Alexandria

by Frank Cavallo © 2003

    Travelogue, December 15, 1703
    Alexandria: The Center of it All

For this month's hot spot, the editors of Travelogue have decided to take you back down to Earth, so to speak. If you're a regular subscriber on SolarLink, Planetscape, or any of our other Ultranet intra-brain servers, then you've been with us recently as we've shown you the secret to hitting Saturn's Rings on a budget, where to stay for under 1000 denarii a night (with breakfast) on Europa, and the most romantic getaway sights on the dark side of the moon.

But there are places on the Homeworld just as fantastic, just as worth seeing, and they're only a shuttle ride away from anywhere on the globe or the orbital megaplex. Plus, if you're like most of us, you've probably never even taken the time to visit the great attractions right here on Terra Firma.

Case in point, the Library Pavilion and Museum at Alexandria. Located on the Egyptian Mediterranean coast about a fifteen-minute flight from Rome, it contains the single greatest physical collection of scholarship and literature in the known universe.

Egypt, of course, has been Roman for nearly two millennia. But it wasn't always so, and the evidence is readily at hand in this ancient, storied place. Just down the Nile, easily accessible by hyper-rail service, are the Pyramids at Giza, one of the many pre-modern relics that still remain from Egypt's early days.

Founded by Ptolemy I and later annexed to what was then the First Roman Republic, The Library at Alexandria originally contained some 700,000 papyrus scrolls. All but a few of these originals remain preserved there, though every one has since been digitized, along with most of the material subsequently stored on its shelves.

Counted among the collection are all the great masterworks of the ancient Arts and Sciences. The verses of Aeschylus, Virgil and Luxinius Magnus rest alongside the original design specifications for the Giza projects and the Parthenon. Beside them you'll find the calculations of Erastosthenes concerning the circumference of the globe, without which the fleet of Marcus Aurelius might never have discovered the Western Continents in the year 174.

Now we know what you're thinking, it's the Eighteenth Century! You don't actually have to go to Alexandria to access any of this information anymore. And you're right, the advent of the Internet in the late 700's and the HumanLink cybernetic technology of the last century has allowed any person in the Solar System immediate access to the entire compendium of human data.

This is old news. But that has nothing to do with why you should visit Alexandria.

Yes, libraries as our ancestors knew them have been obsolete for almost a thousand years. But there's much more to see at Alexandria than dusty parchment.

For one, the museum has been completely redesigned to evoke the original architecture. After the Earthquake in 1349 that badly damaged much of the old structure, it was rebuilt in the New Hadrianic style popular during that period. Now, with a generous endowment from AmphoraSoft data-transport systems, the classical granite fašade has finally been restored.

Inside awaits a replica of the Great Hall just as it would have looked in Julius Caesar's time, along with interactive exhibits he never could have imagined.

Truly lifelike holo-images of such diverse figures as Cleopatra and Ptolemy, as well as Socrates, Sophocles, Euripides and others allow you to actually converse with the masters themselves. Reproductions of classical Greek music are performed live at the Nova-Agora, where you can hear an authentic simulation of Homer singing the Iliad, the Odyssey or the Myceniad.

Plus there's no shortage of restaurants. Our favorite is the Pharaoh's Court, just a five-minute walk south of the Library overlooking the harbor. In pure dynastic style, you can enjoy authentic ancient Egyptian dishes, each one replicated exactly from a recipe preserved in the Library.

But finally, no trip to Alexandria would be complete without a visit to the Eternal Torch. Located on a man-made island in the center of the harbor, its great golden flame blazes from the top of a travertine obelisk that soars some thirty-five pedes over the blue waters. It was built in 952 to commemorate the one thousand year anniversary of the legendary fire that almost destroyed the Library.

During the ancient liberation of the city by Caesar's navy, his legionaries only barely captured Alexandria with enough time to put down the flames. Had they not, the results might have been truly disastrous for modern civilization.

A holographic re-enactment of that pivotal conflict lights up the water every hour on the hour from dusk until midnight, so you'll need to get there during the day if you want to hear the audio program.

And believe us when we tell you, it's worth it. Especially when you consider that if Caesar hadn't rescued the Library, all of the history and scholarship contained within it would have been lost.

The accumulated knowledge of centuries might have burned away. Philosophy, art and government as we know them might have perished forever. Without the intellectual forum at Alexandria, Roman civilization itself might have one day declined or even fallen, rather than spreading outward to dominate the world, and later the Solar System.

Some scholars have even speculated that a tragedy of that magnitude would have delayed the industrial revolution by as much as a thousand years.

Imagine that, the Roman flag not even being placed on the moon until around the year 1500.

Until next time, that's Travelogue for December 1703. We'll be back here next month bringing you an insider's guide to the hottest vacation spots in the Milky Way Galaxy. See you all in 1704.

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