For day 2 in Egypt, we explored the city of Alexandria. It was named after Alexander the Great. I also learned the -ria part means "the place of", such as cafeteria, the place of coffee and tea. Before Alexander arrived in the area, it was just a small village of fishermen. When Alexander arrived, he thought the unique curved shape of the bay would be perfect for a military harbor. He turned the little village into what eventually became one of the biggest cities in the world. He was the Bugsy Seigel of ancient Egypt, and this place was his Las Vegas.
We went to a really interesting underground tomb called the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. It was a place where the rich were buried in a tomb that is more like a well. The most interesting part were the reliefs that were a combination of ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian. There would be a body of a Greek god in Roman clothing with Egyptian mythological features.
Inside the tomb is a banquet room. After the body was lowered and the family said their goodbyes from within the tomb, they would go to the next room and have a meal. They didn't want to keep the plates that were used at a funeral, so they broke them. This might be where the tradition of breaking plates started. After they broke the plates, they would just take the broken pieces and throw them on the ground outside the tomb. There were so many broken plates, the town was eventually named "mound of shards".
We were lucky to be in Egypt at all. My sister went on a similar cruise last year only to miss Egypt because of the political unrest going on. I even overheard the crew saying that the previous trip also skipped Egypt. We toured the cities on bus, and it was obvious not many buses had been there recently. All the people were very happy to see us.
I had no idea Egypt was such a poor country. The average person lives on a few dollars a day. Yet, a coffee at Starbucks costs $9. At the 4 Seasons hotel, Africa's 2nd largest hotel, the cheapest room in low season is more than $500 per night. So it seems like a place everyone wants to visit and forget the poverty as soon as they leave. The buildings along the shore line look like something from limbo in Inception.
On a brighter note, I discovered a really delicious Arabic dessert called harissa. It's not the triangle, and not the bird's nest. The internet says it's a semolina cake, whatever that means.
Also, McDonald's delivers in Egypt. It's called McDelivery.
Interesting fact: in ancient Egypt, gold was plentiful, but silver was rare and therefore much more valuable.