Table of Contents
- 1 Feel the Nostalgia
- 2 Our Perception of Alexandria
- 3 Discovering the Historical Side of Alexandria
- 3.1 Sights & Attractions
- 3.2 Museum of Royal Jewellery
- 3.3 The Roman Auditorium “Theatre” & Bathhouse
- 3.4 The Opera of Sayed Darwish
- 3.5 Citadel/Fort of Qaitbay
- 3.6 Bibliotheca Alexandrina & the Planetarium Science Center
- 3.7 Stanley Bridge
- 4 Other attractions to visit next time
- 5 The delicious side of Alexandria
- 6 Places I definitely want to go to
- 7 Where to stay
Last March, to celebrate my birthday, I decided to go to Alexandria on my first visit in almost 4-5 years, maybe more. Alexandria represents my childhood; where we used to spend our summer vacations at my grandparents’ ground floor flat in Ma’moura.
Feel the Nostalgia
Every time my dad took us on a road-trip to Alexandria, as soon as we approached the corniche, my mum would wake me & my sister up, telling us: girls open your windows to smell the sea, -but this time the smell was not there, sigh.
Back then our daily routine would be to wake up in the early morning to the smell of freshly made/bought ful -fava beans- & ta’meyah -falafel- brought from the souq, Egyptian pita bread, zalabya (aka Loukoumades/Lokma/Greek Donuts) and sawabe’ zeinab for dessert. My parents & grandparents would drink their tea, dad, and grandpa -may his soul rest in heavenly peace- would sit on the balcony to play Tawla, while me, my sister, & cousins -if traveling with us- would play in the garden, before starting to get ready around 10 AM to head to the beach, sometimes we’d go to Ma’moura beach, other times we’d go to Aida beach at El-Montazah Palace & gardens. For the night, we’d rent bikes & ride them in Ma’moura, eat grilled corn while walking its corniche, stay home to play cards, or in the garden, go to Ma’moura Souq to buy our favorite comics Flash & Ragol Al Mostahil, or the latest Amr Diab, Mostafa Amar & Ehab Tawfik’s tapes.
As we grew, we only went to Aida beach, where we’d spend the day on the beach, then have lunch with our relatives at their beach cabin or eat some fruits & sandwiches on the beach, drink tea and eat Sablé while watching the sunset. For the night, mum would take us on a car ride on the corniche, or at El-Montazah Gardens, buy ice cream from Azza if we felt like it, or Feteer -the Egyptian version of pizza made from a totally different dough, served salty or sweet- from Moudy in Khaled Ebn El Walid Street.
My train ticket from Cairo to Alexandria
But never did we go to any of its sights or attractions, Alexandria & Agamy have always been the ultimate summer escape from Cairo‘s heat, traffic, & chaos.
Our Perception of Alexandria
Is being Egypt’s food capital, people always think of Alexandria as a place to eat, with endless choices of street-food and fine-dining, setting targets before arrival to try as many venues as possible, liver sandwiches from Kebdet Alfallah, Ful & Fried Cheese from Ful Mohamed Ahmed, Seafood at the Greek Club, or be more adventurous and go to Asmak El-Lol at El-Maks, Ice Cream from Jelaty Azza, cheese sandwiches from Alban Swissera, juice from Makka juices, sweet couscous from El Nezami, etc, forgetting that this Mediterranean city founded by Alexander the Great, was the second most powerful city after Rome, housed the Lighthouse of Alexandria one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Library of Alexandria the biggest in the ancient world, now replaced with the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the Catacombs of Kom El-Shoqafa one of the seven wonders of the medieval world.
It has witnessed some of Egypt’s most important & moving historical events dating back to the Pharaohs, Romans, Greeks, and more.
Discovering the Historical Side of Alexandria
I went for 4 days to visit my Alexandrian friend, who was a tourist as I am, with almost zero navigation skills -sorry Dina not sorry, haha-, so we got to discover the touristic side of Alexandria that we’ve never seen before.
Ramses Station in Cairo by Nesreen El Molla
You can easily take a day trip from Cairo to Alexandria, and enjoy what this beautiful city has to offer.
Sights & Attractions
A sad thing I noticed about Alexandria is that getting to tourist sights is no easy task -same case as Cairo, hehe- however Cairo roads are “at least” better maintained, another negative aspect is; once you leave the corniche area or whichever area facing it, you’d be surrounded by street vendors, in a place that is pretty chaotic. Museums and sights are not very well maintained or taken care of.
The Catacombs of Qom El Shoqafa
A necropolis dating back to the Ancient Egyptians with Hellenistic -relating to Greek history- & early Imperial Roman influences, you’d see Egyptian statues with Roman clothes, or in Greek style.
Colored wall paintings at Qom El-Shoqafa
The necropolis was supposed to be the burial place for one family, however upon excavation -legends say after a donkey fell in the necropolis-, it had plenty of space to host more than that. It was discovered in 1900, used as a burial place between the 2nd & 4th century AD.
Inside the Catacombs of Qom El Shokafa by Nesreen El Molla
- EGP 10 for Egyptians/ EGP 5 for students
- EGP 60 for foreigners/ EGP 30 for students
The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
Pompei’s Pillar & the Temple of Serapeum
The whole area is known as Amoud El-Sawari, home to Pompei’s Pillar; a massive almost 30 meters high column, made from one single piece of red granite brought from Aswan. It is the longest “of its kind” pillar outside Rome & Constantinople.
As for the Temple of Serapeum, it was once the biggest and most impressive Greek temple in Alexandria, unfortunately, destructed, reconstructed & plundered several times, it housed a large collection of books of the ancient Library of Alexandria.
Entry to Pompei’s Pillar & the Serapium Temple
- EGP 10 for Egyptians/ EGP 5 for students
- EGP 50 for foreigners/ EGP 25 for students
El-Montaza Palace & Gardens
Built under the reign of Khedive -Khedive; was a title given to the person who governs Egypt under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the equivalent of Viceroy in the UK- Abbas Helmy in 1892 as a summer residence, after the Egyptian Royal Family took over they took good care of the Montazah Gardens & Palaces, and used them as a summer escape too for the Royal Family & their visitors. But after the 1952 Revolution, and the abdication of King Farouk I, the Montazah has become open to the public.
El-Haramlek Palace by Dennis Jarvis
The Montaza Palace Complex;
- El-Salamlek Palace: the first to be built in the complex, used as a hunting lodge & a residence for the Khedive’s hunting fellows, also a place to receive male guests. Is now a luxury hotel under the name El-Salamlek Palace & Casino
- El-Haramlek Palace: once used as a residence for women of the palace, where men were not allowed, later used as an office for the King. It is currently under renovation till God knows when, most of it is used as a presidential palace -off limit to visitors-, but some parts are open to the public showcasing a collection of the Royal Family’s pieces of art & history.
So your best bet is to walk the gardens, or discover them on a car ride, which is a real pleasure, there are several venues to hang out from cafes to fine-dining. El-Montazah bridge is also worth walking over to watch the sunset.
You can’t walk the bridge after sunset, if you want to get to Zanili Café, a golf car will give you a lift free of charge.
- EGP 15 per person
- EGP 15 per car
Museum of Royal Jewellery
This luxurious palace turned into a museum of some of the Royal Family’s finest collection of Jewellery is a blast from the past, that give you snippets of how elegant & classy Egypt once was -sigh.
Entry to the Royal Jewellery Museum
- For Egyptians: EGP 25 / For students: EGP 15
- For foreigners: EGP 80/ For students: EGP 40
The Roman Auditorium “Theatre” & Bathhouse
The most well-maintained sight, I’ve seen in Alexandria.
Roman Auditorium & Bathhouse in Alexandria
This site housed an auditorium/theatre, a Roman bathhouse, in addition to a house and a workshop. The sight reminded me so much of the ruins at Delos Island in Greece.
A typical Roman house
- For Egyptians: EGP 10 / For students: EGP 5
- For foreigners: EGP 60/ For students: EGP 30
The Opera of Sayed Darwish
You can find the schedule here.
Sayed Darwish Opera House
Citadel/Fort of Qaitbay
Established in the 15th century by the Mamluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Seif El-Din Qaitbay in the same location where the Lighthouse of Alexandria -one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, destroyed by several earthquakes- once was. The Citadel/Fort doesn’t only protect Alexandria, or Egypt, but is considered one of the most significant defensive strongholds along the Mediterranean coast. During his reign, King Farouk I of Egypt ordered the restoration of the citadel to use it as a Royal rest house, in 1952 after the Revolution it was turned into a Maritime Museum, and today it still houses a maritime museum, and is open to the public.
The Citadel/Fort of Qaitbay
- For Egyptians: EGP 5
- For foreigners: EGP 50 / For students: EGP 25
Bibliotheca Alexandrina & the Planetarium Science Center
Built in 2002 to replace the ancient Library of Alexandria, believed to be burnt accidentally by Julius Caesar.
Besides its diverse and genuine collection of books and maps, and a Braille section dedicated to people with low vision, there are ongoing exhibitions, concerts, workshops and a planetarium.
The library’s interior from the library’s official website
Entry Tickets: EGP 5 (there are special exhibitions that require a separate entry ticket)
A 400 meters long bridge, built in the late 1990’s in the same Islamic style as El-Montazah Palace. One of the best spots to watch the sunset.
Stanley Bridge via Flickr – Courtesy of Adam Heissen
Other attractions to visit next time
- Alexandria National Museum
- The Graeco-Roman Museum
- Diving in Abu Qir: to see the sunken Pharaoh city, as soon as I learn diving, hehe
- Alexandria Aquarium
- El Mursi Abou El Abbas Mosque
- Alexandria Zoo
- Cavafy Museum: apartment turned into a museum of the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, who fell in love with Alexandria and lived there until he died.
- El Nabi Daniel Street: one of Alexandria’s many heritage streets; home to Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue -currently under renovations-, El Nabi Daniel Mosque & Saint Marc Cathedral. Here’s an utterly intriguing read about the Heritage Streets of Alexandria by Egypt today.
- Gardens of Palais d’Antoniadis
View from El-Lol Fish Restaurant at El-Maks
The delicious side of Alexandria
It’s truly awkward how scenic cafes/restaurants in Alexandria offer awful, overpriced food, but those hidden in alleys or without any notable views or special setting offer devouring food.
Better be prepared for a heavy meal of melted cheese served in sandwiches with Egyptian sausages “sogo'”, pastrami “basterma”, eggs “beid” for example, or in plates to dip bread in. Finish your meal with a glass of juice from Makka juices, a shop right next to Alban Swissera, their sobia with mango is to die for.
My sandwiches from Alban Swissera – the taste is more tempting than the photo
Ful Mohamed Ahmed
Don’t listen to anybody who tells you it’s not as good as it used to be, if you eat their fried cheese – gebna ma’leya- sandwich without their additions -make sure to tell them while handing your coupon gebna ma’leya sada-, you’ll soon become addicted to it.
Fried cheese sandwich from Ful Muhammad Ahmed
Located at El-Raml Station street, for the best hot Basboussa served on the spot, Harissa & Bassima -desserts made from semolina.
My piece of Hot Basboussa from Ahmed Hassanein
My all time favorite ice cream. They don’t have a fixed menu, ask for their flavors of the day, but in all cases order their haleeb flavor -milk- besides any other flavor.
Serving a variety of desserts such as ice cream, rice pudding, belila, mehalabeya. We chose to have couscous served hot with sugar, and hot milk.
Our plate of couscous with sugar and hot milk from El-Nezami
For the best liver sandwiches in the whole of Alexandria
Coffee from Délices
Loved the atmosphere more than anything, preferred to stay outdoor -although their indoor area is vintage, and makes you travel back in time- to watch pedestrians as they go by, and enjoy the vibes of Alexandria. Their coffee is good, but their cheesecake is NOT.
My cup of Cappuccino from Delices & the amazing view I had
Coffee from Sofianopoulo
There are two shops glued to each other, with the same name, apparently they both were in one shop, but when the owner passed away, his heirs transferred it into two separate coffee shops. I’ve tried the first one around the corner, ordered a cup of hazelnut coffee, thought it will be black, but it had milk, was the best cup of French coffee ever.
Sofianopoulo Coffee Stores from inside
Stunning view but low-quality food
- Latino Café: in Gleem
- Na3na3: at the newly renovated Casino El-Shatbi where you can sit with your feet dipped in the sand, while facing the sea, listening to the waves crashing. There are other restaurants such as Crave & OPA with stunning sea views.
- The Greek Club: GORGEOUS views of Alexandria Port near the Citadel of Qaitbay, but tasteless overpriced food
- Farag Abou Khaled
Places I definitely want to go to
- Chez Gabi: Chic Italian restaurant
- Teatro Eskenderia: a trial to imitate El-Fishawy Café, or the concept of cafés in narrow streets in Islamic Cairo
- Asmak El-Lol: we went on a Friday, shortly before sunset, were asked to wait by a rude waiter, only to be told by the owner’s nice daughter an hour late that we will have to wait for another 2.5 hours to have our order ready!!!, so we left, it seems like they stress out on weekends, but given the number of customers, it seems like a “must try”.
Where to stay
- Le Metropole: is a personal favorite
- Steigenberger Cecil
- Four Seasons at San Stefano
- El-Salamlek Palace Hotel & Casino
- Mediterranean Azur
**All photos without credits are taken by me.
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