The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was built near the site of the original Library at Alexandria. It is a beautiful building architecturally, picturesquely located along the coast. Its curved granite wall is covered by the letters of virtually all the world’s known alphabets. The complex includes a planetarium and a conference center. We became members, toured the library, and of course got our library cards. The fee for non-Egyptians is usually 320 Egyptian Pounds or about $54. Fortunately, for Egyptians and those with residency visas (me and Mary Ann), the fee is 30 pounds or about $5. They have free public WiFi, which makes it a wonderful place to just sit and work (or play) on line. For those who are interested, the BA web site is: http://www.bibalex.org/Home/Default_EN.aspx
Massive traffic jam
Our host invited us out for a quiet time of socializing at a club by the sea on the evening of the last Friday of Ramadan. Coincidentally, it was the night thought to be the best night in the year for prayer, the night when one’s prayers can count like those of one thousand other nights. It was like the perfect storm of people being out and about in Alexandria. On our return home, at the time that most people were leaving the mosques, we were stuck in the worst traffic jam I have ever experienced. Absolute gridlock. Fortunately, the car had AC and there were street markets everywhere which we found fascinating to observe as we slowly crawled past. The driver was not so fortunate, because pedestrians share the roadways also, except for the major boulevards. At many points, there seemed to be no requirement to stay on one side of the street. Cars and pedestrians made their way as best they could, inching towards their destinations, horns honking almost continuously. We eventually did arrive at our apartment, but much later than anticipated.
We moved into our own flat on Sunday, August 28. It is a few blocks from the water, on the sixth floor, with a balcony that includes views of a gardened villa, the Russian Consulate, and the Mediterranean. It’s fully furnished and air conditioned. It’s nice to have our own space. It’s about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the seaside. On our first afternoon, we explored the neighborhood to see what types of markets were available. While there are some larger, upscale shopping areas in the city, there are neighborhood markets everywhere. They all seem to be open late, midnight or so, but perhaps that’s due to Ramadan. We can buy pita bread, still warm, from the baker a few blocks away: 34cents (2 pounds) for four large pitas. Fruits, vegetables, cheese, nuts, and delicious homemade yogurt are all available from local vendors. Small corner stores provide the prepackaged necessities. If they don’t have want you want, you can ask them to order it and it will be there in a day or two. It appears that many of these places make deliveries, but we haven’t explored that option yet. We have noticed that McDonalds, like most of the little stores, has a stable of motor scooters for home delivery. We’ll find out next week how late the markets stay open after the Eid holidays. I’ve posted photos on Facebook and I’ll post some photos here; the sunsets from our balcony are phenomenal.
All quiet on Tuesday morning.
Ramadan ended Tuesday night and the next three days are holidays, plus Friday is, of course, the usual holy day of the week. This is a time for celebrating and visiting family. Since the streets were relatively empty, Abdelrahman and his family took us driving along the Corniche during the daylight hours to enjoy the scenery. This was such a contrast to the gridlock of a few nights earlier. We had our first falafel Tuesday from Gad, a place that Abdelrahman said makes the best falafel in Alexandria. It is a sandwich shop that does a brisk takeout business, although there may be a sit-down restaurant in the back. They were delicious. We will be going back.