Alexandria, Egypt
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Pearl of the Mediterranean
Egypt's 2nd largest city, Alexandria is where I find a fusion of cultural influences, old and new, giving the city a distinct flavour unlike anywhere else in the world. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331BC, there are few Greco-Roman structures remaining to remind us of its glorious past. The location of the former Pharos Lighthouse (One of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World), now stands Fort Qaitbey - an impressive fortress built in 1480 by Mameluke Sultan Qaitbey, at the tip of the Eastern Harbour. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is one example where the new recreates the old. An architectural masterpiece, it is a library and complex for major cultural events, inspired by the Great Library of Alexandria, lost in antiquity. I walk along the main seaside road, Al Corniche, past some charming European colonial buildings and colourful fishing boats anchored within its harbour. There's a friendly ambience in the place. Grateful of travellers, the locals would greet me with "Welcome to Egypt!" - the friendliness of the people a real highlight for me. For relaxation, there's the splendid Stanley Beach and other beaches that dot its coastline. I take time out here to soak in the sun and beach. Try a pigeon dish, drink minted honey tea and a cup of Egyptian coffee to chill out as the day winds down. To top it off, I smoke sheesha (flavoured tobacco smoked from a water pipe). In the words of my tour leader, "Now you are experiencing Egypt like a local."
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