EGYPT – An Alexandria day trip from Cairo with a visit to Abu Mena

An Alexandria day trip is a long day trip from Cairo but well worth it. Depending on what you like a trip to the Abu Mena UNESCO World Heritage Site is well worth a detour. If you are not into ruins or places like this it’s better to skip as it’s not a tourist place to go. In such a case hang out in Alexandria all day as there is enough to do. I did both with my wife and kids, but we had just a few hours in Alexandria left. Our Egyptian Sidekicks picked us up again early morning to accompany us to the north of Egypt.

Abu Mena during our Alexandria day trip

After a three hour drive we finally arrived at Abu Mena. It is that I “collect” all UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but otherwise I would not recommend going there. Make it an Alexandria day trip alone without Abu Mena. But I, not the family, needed to visit this place, that’s me! Next to the archeological site there is the new church which serves today as a Christian pilgrimage site. We visited this new compound first after which we went to “search” for the old site.

 

The new church is a beautiful place and will take probably an hour to explore. Fine details in the main church (see photos in gallery) are worth a view for sure. We walked around the compound and after we finished we wanted to go to the old Abu Mena archeological site nearby. This site is in no way signposted and Google maps was our friend here. As all remains are at ground level or lower you cannot really see it and after some wrong turns on dirt roads we arrived at the place. It seemed deserted at first and we just started to walk around till someone from a small wooden church on the site came out offering us to show around. For a tip of course but we ignored him and just went by ourselves. It is strange that for a UNESCO site there was no real good security at all.

TIP! To go to the archeological site of Abu Mena just put it in Google maps and then drive until you get the correct dirt road and you arrive at the front of it. It IS there, just not easy to find.

History at the site dates back to the 3rd and 4th century when Menas of Alexandria was buried at the place. The story goes that a shepherd found the burial site many years later. He discovered that the water of a nearby spring had so-called healing powers. Word spread and more and more people came and at the end of the 4th century a first church was built. The site was expanded over time and was for a long time a huge pilgrimage site in Egypt until the Muslims destroyed it in the 7th century. Today the new compound serves as the pilgrimage site where visitors from all corners of the world visit.

What is left today is nothing more than the foundations and some restored walls. Excavations continue today but due to the farmlands around it the site was flooded and most underground parts were filled up with sand to protect it. We walked around the site to get a good impression of how it might have looked like. You can see the foundations clearly of the various buildings that once stood there. I hope that it will be possible to restore and protect it more as it’s a very important site in the history of Egypt and the world. For me, and luckily even the family, it was a nice visit but we had to continue our Alexandria day trip to the citadel of Alexandria before it would close.

Alexandria city tour

Our second, and also the last stop, of our Alexandria day trip was Alexandria itself. A city which is so full of history that not many other cities in the world can match. Everybody knows about the lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the old wonders of the world, or the Alexandria library. The lighthouse vanished due to earthquakes and the library got destroyed over time and finally when the Muslims took over it was given the last final hit. These places of the past are gone, but a new vibrant city is alive. We stopped first at the old citadel, or fort, which is situated on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. At this place the lighthouse once stood making sure the ships didn’t get lost.

TIP! If you want to see more of Alexandria then start from Cairo at 6 AM and not like us at 8 AM. These two hours will give you just that more time to see a bit more.

 

The citadel was first build in the 15th century to protect the harbor but was later used as a prison. From the citadel you have a nice view on the new library of Alexandria. After an hour we were asked to leave the citadel as it was going to close. We drove passed a few sites in Alexandria before our Alexandria day trip continued to the Presidential Palace, El Montazah, were we watched the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea in one of the public parks. After a great sea food dinner our Alexandria day trip came to an end but a long drive back to Cairo was still ahead of us.

Alexandria is a vibrant city and even worth a two day visit. Our itinerary was really full because we visited Abu Menu. We could have left earlier in the morning probably as 8 AM was quite late. I suggest if you want to visit both places maybe leave at 6 AM in the morning so that you have more time in Alexandria. To visit the Roman theatre, Pompey’s pillar or the catacombs. In any case, this Alexandria day trip was a beautiful get-away from Cairo! Check the 9 day Egypt itinerary to see what I did more during this trip.

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Did you visit Abu Mena or Alexandria too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Alexandria day trip

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

GPS Track Alexandria day trip

During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.

9 Comments

  1. This archaeological site you write about is pretty neat. I had no idea it existed until I read it here. Christianity in Egypt was very strong, and it’s pretty amazing that they have their own saints, and distinct beliefs.

  2. So much history and what a great place to explore ancient ruins! We love finding day trip options whenever we travel anywhere so this is definitely the type of post we would find beneficial. I love how vibrant Alexandria looks and it is definitely a city on our bucket list!

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