I hadn’t grown up with knowledge and stories of Alexandria as I had with Giza and Luxor. I had come to Alexandria purely upon recommendation by others who had visited- claiming it to be one of the best spots to visit in Egypt. I did some research and found a few sights worth visiting and planned to walk to each place. Through a women’s traveling group on Facebook I had met two Egyptian women, one of them lived in Alexandria and we had planned to meet up so she could show me around. I was looking forward to meeting up with her and we talked often in the days leading up to our rendezvous. We selected a spot and on my first full day, I began the walk to the citadel- a beautiful castle sitting at the far end of the harbor right on the water. It took me over an hour of walking, but the journey provided me with many views of Egyptian life including mosques and beautifully painted fishing boats. As I neared the location, I noticed that I had heard nothing from my contact despite my various attempts at communication. Arriving at the citadel, I walked all around and even found a nice place to rest and take photos of the people and scenery. Men prepared and offered tea from little carts and children walked around trying to sell cotton candy. There was a boat of women in the harbor lined up where the waves were coming in which would cause the boat to rock and get splashed like a ride. I sat amongst large cement structures designed to protect the town from large waves and storms. Many other people had congregated in the same spot, including fishermen and children. There were stray cats parading around, meowing and asking for food and love.
When more than an hour had gone by with no contact from the girl, I had a feeling she had decided to blow me off. Annoyed and hurt, I packed up my bag and set off to walk the entire length of the harbor to visit the famous biblioteca. At this point I was hungry, tired and disappointed with the sights and activities available in Alexandria. Making it to the library, it seemed as if every other tourist had had the same idea, despite not seeing a single tourist up until that moment. There was a fee to get into the museum, which I didn’t feel was worthwhile. I pulled out my phone and looked around for a restaurant to visit. I had heard the seafood was amazing here and I was ready for a nice meal and an early night in. I walked to multiple locations where there were supposedly restaurants according to my map, only to find nothing. I found a plethora of coffee shops overfilled with men sitting in pairs sipping coffee and smoking hooka.
As I walked closer and closer towards my hotel, I had still not found a restaurant and the familiar feeling of frustration found me once again. I had remembered there was a restaurant in my hotel, perhaps it would provide a decent meal. I felt that I had no other option so I continued my walk home and navigated through the hotel into the restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to order grilled salmon with steamed vegetables and saffron rice— better than anything I could have imagined. I retired quite early to my room to read, edit photos from Giza, shower, and reflect on the level of “overwhelmed” I was currently feeling. My trip to Alexandria was a short one, luckily, and the next morning I was told that to make it to my 730am flight I would need to leave my hotel at 4am. I prepared to go to sleep by 730pm, grateful that I was already so tired and had such a confused biological clock.
The next morning I took an uber to the airport. When putting in the address of my destination, I asked the hotel staff if there was only one airport. He told me yes. I put in the airport that came up and waited for my driver to arrive. I was told the drive would be at least 40 minutes but could take longer with traffic, thus my extremely early departure. As my driver took me up and down various streets, we reached the destination of the airport in 20 minutes. Fortunately for me, in order to enter the airport all vehicles must stop at a security checkpoint and confirm their flight information before even proceeding to the airport. Through broken English and miming it was discovered that there were in fact two airports in Alexandria and we were at the wrong one. I felt panicked and hoped I would make it to the other airport in time to check in my bag. After having such a slow experience in the Cairo airport I was nervous for what lay ahead. When we got to the airport it was 515am. My driver spoke no English but motioned that I should get out of the car and wait with a large group of people outside. I had no other choice but to listen. It was dark and cold, I was exhausted and confused. I gathered my luggage and walked to the group of people and to the front where a guard stood. He too spoke no English but a nice female tourist in the group told me that we were not allowed into the airport until 530am, it was currently closed. Crazy, I thought. Thank god I had a massive down jacket. I thought about the fact that if we hadn’t gone to another airport prior to the correct one I would have most likely had an additional 30 minutes standing in the cold darkness. I suddenly felt grateful for the warmth that my confusion had caused.
When the time came to enter the airport, I was so ready to hand over my luggage and get on the plane. My next destination was Luxor and I couldnt wait to see the Nile, the tombs, and the temples. Besides the pyramids, this was the Egypt I knew and had dreamt of. Nothing could be easy with my Egyptian travel and after a debacle where security found my knife in my checked luggage and walked around with it pointing at people, I had my bag back in my possession and was ready to check it in. This process was much simpler and I walked up the steps to the human security line. Scanning my carryon bag through, the security officers discovered that I had my camera batteries and portable charges with me. Apparently this was not allowed and I had to run downstairs with my batteries and kindly as the check in counter to locate my suitcase so that I could check the batteries. A task like this would never prove successful at a large airport and it is only because there was one flight going out the entire morning that this was possible.
Once again I marched back to the human security and this time made it through. Then I discovered there was no gate for my flight. I noticed dozens of people milling about and most were seated. I could only assume they were on my flight as well. I overheard some men talking about the flight and lack of gate so at least I knew I was in the right place at the right time, and that the airport was the only one at fault this time. Time ticked away and soon the boarding period had passed. I was on a two part flight with a layover in Cairo and once again was starting to feel panicked about making the second leg of my flight. Somehow everything worked out magically and a few hours later I touched down in Luxor, located my luggage and was off to my hotel!
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