Egypt 2010 – Following Lawrence Durrell to Alexandria

My visit to Egypt in April 2010 

I had never really wanted to go to Egypt before, many people want to see the pyramids or die, but I never had felt like that. Then I read the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell and from then on I just had to see Alex, it was a see Alex or die situation.

I don’t do “tourist standing in front of” but a man insisted I needed a guide to go around the pyramids and he took my camera, so I was stuck with him, and had to hand over cash for hiring him to get it back. I only went to the pyramids as I thought, well, I really better just have a look at them. I was taken by a worker at my hotel in his personal car, and he dumped me at the gate.

The surface of the pyramids is very uneven closer up, doesn’t look like a smooth pyramid at all. This is because the cladding was robbed by people until the authorities thought they better stop it. I maintain that if the pyramids weren’t so huge they would have been carted away for building materials.

In Alex I got a really good cheap deal on the five star Windsor Palace Hotel, an old Victorian place with the lift up the middle and enormous rooms. It wasn’t until I left that I believed how cheap it had been. Very noisy there with the endless sound of car horns and the call to prayer.

Not far from here was the Spitfire pub. Alex is short of pubs. Here I got a taste for Stella, a lovely spicy beer. Similar to Stella Artois, but better.

The Villa Ambron is where Lawrence Durrell wrote. His study used to be in the top of the tower. It was here that he made notes for the Alexandria Quartet and wrote Prospero’s Cell. He used to be able to see Pompey’s Pillar from his window. Now tower blocks are in the way. When I was there the interior had been gutted as the owner was attempting to make it fall down so he could build a tower block. I think he won.

Madness really, Alex probably built over the original Great Library, so they have to make a new one to replace what was lost.

The way to cross the road in Egypt is just to step into the road and hope for the best. It takes nerves of steel, or shadow a local across the road works quite well.

The last three photos were when I went to go home after a week in Egypt I found that the Iceland volcano had stopped the planes flying. British Airways gave me 3 free days in a five star hotel. But the man didn’t thick the ‘tea’ box on my complementary form for food and board. So for the three days I had nothing to drink. I was stuck in the hotel compound and unable to afford to drink as ‘tea’ covered all drinks.

After this I went back to my original hotel in Cairo. I felt horribly stuck in Egypt. However in the extra week I did go and see the Egyptian Museum where they have taken everything belonging to the pharaohs and stuck it in a big building.

I also found a cafe I liked “The Cafe Ritchie”

Unfortunately the company I worked for insisted that the extra week “had to come from me” as they said. So the week I had earmarked for visiting Berlin was out, and, so far, I have not managed to get there.