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The Labors of Bucephalus No matter how tedious life at times could become, one look out the window was enough to remind me that not far away, the world-and adventure-were impatiently waiting.-R. Morse

Alexandria the Great

EGYPT | Sunday, 23 March 2008 | Views [4588] | Comments [2]

Arriving in Alexandria was an initially morose and depressing experience for me.  After all, this was the intellectual center of the Hellenistic world, home to the legendary Cleopatra.  Founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Alexandria boasted of monuments such as the Library of Alexandria and the Great Lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  And now, what of its past glory?  Burned, destroyed, and swallowed up by the ocean.  All that remains of a city celebrated and renown by philosphers and poets, a city of gleaming temples marked by graceful and flawless pillars...is the memory of a glorious past.  Somewhere beneath these streets, the tomb of Alexander is rumored to lie.  Beneath the waves that nonchalantly lap at a littered beachfront, remnannts of grandeur sit, slowly and surely devastated by the ravages of time.  As I stood in the 5th floor lobby of my hotel, looking out over the harbor towards where I imagined the Lighthouse may have sat, these were the thoughts that reverberated through my mind.  So I walked, walked everywhere I could think of to find some small but significant reminder of Alexandria's past.  I first found myself at the Bibliotheca, Alexandria's modern-day attempt at reversing the tragedy of its ancient library's fate.  Here, schoolchildren gazed at me with looks of intense curiosity, and a barrage of greetings and questions such as "what's your name?" and "are you married?" quickly made me forget my self-induced depression. And the gaggle of schoolgirls tripping over each other as they stared at the pale, blonde-haired tourist in front of them easily ensured my mirth-filled laughter. 

My attempts at regaining some sort of stoically, nostalgic mindset were hopeless, as my stroll near the supposed site of the Great Lighthouse was interrupted by friendly inquiries from numerous people, showing genuine interest in a complete stranger simply because, he looks different.  This was the beginning of my love affair with the city of Alexandria, and I regret only that my time spent here was so short. I must have sat there for an hour, chatting with the locals, laughing and joking and being tested (unsuccessfully) at Arabic.  The evening culminated in a new friend and I serendipitously stumbling upon an outdoor wedding celebration held right on the street.  Music, fireworks, and Arabian dancing horses were all part of the festivities, and soon enough, it seemed my Western friend and I were part of it as well, as offers of tea, sheesha, cigarettes, and pepsi were showered upon us while we sat at a table, surrounded by children and adults, all so generously interested in showing us hospitality and kindness.  How does this affect an American, so used to giving and receiving apathy when it comes to strangers?  For one, I smiled for almost two hours straight, and as my Parisian aquaintance duly noted, our faces hurt.  More importantly though, it seriously challenged my long-held attitude of  disinterest towards the strangers I come in contact with in everyday life, such as on the bus or in a classroom.  I realize things are definitely not perfect in the middle-east, but the lessons learned (which I pray I retain) were worth more to me than I can say.  There really is a special feeling that is invoked when strangers in a strange city extend their friendship, when the people of a relatively poor country choose your happiness over their pocketbook.  Alexandria, in all truth, loosened tears from my eyes, just not in the way I had expected. 

Comments

1

So bad to feel so,but i think i love Alex because of what it got currently not in the past, may it's not developed or modern and it's not perfect but i feel good there, actually i live in Cairo but i enjoy Alex more cuz i know every place inside it more than any other person since childhood, i know how to have fun there.it's a beautiful place.

  Egyptian girl (Esraa) Jul 14, 2011 4:52 PM

2

i love Alexandria it has a wonderful weather i love everything there the past , the present and the future i adore Alex

  alexandria lover Jul 15, 2011 1:06 AM

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