A great place to take a break from the heat and enjoy an inexpensive ice-cream, snack or fresh fruit juice at Le Jardin cafe in the lobby. The hotel is now run by Sofitel but it's steeped in history and has hosted many famous guests.
16, Saad Zagloul Square,
Raml Station, Alexandria
Google map: tinyurl.com/374xvw3
This is "real" Alexandria and a real treat too. Unlike the Khan in Cairo, tourists don't get hassled to buy stuff here. As it is not touristy you'd better bring a phrase book if you are looking for something specific, otherwise just enjoy wandering around the streets.
The Eastern end starts with clothes and material (some lovely scarves here), then there are a few streets with spices (far, far cheaper than Cairo!) and then the fresh fish, fruit and vegetables take over.
Best buys are loofas, dried Hibiscus, dates and Halva.
It's relatively easy to find your way home as well; as turning off the main street will take you to the Corniche and a taxi will never be too far away.
Walk inland from the Unknown Soldier memorial on the Corniche (Midan Orabi) until you hit the main crossroads (Midan el-Tahrir). Go right here and you'll gradually walk deeper and deeper into the market. It runs parallel to the Corniche between here and El-Anfushi area, just a few blocks in from the bay.
These are two really great historic sites that are wonderful to visit. Because they are so close to each other, you really don't need to book onto a tour and can visit by yourself.
At Pompey's Piller make sure you walk to the far corner of the site, as otherwise you will miss Cleopatra's Library which is an underground shrine dug almost underneath the Pillar itself.
At the Catacombs it is tempting to just stick to the duckboards, but you are allowed to wander off these and explore on your own - do it! The main attraction here though is the brilliant stonework that mix ancient Egyptian iconography with Roman images.
The sites are in a poor neighbourhood. Everyone is very friendly, but if this is your first time exploring on your own, the poverty might be a shock.
The best way to get to Pompey's Pillar is to just get a taxi off the street. Not all taxi drivers will recognise "Pompey's Pillar" so you will also need to ask for the area it is in, Carmus (pronounced Karr-Mooze). You can walk to the Catacombs from Pompey's Pillar - just take the road on your left from the entrance and it is about a 10 minute walk.
For non-beach orientated things to do, the size and decoration of the Kom el-Shuqafa catacombs will remind you of a Spielberg film.
As for food, the Kadora (pronounced A-Dora) and the fish market offer some of the best seafood in Egypt.
A pleasant way to end a day's exploring is to take a calèch ride from near the Cecil Hotel, along the Western harbour, and then retrace your route on foot for a bite to eat at the fish market.
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