Bethany’s written two blogs since we moved here, so I called dibs on the next one.
A little backstory: Bethany’s new school is launching a middle school for the first time. Construction for this middle school was supposed to be completed by orientation, but because this is Egypt, it’s not done. Not at all. But fortunately—and also because this is Egypt and you can do it here—her principal (or the Board) moved the start date from 8/25 to 9/1 and gave the teachers Thursday-Saturday off.
So Thursday we decided to go to the library! I’ll try to stick with the interesting bits. We went with some of our new teacher friends: an older Canadian couple, a middle-aged Canadian lady, a younger Canadian girl, and a French guy. A lot of Canadians at this school.
The day started out with a crowded trip on the tram–only my second, although Bethany has been taking it to and from school for a week now. This was was 50p (7 cents). Eleven stops, I think? I don’t know, I lost track. Shatby, we needed to get off at Shatby. After that we were supposed to walk around Alexandria University and end up at the library.
But invariably, there will always be a friendly Egyptian around who wants to help. In this case, it was an Alexandria University professor of accounting who heard us discussing our stop on the tram. His plan was to just take us through the AU campus, which leads directly from the tram stop to the library. Easy enough. After a long, at times heated discussion with the security guard (during which we learned an important word: il-maktaba (المكتبة), the library!), we were led through a checkpoint and on our way.
Immediately, you’re confronted with this ENORMOUS wall. Enormous enough that it required that Bethany devote six pictures to it. Six pictures. Of a wall. I guess it is a pretty impressive wall. Hundreds of granite blocks carved with giant letters from 120 different alphabets. Perhaps if she had written this post you would get to see all six pictures. But she didn’t, so here’s just one more.
Tickets for the library were 70LE ($9) each, which includes a guided tour. While parts of it were interesting, it was a bit of a waste of time. Had it not been included in the ticket, it would also have been a waste of money. One of the Canadians pointed out that if he had just slowed down a bit, he may have pronounced more of the words correctly and we may have understood anything he was saying. For an idea of how inane his tour was, he spent a significant amount of time telling us many of the cool things you can do on their website. Half an hour later, we were free to roam about the library.
We walked around the museum, went into the main reading room (the largest in the world) and saw some of the shelves. They’re remarkably bare, since the library currently only has 2 million of its 5 million-book capacity. At this point we were all hungry enough and broke for lunch.
There is one restaurant on the library grounds, Le Passage (a French word)–but it’s an Italian restaurant. The food was pretty good, we had shrimp pizza, but the view was great! (OK, I confess I took this from just outside the restaurant, but the view from inside was the same, I swear!)
After lunch, we decided to pay the extra 20LE ($2.60) each to see the Antiquities Museum, on the promise of mummies. Unfortunately, although I suppose understandably, they don’t allow photographs, so just imagine a lot of really, really old things. A lot of cool giant marble statues; ancient, Byzantine and Islamic artifacts from Alexandria’s history; and yes, a couple mummies.
You’ll have to forgive me if I maybe sneaked one picture while we were down there. Wouldn’t you? I mean, if that picture was of a mosaic that used to be part of the floor of the original Library of Alexandria?
That’s really all there is. Membership is 360LE ($47) a year, but we need to decide if we’ll actually go there 5 times a year. I think so, but we’ll see. It’s wonderfully air-conditioned and there’s free wifi. And lots of books. I’ll put some other pictures below.
After this, we rode the tram back home, this time on a much faster one (it had curtains, so it was 1LE (13 cents)!). On the way, I officially switched to Vodafone, so no more international texting for either of us–WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger from now on. Continue reading