Going to miss Luxor’s West Bank vibes.
After an eventful 2 days here, we made a mad dash for the Luxor Train Station across the river.
Getting there 45 minutes early, I took this time to give everyone a memento silver bracelet of “monsoon” written in Egyptian hieroglyphics that Ahmed was able to arrange for us at the last minute.
After all, when am I ever going to come back where it all began with such an awesome group of people?
We then hopped on the daily overnight 8:10pm Watania sleeper train from Luxor to Cairo.
And like last time, we began our train bender with another cool ass wagon master. Can’t get enough of this.
Saves so much time and money!
We turned in early at 11pm after drinks and a short dance party, waking up to sunrise at 5:30am:
We arrived into Cairo Train Station about an expected 3.5 hours late at 9:00am.
While I struggled with the issue of buying the maximum 4 tickets per order at the ticket office for our train to Alexandria (leading me to go from counter to counter buying 4 tickets at a time, much to the chagrin of everyone watching me), a small strike team set out to get breakfast for us outside the train station.
We then chilled for a bit in the food court at the train station before boarding one of the half-an-hourly trains to Alexandria.
We then boarded the 10:00am Train #911 to Alexandria.
Getting into Alexandria around 3 hours later at around 1:30pm, I stopped for a second to consider how much I’ve changed 10 years ago since I was here. I mean, look at my hair back then.
From the station we strolled north to Kom el Dikka, literally translating to “pile of rubble.” It’s famous for being home to a relatively well preserved Roman amphitheater, baths, and mosaics:
From there we turned left up towards the corniche. Unlike the rest of Egypt, nobody batted us an eye except for a “secret” policeman following us to see what this massive group was up to.
We then dropped off our bags at Triomphe Hotel & Hostel, where we were supposed to stay for the night if it weren’t for a change of plans to return to Cairo tonight (BIG SURPRISE TOMORROW!!!). At this point the secret policeman, who followed us all the way to the hotel, felt satisfied that we weren’t terrorists and then let us be.
If you need any bit of sightseeing here, then I recommend Kom el-Shouqafa Catacombs, amusingly discovered in 1900 when the ground gave way under a donkey.
5 minutes nearby stands Pompey’s Pillar, an ancient 25-meter-high granite column constructed in honor of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 297.
But reading group vibes, we wanted to experience Alexandria in all its known chillness. So we went directly towards the seaside Corniche and began our walk at Alexandria Bibliotheca.
Don’t expect anything historic looking of the so-called legendary “Alexandria Library.” While it stands on the same site as the ancient Library of Alexandria, those of you expecting a building besotted by time and conjures up memories of a foregone era of Greco-Roman classical architecture, will be disappointed. This is as modern of a library as you can get.
From the library Angelica peeled off with Ji Won and Alexandra to see some of the houses that her great grandmother and father used to live in, and the high school her father attended. They even were invited inside a random local’s home to see inside with the help of Angelica’s father on the phone!
The rest of us otherwise began a leisurely 45 minute stroll along the famous corniche.
About 20 minutes in we passed by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honoring the Egyptian military.
10 minutes later we walked by El-Mursi Abul-Abbas Mosque, built in 1775 by Algerians over the tomb of the famous 13th century sufi saint, Ahmed Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi.
We then took a brief stop at famous Azza Ice Cream . . .
. . . and finished our stroll at Citadel of Qaitbay.
Built in 1480 by Sultan Qaitbay to protect the city from the crusaders who used to attack the city by sea, and of course, it stands on the exact site of one of the original 7 wonders of the Ancient World: the Alexandria Lighthouse.
They even recycled the stone of the ruined lighthouse for its construction. It saw defense of the city against invaders, from crusaders to Napoleon, and remained in military use as late as 1882 when the British bombarded it.
Satisfied with our primer of Alexandria, we turned in for dinner at the scenic Sidra By The Citadel at the recommendation of my local friend Perry (whom I met years ago in NYC as one of the waitresses at my favorite hookah bar in the East Village).
This place checks off every single box I look for in living the travel dream: an outdoor balcony serving fresh food overlooking the sea, while smoking hookah and listening to the adhan at sunset…and as much as I hate to admit it, with great WiFi.
We plan to head back to Cairo on the evening train, but with these vibes, I kind of worry we’ll stay here all night and miss the last big part of our trip — which happens tomorrow!
— UPDATED —
Alas, this trip obviously was going too well, as if The Monsoon Diaries always has some bad freaking luck with catching trains.
I always tell of the epic infamous story 3 years ago where on our way to Xi’an from Beijing, I messed up the wrong train station and ended up booking it last minute to the correct one, only for half of us to make it and the other half missing it. This led me to pull everyone who did make it off the train as it was pulling away just so we could stick together, which meant a crash overnight stay in Beijing for 4 hours and then taking morning flights to Xi’an instead to resume the monsoon on schedule.
Well, after a chill time in Alexandria just as everything felt like it had been going well without any hiccups, the group decided to split in 2, with one taking the 8pm train back and the other taking the 9:25pm. So at 6:45pm the former — a group of 10 — then split into 3 Ubers to pick up our bags that we had dropped off at Triomphe Hostel earlier in the day, continuing onwards to Alexandria train station.
1 of the 3 Ubers almost drove to the wrong train station afterwards and the other was forced to hail 2 separate Ubers due to issues with parking as we went to pick up our bags.
Once arriving at the train station, the first Uber group that arrived ended up in the wrong ticket office (the ticket offce outside security is NOT for Cairo), before a kind passerby led us to the right office INSIDE the train station for tickets to Cairo. There I was able to buy 10 tickets to Cairo with 20 minutes to spare at 7:40pm
After reuniting with the other 2 Ubers to get back our group of 10 together, we asked the station master for the platform for our train (Platform #4). There at 7:45pm we were waiting on Platform #4 confused why our train to Cairo looked like it was abandoned and out of service.
The guy inside that train EVEN SAID it was the right train to Cairo after looking at our tickets. Something felt off but luckily another passerby came by and told us we were supposed to be on Platform #6 after asking for our tickets. At this point it was 7:50pm.
So we crossed over to Platform #6 where Chyne, who already suffered a laceration 3 days prior and a fall from his horse 2 days before that, stumbled over his bag right on the platform (he’s fine and just suffered a superficial abrasion on his hand). Big yikes!
We quickly picked him up and at 8:01pm boarded the right train (thank heavens it decided to wait for us). I gave that passerby 50 EGP for his troubles and the train departed right afterwards at 8:04pm with train staff amused at how befuddled we looked to them.
Peak monsooning the way I missed it.
And to top it all off another well dressed “undercover” plainclothes officer began to monitor us. Then I realized that instead of determining whether we were threats, they may be assigned to protect us, especially after what had happened to 17 tourists 6 months ago. Because once we disembarked from our train in Cairo at 11pm, I saw the plainclothes officer motion to a uniformed police officer to personally guide us to the metro outside the train station before letting us on our way back to our hostel.
Faith in humanity restored!
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- At time of posting in Alexandria, it was 17 °C - Humidity: 67% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy