Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Brief Pause - Will Continue With Cancun After New Year

Decorating the yard, putting up the tree, sprucing up last year's wreath, taking out the Holiday linens, changing the curtains and the beddings, writing down the menu, wrapping presents, and if I have a few minutes left go shop some more. It's the Holidays, and there seems to be chaos around me - every single year.

As I come up for air in the middle of gift wrapping, my mind wanders and my heart aches for a little alone time.

Artist rendering of Las Ramblas
[artist rendering of barcelona's las ramblas]

Okay so it's a little chaotic too, but this kind I can take and enjoy.

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Or maybe a little alone time - really alone time.

Nah, Holidays is for family. I will just have to suck it up and enjoy. There's always some eggnog to put me in the mood :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thank You Alexandria. Hope To See You Again.

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As we were about to enter the port (needs to sign out - sign in), I looked behind me and saw this sight. I found Alexandria very charming, even their streets not facing the waterfront.

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Also I spotted the Port Authority Museum, which we didn't visit.

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This is the way back to the ship - about a 15-minute walk from the gate.

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And what do you know, inside the port there was a outdoor marketplace selling jewelry, souvenir items, and knick knacks. I purchased a little souvenir for me - a pair of earrings.

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I liked the juxtaposition of Alexandria skyline and the end (can't remember my naval term) of the boat.

With this post, I bid Alexandria adieu. A new series next post.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Driving Back To The Port

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On the drive back to the port, we passed by a mosque.

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and an open air marketplace,

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and an unusual building - but what a beautiful blue sky as a backdrop, eh?

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Tried very hard to capture some street scenes from a moving vehicle.

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And another mosque.

When I was doing research on how to go about DIY tours of Rome, Athens, and Cairo/Alexandria, I stumbled on website after website full of warnings to tourists about how not to be taken advantage by taxi driver.

These sites cautioned the tourists to be aware of the scam that taxi drivers use to take advantage of people like us. They noted that only pay what you initially agreed upon at the beginning of the tour. And that if all else pays, yell POLICE.

When we agreed to take these two taxis among the six of us the agreement was 100 Egyptian pounds for 2 taxis. 50 pounds per taxi. Our driver spoke English, but there was another mediator who helped them understand the deal. They said yes. Of course, the deal was only a roundtrip to the Library. But as you see, we were taken to the Citadel and the Mosque.

When we were dropped off at the port, the fare became 100 euros per taxi. Yap! So the males in our group, most notably my husband, argued to stick to the initial agreement. So a bartering ensued. The drivers wanted more but our group steadfastly held on to the deal, which seriously is a steal.

And so we decided to give a little bit more since we were shown a few more sights than what was agreed upon. But the non-English speaking taxi driver was adamant that he be paid in euros, and 100 euros at that.

So we had to use the tactic that the internet and other previous travelers on travel forums suggested, we yelled POLICE and a mediator immediately appeared on our side. He inquired what the matter was and when both sides presented their sides, the mediator told us to pay whatever was initially agreed upon. Please do not be afraid to stand your ground.

In Barcelona, when a prospective pickpocket (a female no less) tried to snatch an Eastern European woman's backpack, she yelled POLICIA at the top of her lungs and the pickpocket and her accomplice disappeared in an alley so fast. We stopped to talk to the girl as she inspects if something was taken from her backpack - the zipper was open. And I asked if she read the forums advising people to yell POLICE, she smiled and said yes.

Monday, August 09, 2010

El-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque

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As we were heading back to the port, we passed by this imposing looking mosque. I can't remember if we asked our driver to stop or our friends from the other taxi stopped first to look, but we were given a few minutes to snap some photos.

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Shoot first - then check wikipedia later, isn't this the rule when traveling and seeing something foreign on your own without the help of a tour guide? So here's what wikipedia says about this mosque:

"El-Mursi Abul-Abbas Mosque (Arabic: جامع المرسي أبو العباس‎) is a famous mosque in Alexandria, Egypt, which is dedicated to the Alexandrine Sufi saint el-Mursi Abul Abbas.

It is located in the Anfoushi neighborhood of Alexandria, near the Citadel of Qaitbay.

The most important historic mosque inAlexandria, Egypt, as well as a very beautiful one, is considered to be that of Abu El Abbas El Mursi. Constructed in 1775 by Algerians, it was built over the tomb of the thirteenth century Murcia Andalusan saint, Ahmed Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi (Abu'l 'Abbas) who joined and then lead, as a devout Sufi, the Shadhali brotherhood. Abu El Abbas El Mursi is in himself a very interesting story."

Read more here.

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The gate was open, we came inside a bit but didn't go farther than a foot or so of the opened gate. We felt we were intruding. I didn't think there was service at that time.

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This is the street scene just outside of the serene looking mosque inside its compound.

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And this is what faces the mosque, a beautiful view of the sea. I have seen plenty of people on this trip walking around the streets selling postcards like this one in this photo. I saw some in Athens too.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Citadel of Qaitbay 2

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Our taxi drivers were amenable to our wishes, we pushed our luck and asked them to show us the Citadel. They both agreed. However, we knew that we didn't have time to explore the interiors because that was not part of the initial agreement.

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We found a makeshift bazaar outside of the Citadel plying all kinds of stuff that I would love to take home.

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Browsing at the merchandise, bartering, not getting good price, moving on to the next stall which sells the same exact selection. Eventually we found one to take home.

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The bazaar was set in a picturesque setting. I would love to return to Alexandria someday.

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With regards to my Flickr problem, you would notice here that it is solved. I think the site was having problems that first day they launched the new page, because I read from their forum that other people were having the same problems I had - the html link to my photo were not visible, hence I wasn't able to post more than one photo in this blog - because the "blog this" function only allows for one photo per blog post. Needless to say, I am a happy camper once again.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Citadel of Qaitbay


3282, originally uploaded by M'roy.

The Citadel of Qaitbay [Fort of Qaitbay] is a15th century defensive fortress located on the Mediterrranean sea coast and built upon/from the ruins of the Lighthouse of Alexandria - which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

When we were on the boat before disembarking for the day, my husband and I spotted a lighthouse (no kidding). From the deck we could see a lighthouse in the direction of the citadel.

So imagine my confusion when I walked up to the Information desk inside the library to ask how I could go to visit the lighthouse. The man behind the desk politely informed me that "the lighthouse" no longer existed and there is no other lighthouse in Alexandria. He added that the Citadel is worth a visit though. And volunteered the information that the government is working on rebuilding the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria. Were we seeing things? I swear my hubs and I saw a lighthouse and thought I'd snapped one - for Ginnie.

Anyone have Flickr and are posting from Flickr? I store my photos here. Today they unfurled their new page layout and along with this I found that I could'nt blog as many photos as I can - just like the way I did in the past, during the old page days. If anyone who uses flickr for blogging has found a way to post multiple images on their blog, I'd really need to speak to you.

So while I sort this out, it looks like one photo a day this will revert to.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Shots By The Corniche

The Corniche offers great views from the taxi ride from the Library on the way to the Citadel, which is the western end of the Corniche. These sights leave no question as to why Alexandria is a popular summer resort spot for many people coming from other parts of Egypt and the Middle East. And since this is not America, our driver pulled over the side of the street and allowed us to quickly leap out and take our shot.



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.