| Part 2: Alexandria, El
suites, Alexandria, near to the costal corniche road. For 677 EGP we
get a big apartment with a
living room, kitchen, a toilet+shower (bathtub+curtain) and two big
bedrooms. Clean, decently furnished. Breakfast included. The only
problem with this place is the location, about 10km to the east of the
citadel, far away from the centre of Alexandria. That would not be a
problem with a fast road, but the corniche is always stuck with traffic.
+3°C and overcast in Munich when we leave. Somehow fresh (perhaps 15°C)
in Cairo and Alexandria, but not cold. No rain.
We get up shortly after 8am, get ready and leave home at 11:15am and
get to the airport. By
12:10pm we have checked in and head to the McDonalds outlet for a
midday snack. At 1:30pm we are at the gate and immediately board the
The Lufthansa flight is actually an Egyptair flight (MS788), the plane
a Boeing 737. We are initially seated on seats in four
different rows, then manage to get seated together on the plane.
Friendly Egyptair staff. Enough space on the seats, not too narrow
rows. The plane is full.
We take off with a small delay, caused by some passengers who checked
in but didn't show up at the gate and whose luggage is now being
We land in Cairo almost on time at 7pm. Getting through immigration is
fast, Shirley doesn't need the 15 USD visa stamp because
she is Malaysian. By 7:10pm we are at the
baggage retrieval. Long wait for one suitcase, then at 7:40pm we get
out and meet Sara. We walk to the counter of Cairo airport shuttle.
While Sara has some food I walk to a store where I buy four Mobinil SIM
cards, of which two are with Internet access. The shop staff spends 45
trying to activate one (the other one works fine). No success, and I
lose a lot of time (a few hours later the problem
miraculously disappears by itself). It's almost 9pm when we finally
Long drive initially across Cairo, then on the desert highway,
supposedly a faster road than the shorter "green" road. However also
this is a slowish motorway with many speed bumps and not smooth
lower quality than the motorways in Oman.
We arrive in Alexandria around 12:20am, then lose time looking
for the hotel and finally arrive at 12:40am. Cost of the trip with the
Cairo Airport Shuttle minibus (an H1 van) is 475 EGP + a 75 EGP tip for
the driver. In the hotel, surprise, surprise I finally manage to
activate the Internet access of the second SIM card. Apparently you
just have to wait for a few hours.
Weather: rain in the
overcast, fresh. The sky finally opens up at 3pm and there is a bit of
We get up at 8:30am and have breakfast at 9:30am.
Then it takes a while until everybody is ready, also because outside
it's still raining and nobody is eager to rush exploring the city.
At 11am we catch a taxi (25 EGP) to the Biblioteca Alexandrina. There
is heavy traffic on the coastal corniche road. I get a first impression
It's sort of a beach city, with high rises and skyscrapers facing the
beaches. Long endless waterfront and promenade. Could be a nice place,
if the city was cleaner and and if there wasn't that mess of skyscraper
wall along the waterfront. Like this it's endless km of messy
skyscrapers, very few nice spots which invite one to walk around.
Then there is that horribly congested coastal road with permanent
strong traffic and traffic jams and no traffic lights. Very difficult
to cross this street to reach the beach. You are basically forced to
risk your life when trying to cross the street.
No elegant shops along
the waterfront where to buy stuff. The waterfront should be completely
rearranged, but the only way to do so would be to demolish all
skyscrapers along the beach and completely redesign the area.
11:35am we are at the Biblioteca Alexandrina. 10 EGP entry for foreign
adults, 5 EGP for kids 6 and above, children below 6 not allowed in.
Security scanners at the gates. Nice building with cool architecture,
pyramid like design with a sloping roof with roof windows.
We visit the place, then take a guided tour until 12:15pm. Then we go
to the adjacent Planetarium, manage to spend some time in the science
museum and after 1pm have a snack in a cafe nearby.
At 2:30pm we get into a taxi (15 minutes, 25 EGP) to the citadel, also
known as Fort Qaitbay.
is a nice and well restored coastal fort. Aquarium nearby which we do
not visit. 25EGP entry ticket per adult, Alissia and Natasha don't have
to pay. The citadel is a very scenic building, with a large wall and an
inner castle open to the public. Nice setting on a promontory.
We stay there until almost 4pm, then catch a taxi to the Carrefour
shopping mall we saw yesterday. This is about 6km from the coast on the
road to Cairo. Just 6km, but the taxi driver (again 25EGP) takes
forever to get there because of the horrible traffic. Many dirty
streets with ugly buildings. They should clean up this place.
The Carrefour mall is a huge building several hundred metres long,
containing a Carrefour hypermarket and a shopping mall with lots of
shops. We head towards the food court and at 5pm have a meal. Then we
do some shopping in the Carrefour mall and return to the hotel by taxi.
In the hotel I arrange a taxi to bring us to Marsa Matrouh tomorrow (an
H1 minivan, which will do the 300km trip for 600 EGP, pickup time 10am).
Alexandria -> El Alamein -> Siwa
Hotel Safari Gardens,
Siwa. 400 for a
nice double room on a half-board basis (two people). The room has a
traditional "Siwa desert" setup, nice furniture, A/C and heating,
toilet with hot water and shower, furniture etc. The dinner is
also good. Only little issue is that the
hotel seems to be a bit out of town.
Weather: sunny blue sky
with clouds. Fresh, but warmer than yesterday. A bit windy.
We are ready with our bags at 10am in the lobby. Surprise, the minivan
we booked yesterday for 10am is not there. The receptionist tells me it
will arrive at 10:30. Some discussion, more updates. It appears that
the minivan was involved in an accident, came yesterday from Sharm El
Sheikh, and other issues. Finally the minivan is here at 11:20am.
Actually I should not be surprised. This is Egypt and if I wanted to
leave at 10am I should have booked a minivan for 9am.
Because it's late and I'm no longer sure we'll manage to catch a bus in
Marsa Matrouh for Siwa when we finally reach Marsa I extend the
minibus Siwa, for an additional 500 EGP. Total price is now 1100 EGP
The receptionist still insists that it only takes three and a half
hours to get to Marsa Matrouh, but I have serious doubts. In fact at
12:30pm we'll still be 240 km from Marsa Matrouh.
Lots of urban development along the coast. Many homes and residences
being built, lots of holiday houses already there. A whole stretch, km
and km, of coast completely covered with homes and marinas. The sea is
beautifully turquoise, the beaches have nice white sand. Must be nice
to spend a beach holiday here.
We reach El Alamein at 1:20pm. There we visit the German memorial first
and the Italian memorial after. Both memorials and quite nicely set up.
While parking at the Italian memorial the driver manages to hit the
punctures the front wheel.
Shortly after 2pm we are back in the car and now look for a restaurant.
After a few minutes of driving we find a roadside restaurant where we
have a late lunch. There are actually a number of different places on
the way but they are all closed. I guess in the right season this
coastal area must be very busy with people. The cost of the meal for
the six of us (us + the driver) is 185 EGP.
At 3pm we start driving again. There are now still 460 km to do until
Siwa and I wonder if we will arrive before midnight. The terrain is now
mostly flat and desert-like. The road is mostly good. Two lanes per
direction, little traffic.
Driver stops in a couple of places looking for a car workshop where to
get the broken tyre fixed. Finally at 3:50pm he finds one. 15
minutes stop to fix the tyre.
We finally reach Marsa Matrouh at 4:30pm. Then, instead or driving
around the town, the driver loses some time driving into town, to fill
the tank and perhaps also to catch another road to Siwa.
It's finally 5pm when we leave Marsa Matrouh. Although the road to Siwa
has only one lane per direction it is good. Now the miracle happens:
still 290km to go, but the driver is now averaging 120km/h. Nothing but
empty, flat sand desert around us. The sun sets at 5:15pm.
At 7:24pm, 5km from Siwa there is a road block of the Egyptian army.
Surreal scene of a group of heavily armed soldiers smiling at us.
At 7:30pm we are finally in the hotel. We have covered the 300km from
Marsa Matrouh to Siwa in just 2 1/2 hours - I'm impressed.
We have a dinner at 8pm, then don't do much.