Alex, the tram and a belly dancer

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-a Cleopatra statue in Matrouh, legend has it that once upon a time Cleopatra came to this beach and bathed; it turned her into a diva…

We arrived in Alexandria under the gray winter clouds from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Yet again I found myself travelling to this part of the world to celebrate the successful closing of my daughter’s medical study. I could not miss this special moment for the world; although I left at the office my students’ unmarked test papers and loads of research reports to be read and assessed. It’s a mad mad world at the office at this time of the year; more than what I can bear at this time and age. So, I just dropped everything, grabbed my bag and passport and took off…literally. Sometime if you just could not tolerate the circumstances, you have to make a drastic decision and shot off. It was a nice landing at the Borg El Arab Airport in Alex amidst a nasty winter crosswind and gloomy weather. We went through the Immigration and Customs without any problem. Outside, the chilly wind started to nip my face and ears. It has been awhile since I experience this winter season; the last time was during our stay  in the mountains of Hakusan in Ishikawa, Japan. But more than anything else it reminded me of my aching joints and aging body. It was a struggle just to keep warm and stay comfortable in the middle of a chilly breeze. Returning to Alexandria made yourself wonder if you could experience more than what you had in the last visit. I wanted to feel the grandeur of Alexandria; a mixture of Roman and Egyptian culture and traditions. They speak Arabic, but the environment is not similar to the one in Makkah or Medina. In Alexandria, life is more colorful and downright exotic. The most notable element of Alexandria is the tram. It runs through the busy streets and run down neighborhoods.

DSC_5373The tram cars were old and slow but for 50 cents they would take you everywhere. I think the people of this town deserve a better and modern set of cars.

Fajr was around 5.30 am. As I hurried myself through the dark alley to the nearby mosque, I saw people coming out of the building as well but they kind of not greeting each other or having a small talk as they walk to the mosque. As if going for Fajr prayer is a secret thing to do. May be someone was watching I would never know.

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But I love the atmosphere in the early morning here as you can feel and experience the stories of Hassan al Banna, Syed Qutb and Zainab during their struggles in Ikhwan al Muslimeen. Islam in Alexandria is alive but as vague as the winter sunshine; beaming high behind the gray cloudy sky. Friday prayer saw a full house and a spill-over onto the nearby streets. Ironically, the sermon talked about the miracles of the Qur’an instead of the fate of the muslim in dire straits in Egypt or elsewhere. A safe topic I reckon but I could not care less as I was busy thinking where these people would pray as every inch of the space had been occupied. But to my surprise, when the time for solat, everyone just made space and everybody could pray peacefully. I was truly amazed…hahaha!

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-a friendly Egyptian just stopped me in the middle of the street for a photo

The cold weather was really into me so I skipped most of the shopping trips and what not. I stayed home and watched TV. They have 700 channels to choose from and you know what? I flicked all of them. Christian channels were interesting as they sang Christmas songs in Arabic and recited prayers in Arabic also….better than myself saying the prayers. A few Syiah channels were also there as well as Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian etc. I saw belly dancing on one of the channels and it was the most exotic show I have ever watched. I was surprised that a beautiful lady can make that moves and it tickled every bone in my body…hukhukhuk. If I were to study in Egypt I could not guarantee whether I’d graduate or not … may be skipped classes and watched TV all the time.  All of the sudden I feel the need to explore more of Alex and places in Egypt. The long history of political struggles in Egypt since the time of Prophet Musa and Fir’aun up until now has undermined the beautiful arts, culture, people and places of Egypt. We went to Siwa the little oasis in the Sahara and Matrouh , the beautiful seaside town.

 

 

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-private garden at the university

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-at the library Bibliotheca Alexandrina

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-funny seller….

 

 

Siwa

DSC_4765 - Copy (3)The road to Siwa was long and lonely. 300 km to the west of Alex and then another 300 km towards the south into the Sahara desert. After a few road blocks, we reached this little town at around Zuhr time. We left Alex at 4 am. So by the time we arrived, it was lunch. The place seemed busy with people and tourists. We stopped by this restaurant and it served the best bbq chicken with all the salad, tahine,soup, bread etc. It was simply superb right out of the traditional oven to compliment the cool Saharan winter.

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Time seemed to stand still in Siwa. Donkeys were still pulling carts on the street. The dates farms were everywhere and this place is said to produce the best dates in Egypt. So what else is interesting about Siwa…..the Sahara desert of course. I have yet to comprehend the excitement of going into the desert. As my tour guide explained….let reserve the energy for later!.

DSC_4818 - Copy - CopyWe rode a monster called Land Cruiser 4X4. As I was about to experience the desert, I wonder what this SUV can do with the sand and dunes. And believe me if you own this land Cruiser thing you would never appreciate the performance of this monster until you take it out to the desert. There were sand everywhere and along the way it made up a dune as steep as 45 degrees. Our local driver would drive up the hill and stop at the top and kinda dive down where you could not even see the bottom of it. It dropped almost straight down and you better pick up your heart before it dropped again down the next slope. Again and again we went around this magnificent landscape…..and we just could not get enough of it. It was far better than the rollercoasters at the theme park. At the end of it we had tea and watched a beautiful sunset. Oh! My son went sandboarding and he seemed excited …… not my cuppa tea though!

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-with the tour guide and local driver

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-roselle at the oasis

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-a cold lake in the desert

 

Matrouh

 

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-can you see seven blue colors of the ocean?
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– where Cleopatra used to bathe

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-beautiful beach in Matrouh

 

It was the best of Egypt!

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