We woke up early and got on the road, meeting Aleck at the car and picking up our third guide, Eman. She is the most effervescent, fun, spunky and full of life person I’ve ever come across. How all that joy and passion for the world and antiquities fit in her 5-foot frame, I will never know. Eman is a spitfire and told us in rapid speech over the three-hour ride about her studies, thesis and desire to protect antiquities and further museum studies.
Once in Alexandria we started at the catacombs, a deep, underground space where Christians buried their dead – Christians giving almost pagan-like funerals. Clearly the Egyptians rubbed off a little at this time. The third level is now underwater and the water is rising, everywhere. Most ancient sites in this city are now underwater, to the point where they are building a museum that allows you to look through glass into the water.
The catacombs were filled with holes where they buried the bodies and covered in Egyptian/Christian mixed art. The Christians were clever and took over Egyptian art, changing it slightly to also represent Greek gods and slowly trick people into changing religions. It was a maze down there with holes build on top of each other because this became prime real estate for the after life, so they kept digging and digging to make space…and money. Only about five bodies of and estimated 300 were found in the modern age, many were damaged by the seeping salt water. The discovered bodies were mummified, mummified Christians.
Next we went to Pompey’s column – a column standing in the center of an originally Karnak-sized temple. There was an underground library here with holes in the walls like shelves for storing papyrus – this is what they imagine the ancient library of Alexandria was like, though they’ve never found it.
Eman and Aleck joined us for lunch at a famous Fish Market, really a restaurant with fish. It was very good but a little touristy for our taste. Next we finally went to our hotel – the Four Seasons! Normally, we would never stay here, but the dollar was working in our favor so we stayed in glorious, fancy suites each with a balcony, huge bathroom and maids who put little carpets down by your bed to clean your feet off before climbing in. Yep. There was a huge mall within the hotel complex so we got to walk around an Egyptian-style mall, which was quite fascinating. They sold some typical Egyptian made-in-China gifts, tacky made-in-China scarves and accessories and then the rest of the stores were a mix of American and European. We had drinks at the hotel bar and then ate at an Italian restaurant for dinner. I took the shortest bath of my life (the plug didn’t exactly work) and went to bed, preparing myself for the best library I’d ever see.