Alexandria Travel Guide
Alexandria is Egypt's second largest city and its main port. It was founded over an ancient site of Rhakotis by Alexander the Great himself, hence bore his name. From the Ptolemaic era, Alexandria was made the capital of Egypt until the Arab conquest in 641 AD. During that period, it was a center of science and literature shining over the Mediterranean nations. It had an atmosphere that is different than the rest of Egypt due to the presence of a large Greek community, therefore reflecting a Greek-oriented culture. For the first time, the Greek language was used as a vernacular while the Coptic language replaced hieroglyphic dialects by time. Alexandria is also the city were the legendary Queen Cleopatra once lived with her lover Mark Antony. It saw her final suicide with a snakebite. Alexandria was the first city in Egypt to embrace the budding Christian religion when Saint Mark visited it, preaching the religion, in the 1st century AD. It remained the seat of Coptic Christian patriarchs to the present day.
Greco-Roman museum The museum was built more than 100 years ago. It has 21 rooms and several tens of thousands of relics. The greater part of the exhibited subjects date back to the Ptolemaic and Greco Roman eras from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. However, there is a representation for Pharaonic and Christian eras. The museum is the second important one after the Egyptian museum at Cairo. Cavafy Museum The museum is dedicated to the great Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (Konstantinos Kavafis) (1863-1933) who lived in this house most of his life.
Catacombs of Kom El Shokafa are the most interesting of Alexandria. They were built in the 2nd century AD during the Roman era. Its architecture is a unique combination of both Egyptian and Greco-Roman art. They probably belonged to a one family. The burials are of 3 levels at the depth of 30 meters (100 feet) but the lowest level is unfortunately flooded with water and inaccessible. The entrance is accessible by climbing down a spiral staircase round a shaft through which the body of the deceased was lowered by robes. The tombs have a banquet hall furnished with rock-cut benches to accommodate visitors who come to visit the departed and dine.
Qaitebay Fort: The fort was built in about 1480 by Sultan Qaitbay, the then Burgi Mamluk ruler of Egypt. The site of the fort was once occupied by the famous ancient lighthouse of Alexandria (The Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The lighthouse was subject to earthquakes and despite efforts of some Arab rulers to restore it; it finally collapsed in a 14th century tremor. Qaitbay used its debris in the construction of his fort.
The Montaza palace was built in 1892 by Abbas II, the then ruler of Egypt, as a royal residence. King Fuad made some additions and his son King Farouk built the bridge that extends in the water. The complex includes two hotels: Palestine and Salamlek (San Giovanni). In addition to enjoying the greenery, there are fine beaches, whether in the hotels or the public ones, though you must pay for the latter. The main beaches are Aida and Venesia (Venice). There are bungalows available for rent. The rest of the complex is nothing but lavish gardens ideal for picnics in ALexandria.
Pompey Pillar The site in Arabic is called Amoud El-Sawary. The column was raised in honor of Roman Emperor Diocletian in about 300 AD. The 22 meters-high (72 ft high) column is believed to be taken from the temple of Serapis (The Serapeum). It is made of red granite brought from Aswan. Though bears the name of Pompey, the column has actually nothing to do with him. But some believed his ashes rested somewhere there. Nearby are subterranean galleries where sacred Apis bulls were buried, and three sphinxes. After his defeat by Julius Caesar in the civil war, Pompey fled to Egypt where he was murdered in 48 BC; mediaeval travelers later believed he must be buried here.
The Amphitheater was recently discovered in 1967 when work was ahead to construct modern building on its site. It is the only Roman Theater in Egypt and one of its kind. Built in the 2nd century AD in the Roman era, the theater has 13 semicircular tiers made of white and gray marbles imported from Europe. This can accommodate about 800 spectators. 2 of the marble columns are still standing by the theater. The site has also other interesting things like a yet unexcavated habitation quarters, cisterns, a portico and the exquisite 'villa of the birds.' There is also a garden were some antiquated salvaged from sea are on display.
The mosque of Abu El bass was built in the 18th century by Algerians over the tomb of Abu El-Abbas Al-Morsi, a 13th century Islamic leader. It was rebuilt and renovated in the first half of the 20th century. It is huge with a high minaret and 4 remarkable domes. The mosque is the biggest and the principal one of Alexandria.
Taposiris Magna The site is on the road to Marsa Matrouh. It is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of Alexandria. This was once an important town from the Ptolemaic dynasty. Now what is left are the remains of a temple dedicated to God Osiris and a ruined lighthouse. The lighthouse is a miniature version of the ancient Pharos. Only left are the pylons and the outer walls of the temple. The temple was also used as a church at some time, as some remains prove it
Cavafy Museum - Alexandria The museum is dedicated to the great Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (Konstantinos Kavafis) (1863-1933) who lived in this house most of his life. The house displays Cavafy's productions, translations of his poets and articles written about his poetry as well as biographical records and photographs. It was restored and opened in 1992.
Alexandria Bibliotheca The first call to revive the Ancient Library came from Alexandria University, which allocated the land very close to the original location, and established a distinguished Conference Center as part of the whole project. The complex lies in a location facing the sea and close to the modern Alexandria University Complex. Mohsen Zahran, the project manager said " the new library will encourage peace and the exchange of ideas throughout the region and provide a place for scholars of diverse backgrounds to meet." Designed by a Norwegian architect, the New Bibliotheca Alexandrina takes the shape of a circular diaphragm wall 160 meters in diameter and 33 meters high - representing the sun. It consists of 11 floors with a total area of 85,405 square meters
Al Alamein is most notable as the place where the Allied forces of WW II gained a decisive victory of the Axis forces. Today, the village located about 66 miles east of Alexandria is mostly a port facility for shipping oil. However, it was once described by Churchill as having the best climate in the world. There are several hotels and a beach resort nearby. There is also a war museum with collectibles from the Battle of El Alamein and other North African battles. The only historical interest in this village would be related to WW II, and includes an Italian and German military cemeteries on Tell el-Eisa Hill just outside of town