We cruised for 14 days on the Azamara Quest. Our last stop before arriving in Athens was Alexandria. When we were there in the 70’s we saw very few women who covered their hair and a veiled woman was unusual. That’s no longer the case. It made me sad to see how Egypt has changed. Almost all the educated women you talk to claim that covering was a personal decision, no pressure. But it seems a mighty big coincidence that all the women decided to get religious at the same time. You’ll forgive me but I just don’t buy it. It's a form of apartheid. But I don't imply the moslems are the only people who set themselves apart. They are not the only ones to wear clothing that identifies their religion. The world abounds.
We took a taxi from the National Museum (great tomb in the basement!) to the catacombs. We went through streets that tourists shouldn’t see. There was garbage everywhere. Lots of people and lotsa, lotsa garbage. Apparently about 30% of Alexandria are squatters. I don’t imagine squatters get many services—such as garbage pick-up or electricity. Alexandria was the only port with garbage and oil in the harbor where we docked.
It was the day before the Moslem Eid and we saw many goats on their way to slaughter. A ram was being pulled down the sidewalk by his horns by a couple of guys and pushed from behind by a couple more. He had no intention of going anywhere. He must have known where he was headed. We saw cow’s heads hanging in several markets along the way.
We communicated with the cab driver one way or another and he waited for us at the catacombs. When we came out, a tourist policeman insinuated himself and demanded baksheesh. This infuriated me but it’s silly, I guess, to get your knickers in a knot over something that has been going on for thousands of years. Baksheesh is engrained in the culture after all. But it has to be at least part of the reason for their rotten economy. By some estimates, Alexandria has 20% unemployment and 30% illiteracy in a city of over four million.
The Alexandria port building is palatial—pharonic. It’s new and extraordinarily lovely with inlaid marble and columns and etched glass. It’s nice but ultimately wouldn’t tourism profit more if the money were spent to clean up the city? Egypt has antiquities, do they need more glorious edifices?
Many of the cruisers went on a bus trip to Cairo and the busses had police escorts all the way. One woman said, "It was an eye-opener." Another said, "the poor Nile." I’m glad I saw the wonderments of Egypt when I did--the magic of the Valley of the Kings and the Tombs of the Queens. It my mind it was like a David Roberts lithograph. I always wanted to go back to Egypt. I went. One day in Alexandria was enough.