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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alexandria Egypt Day 7

We had to set out early for our visit to Alexandria. From our hotel in the Giza district in Cairo, it would take us about 3 hours to reach Alexandria. We set out at about 7 am. I spent much of the time looking out of the window.

Tolls at Giza Cairo - Leaving

Rest Stop Along the Way to Alexandria


One thing you will notice when you use public restrooms is that there are no toilet paper. Instead, there will always be someone outside the restroom "selling" toilet paper. But it is customary to pay 1 Egyptian Pound to enter the toilet even if you have your own toilet paper with you. Keep in mind that Egypt is a poor country and that people are just looking for a way to earn a living.

The public restrooms are frequently washed - so it is common to walk into a toilet that is all wet. I noticed that there is almost no nasty smells perhaps because of the frequent washings. Just be sure to hitch up your pants before lowering them so it does not touch the wet ground!

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa


We drove to the first site of the day - Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. We were told that it was located in a poor neighborhood. The lanes got narrower as we went deeper into this small town. The bus driver did a fantastic job maneuvering the bus - there were many other big tourist bus attempting to either enter or leave one narrow street leading to the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. It was amazing how calm all the bus drivers were as they moved the bus around.

Maneuvering Tourist Bus



Tiny Street Near Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa


The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa (meaning 'Mound of shards' or 'Potsherds') is a historical archaeological site located in Alexandria, Egypt and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.

The necropolis consists of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues and archaeological objects of the Pharaonic funeral cult with Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman influences. Due to the time period, many of the features of the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa merge Roman, Greek and Egyptian cultural points; some statues are Egyptian in style, yet bear Roman clothes and hair style whilst other features share a similar style. A circular staircase, which was often used to transport deceased bodies down the middle of it, leads down into the tombs that were tunneled into the bedrock during the age of the Antonine emperors (2nd century AD). The facility was then used as a burial chamber from the 2nd century to the 4th century, before being rediscovered in 1900 when a donkey accidentally fell into the access shaft. To date, three sarcophagi have been found, along with other human and animal remains which were added later. It is believed that the catacombs were only intended for a single family, but it is unclear why the site was expanded in order to house numerous other individuals. The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is, according to some lists, also one of the seven medieval wonders of the world. One of the more gruesome features of the catacombs is the so called Hall of Caracalla. According to tradition, this is a mass burial chamber for the humans and animals massacred by order of the Emperor Caracalla.

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

Pompey's Pillar


Then we visited the Pompey's Pillar. An approximately 25m red Aswan granite column with a circumference of 9m, was constructed in honor of the Emperor Diocletain. Originally from the temple of the Serapis, it was once a magnificent structure rivaling the Soma and the Caesareum. Nearby are subterranean galleries where sacred Apis bulls were buried, and three sphinxes. After his defeat by Julius Caesar in the civil war, Pompey fled to Egypt where he was murdered in 48 BC; mediaeval travelers later believed he must be buried here, and that the capital atop the corner served as a container for his head. In fact, the pillar was raised in honor of Diocletain at the very end of the 4th century. Diocletain captured Alexandria after it had been under siege. The Arabs called it "Amoud el-Sawari", Column of the Horsemen. The Pillar is the tallest ancient monument in Alexandria.

Pompey's Pillar

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