Greg and I have quickly come to the conclusion that there’s so much to do and see in Egypt we probably won’t always travel overseas during our holidays. I have already added Sahel, Sharm, El Gouna, Hurghada, Luxor and Aswan to our ‘must visit’ list! However, we decided to spend October half term in Alexandria, a city neither of us knew much about other than that it’s on the North Coast and its famous for the light house which was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. We chose the Four Seasons at San Stefano mainly due to its location and facilities plus the fact we’ve never stayed in a Four Seasons property before (I will write a separate review of the hotel in a future post but I can’t recommend it highly enough, it was just lovely).
The city dates back to about 300BC and for history buffs it offers so much. To get the most out of our visit, and because we don’t know a huge amount about Egyptian history, we booked a guided tour of the main sights. I’d recommend this as a good introduction not only to Alexandria, but to Egypt as a whole because it was so informative. Our first stop was to the Catacombs which were discovered accidentally when a donkey fell down a hole exposing an underground burial chamber! Photography is not allowed so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s an incredible venture into the ancient practices of mummifying bodies and burial chambers.
We also drove past Pompey’s Pillar and through the old town which, rumor has it, was built on top of Alexander’s tomb.
Many people are surprised that there is a large Christian community in Alexandria and our next stop was to St Marks, the oldest church in Africa. This religious complex is also home to the Pope of the Orthodox Church and it was a lovely oasis of quiet in the middle of the city.
Our final stop was to the Roman amphitheater, again only discovered accidentally in the last 50 years when foundations were being laid for a new housing development. The site has lots of artifacts from the sunken city in Alexandria harbor, as well as an amphitheater. What is fascinating about this historical site is that it is actively being excavated and it’s obvious there is a lot more to discover.
Independently over the course of our stay we visited Biblioteca Alexandria which is a hugely impressive building inside and out. We also took a short trip to Qaitbay fortification which was built on the old foundations of the lighthouse and has magnificent views across the city and coastline.
Coming to Alexandria from Cairo it was so nice to breath in the sea air and smell the saltiness after a day out and about. Our hotel had a private beach and fabulous views across the beautiful blues of the Mediterranean Sea. It was lovely to sit and have lunch watching fishermen going about their daily business as well as people enjoying the beach.
One of the things I was most looking forward to, and what everyone told us to do, was to eat the seafood here. Our most notable meal was at the Blue and White restaurant on the second floor of the Greek Club near Citadel. We sat outside on the terrace overlooking the harbor and it was stunning. The restaurant is renowned for its fresh fish cooked to order and we thoroughly enjoyed the red snapper simply grilled with lemon, herbs and oil. Although we found the service indifferent the food was very good and it’s a place we’d go back to.
The one thing I can hand on heart say about Egypt is that the Egyptian people are the nicest I’ve ever met and Alexandria was no exception. From the staff in the hotel who took time to chat to us about our day to our guides Mohamed and Omar who answered our (thousands) of questions about Egypt. We also met a lovely Uber Driver who told us that he used to be an engineer but as there’s is no work for him he now uses his car for a livelihood and, despite his circumstances, invited Greg and I for dinner with his family. Sometimes Egypt has a reputation for scams and hard sells but we didn’t experience this. Alexandria is also a university city and it was nice to see groups of students sitting reading and socialising along the corniche and in the parks, it gives the place a young vibe.
We hired a Driver from New Cairo to Alexandria, it cost 1700LE for a return trip which took about 3 hours eat way. If you’re close to the train station I know it’s significantly cheaper, perhaps 140LE return per person – I think the train takes a couple of hours.
As already mentioned, we stayed at the Four Seasons which was wonderful,although it is one of the more expensive options. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury I definitely recommend you stay there.
We booked our guided trip with Ramasside Tours who were very good at tailor making a trip to suit our requirements.
If you chose to have dinner at the Greek Club booking is recommended especially if you want a table with a view.
Keep in mind when planning your days out that the traffic, especially along the corniche, can get gridlocked. For example it took us almost 45 minutes to get from Qaitbay to our hotel so try to pick quieter times for longer journeys.