Sunday, May 26, 2013

Alexandria, Egypt

An invitation to Alexandria, the pearl of the Mediterranean

By: Amna El-Tawil

When you hear the word Egypt, you think of the pyramids, the sphinx and pharaonic temples. What Alexandria has to offer is a slightly different Egyptian experience, however. This Mediterranean city has its own distinct culture and even its own unique weather. This is where Mideastern meets Mediterranean, and where the small city feel intertwines with metropolis features, leaving you with that very distinctive Alexandrian sensation.

What to wear
Alexandria is a pleasure to visit in every season. In winter, it’s at its quietest. The streets are washed with the pouring rain, and lay glistening under the city lights. It is one of the very few cities with rainy winters in Egypt. While hot blooded locals cover up in parkas and coats; those coming from cold countries will not feel the need for warmth. In fact, December in Alexandria is only slightly colder than summer in London during the day.  The winter temperature falls between 10 degrees Celsius at night and 20 degrees in the morning.

Alexandrian summers are all about the sea, the beach and the long sea-side Courniche.  You can go jogging in the morning while enjoying the scenery, and then have a light breakfast at one of the many sea view cafes. You will want to pack the lightest possible cloths. The temperature is usually in the mid-thirties and rises to forty degrees Celsius during the day. Summers in Alexandria get crowded as it is
considered a vacation spot for many locals from other cities. I would say the perfect ‘summer’ experience you can have in Alexandria would be in May and June. The heat is not as brutal, the beaches not as crowded, and the sunshine beautiful as ever.

Where to go

Bibliotheca Alexandrina
The modern day Library of Alexandria was built as a tribute to the Ancient Library of Alexandria that was accidentally burnt on the hands on Julius Caesar in 48 BC. Marc Anthony later gifted Cleopatra a collection of books to replace the burnt books.

Library and Museums
The modern day library is considered the main French library in Africa, and houses a rich manuscript museum, in addition to a museum of late Egyptian president Sadat; Nobel Prize winner and the initiator of the first peace treaty with Israel in the Middle East.

Concerts and Events
If you are looking for a night of free or very cheap, yet high quality entertainment, check the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s event calendar. The library is home to many cultural events, and is considered the perfect place to attend a film viewing, a short lecture, a play or even a topnotch underground music concert (you would be surprised how good some of the local bands are).

· Down Town Alexandria
This is one of my favorite places in Alexandria, specially in winter. Down town Alexandria is the ultimate place for a long walk while window shopping and people-watching. You will find many merchants; some may be pushy, but a simple firm ‘no’ will put them off. If you are looking for souvenirs, this is where you will find them, just make sure you haggle to at least half the starting merchant offer.

Souvenir merchants in front of Qaitbay Citadel, down town
If you are lucky enough to have the chance to visit in winter, stroll the down town Alexandria streets for a feel of aged class and splendor in the ancient cafes and restaurants. Two restaurants you must try during your visits are located in down town: Santa Lucia; an upscale Italian offering live entertainment, delicious food, and the best service in town, and China House; a restaurant located on the roof of Cecil hotel offering one of the best views of the Courniche and the sea.


  1. Considering Alexandria a tourist attraction city, which are the most popular means of transport and how fair are they? I would like one day to visit Alexandria,brief me the peoples culture and religious activities so that I would interact easily. Which unique goods that Alexandria offers for me to take from there as gifts to my Kenyans loved ones?

  2. For transportation, you can take taxi cabs, but make sure you haggle, preferably before getting into the cab. You can expect to pay anywhere from 5 to 25 Egyptian pounds depending on the distance.

    Another great option is the tram, it is somewhat slow, but offers you the chance to watch the city, and for a minimal fee (I believe it is 1 pound for the VIP tram, and 0.25 or 0.5 for the regular tram). If you are taking the tram, however, make sure to avoid peak hours as it gets crowded.

    Cultures are varied and depend greatly on what part of the city you're in. Many like to people watch, specially when there are foreigners, so you shouldn't take offence if you find people staring; rather a compliment (they think you're interesting). Many people also approach foreigners for small talk, and sometimes, to take pictures together. One thing to note is that showing skin is acceptable in every part of the city; you can;t walk around down town in shorts and a bikini top.

    The unique goods include belly dance suits, ornamented galabeyas, jewelry boxes, pharonic style everything (book marks, pens, ash trays, status... etc). One of my favorite items are the accessories; there are some lovely necklaces in the shapes of the Ankh, horus and the eye of horus.

    I hope you enjoy your vacation! =)

    1. I love your tips, actually In Alexandria, I bought belly dance suit for my girlfriend in us, to wear it and to make our sex life more interesting?

      Mirk from Helsinki