The charms of Alexandria

Nothing satiates the bibliophile in me better. And what excited me most about my day trip to Alexandria was its library – the grand Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The tingling sensation I had at the tip of my fingers and toes as I took a three-hour drive to the beautiful city from Egypt’s capital, Cairo, was completely justified. My first stop, quite naturally, was the library. Opened in 2002, it is everything a bookworm’s dream is made of – a jaw-dropping main reading room that can accommodate a few million books and hundreds of readers. This library is dedicated to the spirit of openness and the repute of the original Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the city’s ancient library, considered one of the most revered classical institutions in the world. The building that houses the library also accommodates a planetarium, a science center, several academic research centers and a number of institutions catering to various academic disciplines. If you are a true lover of books and are curious to know about the history of Egypt, take your time to explore every nook and cranny of this library. And given its sheer size and volume of books – you might want to dedicate an entire day to it, if not more.

What to do?
Visit the Royal Jewelers Museum, housed in an exquisitely decorated villa that formerly belonged to the Egyptian monarch King Farouk’s first wife. The museum has on display a great collection of artifacts that belonged to the royal family. Explore the Qaitbay Maritime Museum, located inside the Qaitbay Fort. See relics from the Roman sea battles and the Napoleonic wars in which the fort was bombarded. There is also an interesting collection of sea creatures.

Any true-blue traveller would tell you that it is only when you avail the local transport that you really feel the pulse of the city. And in Alexandria, opt for a ride in one of the bright yellow taxis. I availed one to take me to Pompey’s Pillar. Do not be misled by the name – this 25-m-high red granite column has nothing to do with the Roman leader Pompey. It was believed to have been built to honour Diocletain( A Roman emperor). The column rises out of the sparse ruins of the Temple of Serapeum, a magnificent structure that is said to have stood here in ancient times. My next stop was Teatro Alexandria, a cultural hub located in the center of downtown Alexandria. In all my travels I have come to realize that very few things can enrich a city more than its culture and arts and this Centre did not disappoint me. A gallery here, displaying traditional Egyptian handicrafts, intrigued me. So did the adjacent rehearsing-cum-recording studio. I came to know from the owners that on certain days, they open their doors to cultural performers, screen films and even host live shows.