said America they smiled and said, NO, where I was originally. :)

Their curiosity has been satisfied, they left me and my husband alone to check in with family and friends. Guess what? Email is blocked. But not FACEBOOK. So from the library computers, my traveling companions and I became facebook friends.

I believe one of the comments I received in this series is if my travel companions and I have contact. Yes we do is the answer. And the funny thing is my husband and I received travel dates with two different couples. I was floored. I asked my husband if we're that fun to travel with. I think it's my husband they wanted on their team because he not only has a great sense of direction, his common sense and adventurous nature make traveling fun.

Read up on the library here.




Monday, July 26, 2010

Waking Up In Alexandria

....for the second day in a row to sunshine and mild temperature was wonderful. This is the only port in this cruise that we stayed two days in one port. The reason is Cairo and the magnificent pyramids. One of the tours/excursions that the cruise ship offers is an overnight stay in Cairo to watch the light show in Giza. For many like us decided to see both Cairo and Alexandria.
I am curious about Alexandria and excited to pieces because I was baptized in and attended a Catholic church whose patron saint is St. Catherine of Alexandria. However, my husband and I did no research of the must-sees in Alexandria outside of the Library of Alexandria. We decided to go with the flow and be spontaneous in this beautiful coastal city.

At breakfast we bumped into four of our travelling companions from Cairo. After a bit of chit chats over coffee and bacon and eggs, we found out that they too didn't have any plans at all, but only wanted to check out the Library. A plan was made to have all 6 of us hire a taxi to take us to the Library. Split the cost and strength in numbers in a foreign city.

When we drove to the train station to go to Cairo yesterday I noted how clean the streets were, how fascinating the buildings were and since I was very interested in snapping as many windows shots as I could, I thought that today would be the day I would be indulging in my passion. Although the drive from the port to the Library took only about 20 minutes, I managed to snap as much windows as I could from the taxi.

Our taxi driver (we took two taxis, 3 each) was conversant in English. Well passable English. He pointed out interesting sights along the way and was very proud to inform us that this hotel is a 4-star hotel and the site of a James Bond movie. He did not specify which movie. I am not familiar with all the James Bond movies. Can someone tell if this was in a James Bond movie? Not that it's important.

The first image he said is the department where people get their divorce filed and finalized :), adding that it's crowded again :D.

This is also my post for WINDOW VIEWS AND DOORS TOO (#31)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goodbye Cairo - It's Been One Amazing Day

We crossed the street to find the roadway being shared by motorized and nonmotorized mode of transportation and the Colonel's mug across the street. The reason why Iman our tour guide took us to this street - across from the Sphinx - is to have some eats. Now we didn't know that we were eating. With the exception of AJ, no one wanted to eat. We all voted on eating versus shopping and AJ was outvoted 11 to 1. So Iman was left with no choice but to summon our bus to take us to the next stop. I believe Iman's company has some agreement with this establishment to bring tourists in after a visit to Giza.
And while walking I spotted this Guest House just across from the Sphinx. The reason is that however want to stay here, I am sure you would have a good view from your window of the light show on the Pyramids. You don't have to pay to see the light show, don't you think so?

We drove by around 20 minutes and was dropped off to a nondescript stone/cement building. I didn't see the sign outside, but we were told we would be stopping at a Papyrus store. Another stop that we didn't anticipate but was welcomed by everyone on the tour. I was interested in seeing the store and browse at their merchandise. What I didn't expect yet was so glad to find is a free demonstration on how papyrus is made. Now this is where I videoclipped the whole presentation, a 7-minute long show that neither Flickr nor Youtube wouldn't accept :(. I will find a way to upload that video because it's truly interesting and educational. By hook or by crook I'd show it all to you - someday.

You see that plant that the guy is showing? That's what's used to make papyrus and the ones behind him are the papyrus for sale. There were different designs, both large and small, from historical Egyptian landscapes and gods and deities to Christian scenes of The Last Supper and Madonna and Child and everything in between.

Would you believe I didn't get tempted to buy anything? I'm kicking myself in the butt now. I missed the chance to get a souvenir here. Truth be told, I wanted a whole bunch. A whole bunch. Split second decision was made in the store - all or nothing - and I walked away with nothing but memories and photographs.
And finally after all the purchases were made at the papyrus store, we drove to the famous Khan El Kahlili market, their premier bazaar. Inside the bazaar is an air-conditioned shop - mall like - that's called shopping center, that's where the sign was snapped.


We were dropped at the entrance - this side by the square - by Iman and was told to meet her here in one hour. One hour to shop. I felt rushed. Too many things to see. Too many sounds and smells to take in at one time. Too many shiny things. Shopkeepers tugging at your shirt. And prices were high for my taste. Too touristy. Didn't see any single Egyptian-looking buyer/shopper while we were there. Darn tourists, they drive the prices way too high :D

Eventually we snagged some small souvenirs - the usual magnets - and then decided to quit shopping. Along the entry, you'd find a row of eateries with outdoor seating. Hubs and I agreed that it's time to eat. It's late and outside of the banana and cookie we had outside of the Museum of Antiquities while waiting for the bus, we didn't have anything else to eat and he was eager to sample some real Egyptian eats. So was I. So we chose one of those eateries and sat outdoors watching other tourists eat and take pictures while they eat. Ambulant vendors come and bug you to buy their products. Part of the experience I'd say.

We ordered one "combo meal". Yes they do have that. It's a kofta with pita bread, green salad, and french fries. Yes, french fries I kid you not!!!!! We also ordered coffee, they know how to make coffee out there.

The food was delicious and filling. We just had to chew fast and hard because from where we were eating we could spot our group already congregating at the meeting place ready to leave.

I am sad that I didn't really experience the bazaar in its entirety and in daylight.

The bazaar was on the other side of the train station, Ramses station, and we had to hurry and catch our 9 pm Express train. On the way we passed by vibrant Cairo city life. Streets shimmering in the glow of incandescent bulbs. People everywhere, walking on the sidewalks, on the roadway, shopping. Then we passed by a city block that looked as if it got converted into an open air market at night. I've never seen so many people in one place before where there are no opposing teams vying for the ball. It was madness and I would love to be in the middle of it all.

Cairo - I barely scratch the surface, actually not even that. I just had a whiff of your charm. I want to go back and visit with you again. May I?

Without our Arabic-speaking friends who opted to stay overnight in Cairo, we easily managed to get first-class train tickets by approaching a tourist police. It was past midnight when we arrived back in Alexandria, hungry, tired, and sticky, but fulfilled.

Alexandria is next so tune in.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More From Giza

I would have loved a carriage ride, wouldn't you?
Did no do the camel ride, wasn't too crazy about it.
Really hard to turn one's back and walk away from the pyramids, believe you me.
Lucky we didn't find the place too crowded.
On many many images online and on magazines, I have seen the Sphinx in vivid color. This is how I saw it, bland and lifeless. I was a bit disappointed. It must be the lighting. This was dusk. I don't know how it got dark too quickly from the pyramids ride to here, is not even 5 minutes.
The sun was starting to go down and the light wasn't really complementary to the Sphinx I thought.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Silence While I Enjoy The Scenery





I stepped out of the tour bus and did not hear anything else. I wasn't even listening to Iman describe and educate us about the pyramids. My eyes appeared to have protruded out of their sockets. I just looked and looked.

So if you want to know more about the pyramids at Giza, our friendly wikipedia has this comprehensive page.

For a personal take on the Giza pyramids, fellow blogger Dennis of Nomadic Pinoy has this to say here.

This post also is my entry to this week's:

SKYWATCH #99: Egypt.

PHOTO HUNT #91: Triangle

PS. I just realized this also happens to my by 900th post. Yay!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ah Giza

We eventually got on our way. We traveled 27 km from Cairo to Giza passing by one exotic street scene to another. The scene was so fascinating and so new to me that taking pictures didn't really occur to me at all. And we for a little bit we were driving by alongside the Nile River. This would be my only sighting of the historic body of water.
Not too long we caught a glimpse of those beautiful peaks.
Passed by Giza where we saw camels alongside motorized vehicles sharing the roadway.
Arrived in Giza. This is our much improved vehicle from the one that we initially had. This one had extra seats, so I'm guessing this one's an 18-seater. The air conditioning is such a pleasure. Likewise are the clean windows for us tourists who snap while the bus moves along.
Ticketbox. Get tickets before entering, part of the tour fees.

Note: I have been having technical difficulties with firewall and proxy servers. I have taken video clips from this trip but somehow has been unable to upload them on Flickr, Facebook, and You Tube, which causes me too much distress. Giving my husband reason to call me Drama Queen.

Is there anyone who can tell me what to do when my videos don't upload and I get an error that says: Unknown error occurs. My files are AVI and MVI.

I really really wanted to share with you this one particular video. If I cannot overcome this hurdle, I will have to suspend one posting for this series.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

To The Museum

~continued from previous post~

The driver was accompanied by Iman, who acted as our tour guide. She was a very charming young woman in her twenties and conversant in English. I totally loved her accent, although according to Amanda she can be quite abrasive. You know keeping true to the time limit and not giving in to our propensity to drag our heels.

I was lucky to be riding the front seat with Iman when we set off from Ramses station to the museum, but we first stopped at a foreign exchange station and we got some much needed lira for our tour. Money problems solved, a bit.


Upon arrival at the Museum of Antiquities, the driver wanted to collect all the money for the tour. Half of us didn’t pay yet. We thought keeping our money until after the tour is over is our bargaining chip, that we won’t be abandoned in the middle of the desert or something. You hear all these crazy stories - horror stories - about travelers being duped and abandoned and robbed. You know all those things. But the driver played hardball with us too. He said that since AJ and Monica reserved the tour, he can take them to do the tour. Now it’s our choice whether we wanted to go on the tour and if we did, then pay upfront or hit the road. Haha. Apparently, he’s had bad experiences with tourists running out on him after doing the tour. Well, what else could we do, we paid up.

The entrance fee to the museum was part of the tour fee. But cameras are strictly forbidden inside the museum. There is a place to leave one’s bags and cameras and we had no choice but to avail of the service.

The Museum of Antiquities was an amazing building. The exhibits were both fascinating and mind boggling. A Disneyland for history lovers and archeology buffs. I am neither but I could easily spend a whole week browsing through the many many display tables and statues and relics and jewelry and oh everything else there.

I thought the time we spent in the museum was very limited. I guess, Iman allotted just one hour for the tour and she had to stick to the schedule. She however was very knowledgeable, or at least she played the part of a tour guide really well. I found out that even NCL tour only allotted one hour in this place.

When we left the museum we had to wait for our driver. In the meantime, we ate whatever goodies we brought from the ship, fruits and cookies. And when he arrived, he was bringing an 18-seater minibus, air-conditioned and quite impressive. We were all happy to be having enough room to complete this tour.

Here are some random images. All from outside as no cameras are allowed inside

I can't believe I didn't get a better shot. The day we were there it was crowded.
Cleopatra is this you?
Being an alumna of the Pink-walled university, I am partial to anything pink. I especially thought bringing the same color to the fence was brilliant.
Date built?
Date completed?
While waiting for our transportation, we gathered around for a souvenir group shot.

For more comprehensive information, fellow blogger Nomadic Pinoy covered the same visit to the Museum in his post seen here.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Egypt Here I Come

November 20, 2009

It’s another sea day. We talked to every body about our plans for Cairo the next day. In our group meeting were Colleen and Ron, Amanda and Dave, Maiada and Najwa and us. I cant remember much what we did today to be honest with you.

Train station in Alexandria, Egypt as we were getting ready to board the train.

November 21, 2009

It’s our Cairo Trip today.

We agreed yesterday that we would meet at deck 5 at quarter to 7 so we could go to the train station to catch the 8:15 am express train. We didn’t get out of the boat until after 7. We took two taxis and reached Alexandria station. At the station, we chanced upon AJ and Monica waiting for the train. We agreed to go with them. Then Najwa went to get our tickets, but there was a delay as the computer system was down so they had to handwrite all our tickets in maybe a 3 x 2 inches cardboard, really funny.

After the tickets were purchased we learned that there is no 8:15 train, but there was an express train at 9 am, which we were hoping would take 2.5 hours to Cairo - took a total of 3 hours, just like taking the bus. At the train station right before we went to get our tickets, we were approached by some men who wanted to take us to Cairo for a reasonable price, but Maiada was not comfortable with the situation. So we all agreed for our safety, the train is the best bet. When we spoke with AJ and Monica we learned they arranged for a tour in Cairo in the amount of 70 US dollars. We told him if he could get them to take us too, it would also mean that the price they would pay would mean less, right?

Inside the first class cabin.


We found the train and boarded the first class cabin. It’s not really first class quality by Western standards, but it’s good enough. Inside the car we also found French Canadian couple who belong to our cruise. The main players (Roy, Maiada, French guy, and Najwa) were discussing logistics quite loudly, that garnered the ire of one local and he was not shy to let us know about it. He approached Maiada who I believe he heard speak Arabic and aired his complaints in Arabic, which Maiada translated for all of us as - "Keep it down, I'm trying to get some zzzz here." Me I just was too happy for this brand-new experience. I was watching the passing scenery. I couldn't keep count of the number of mosques we passed by. Mostly the scenery was rural. The restroom was another experience altogether. I’d rather have the squat toilets in Malaysia than this urine smelling awful toilet, but I’d chalked it up to experience of course.

Reaping Egyptian cotton.

When the train reached Ramses station in Cairo, Hubby spotted the Tourist Information. He asked about where to get some money exchange. The lady behind the counter was friendly and spoke good English. She told us that outside the square (Ramses Square) there is a mosque and to the left of it is a Forex foreign exchange. Needing some Egyptian pounds really badly, we went outside to find the place. Maiada and Dave went with us. Finding the mosque was easier said than done. When we went outside the train station and walked a few feet, there was a very busy main road and there was more than one mosque. The main road was fenched off so in order to cross it we had to walk a few feet to the left to cross, such a hassle. Hence, Maiada said there is mosque everywhere and we don’t know which one the tourist lady was talking about.

Inside the station there were ATM machines, about 4 of them I think. We tried to get some dollars, but our card was not accepted. Frustrated at not being able to withdraw some money, we kept trying on different machines, but all were failures. I really got worried because we did not have enough cash to go around. This got me down and ruined my day quite a bit. I was thinking of doing some serious shopping in Cairo when we go to the flea market. But well, I was going to roll with it. (We notified our banks that we would be going to Europe around the Mediterranean area from date a to date b and will be using the card. They wanted us to specify that at date so and so we would be at this particular city. That was the cause of the confusion with our bank/credit cards - sigh!)

When the negotiations for the amount of money needed to take the tour was completed with the people that AJ and Monica signed up with, we were ushered in a minivan for 7 people at the most and there were 12 of us. We had to make do with the cramped seating until after we got to the Museum of Antiquities, where the driver will fetch a bigger transportation for us while we visit the museum. Anyway, the amount agreed for the tour was 275 Egyptian Lira, which equals to 55 US dollars. Not really bad considering the amount quoted by NCL official tour was three times the amount.

Arriving at Ramses station in Cairo - busy station - while others were trying to negotiate with pricing for the tour, I was shooting.

This Egypt series is part of the Mediterranean cruise we took last November. I know I am way behind in posting.