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Alexandria

Alexandria , founded by Alexander the Great on the Mediterranean coast in 332 BC e., was the capital of Egypt during the Ptolemaic era. It was famous for its palaces and temples and the most famous library in the ancient world. Ships from all over the Mediterranean moored in the city's double harbor, protected by the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

General information

Much of ancient Alexandria now lies at the bottom of the harbor. Underwater excavations have revealed many archaeological finds in the Eastern Harbor. Unfortunately, the Pharos lighthouse collapsed during the strongest tsunami in 365 AD. e.
Despite the earthquakes, Alexandria continued to develop. The port was Egypt's main trading gateway until air travel began in the early 20th century. Trade contacts with the outside world made Alexandria the most cosmopolitan city in Egypt. Numerous expatriates from Central Europe and Britain remained here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; their way of life was captured by Lawrence Durrell in his tetralogy Alexandria Quartet. The putsch of 1952 put an end to this "little Europe", but the city retained some of its colonial atmosphere.

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The city is located in the middle of a wide bay lined with colonial buildings that unfold in all their beauty at sunset. A myriad of fishing boats sway in the water and deliver their catch to restaurants on the Corniche . The western end of the bay abuts the cape, where the Pharos lighthouse once stood.

Nowadays, this place is the fort of Qaytbay (Qaytbay; daily 9.00-16.00, in summer until 18.00) of the 15th century, from where a beautiful view of the city, the Eastern Harbor and the neighboring small fishing harbor opens up. Located west of the palace of Ras al-Tin (the Ras al-Tin) , built for Muhammad Ali in 1834

It was here that King Farouk abdicated in 1952 before going into exile in Italy.

The way back along the waterfront to the city center will be a pleasant stroll. On the way, it is worth looking into the Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque (Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi; women are allowed to visit only the back of the mosque), rebuilt in 1943.
Here is the tomb of Sheikh Abu al-Abbas of the 13th century. The mosque features exquisite Moorish stone carvings, elegant domes and a minaret.
The small waterfront Maidan Zaghlul Square marks the city center and is very crowded during rush hour. The Hotel Cecil, on its western side, was a meeting place for the writing elite during colonial times. A short walk, off Safiya Zaghlul Street, is the Greco-Roman Museum (9.00-17.00, closed Fri 11.30-13.30, currently closed for extensive renovation) with a collection of local artifacts from the Greek, Roman and Ptolemaic era. At the National Museum of Alexandria (9.00-16.00)Al-Hurriya Street presents the history of Alexandria with the help of objects found in the city and partly taken from other museums. The exhibits, well organized in chronological order, can be seen on three floors. Of particular interest are the Sphinx and other sculptures found during underwater excavations.

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Near the train station, there are excavations at Kom al-Dikkah (Kot al-Dikkah; daily 9.00-17.00) , where the staff of the Polish mission discovered a Roman residential quarter, baths and a small theater of the 2nd century. with a beautiful mosaic floor. Some of the statues raised to the surface in East Harbor are also on display.

A walk or short taxi ride to the southwest will take you to the impressive catacombs of Kom as-Shuqafah (Kot as-Shuqafah; daily 9.00-17.00) . Tombs dating from the 2nd century. n. e., are decorated with a typical Alexandrian combination of ancient and Egyptian motives.

A short walk to the northeast is Pompey's Column (Al-Amud as-Sawari) . Made of red granite, the 30-meter column was erected in honor of the emperor Diocletian, and not the Roman general after whom it is named. This is almost all that remains of Rakotis, the spiritual center of ancient Alexandria.

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It also housed the ancient library of Alexandria, founded by Ptolemy I - one of the largest at that time, numbering about 70 thousand works. It was damaged by several fires and completely destroyed during the Arab invasion in 640. At the beginning of the XXI century. the government decided to create a library worthy of its predecessor. The state-of-the-art Alexandrite Library (Sun-Thu 11.00-19.00, Fri, Sat 15.00-19.00) has been built with UNESCO assistance on the coastal road east of Zaglul Square .

The facade of the library is in gray Aswan granite, covered with inscriptions in all known written languages. Its complex includes the Museum of Manuscripts, Culturama (an interactive show about the history of Egypt) , a planetarium and the Museum of Antiquities. The permanent exhibition Impressions of Alexandria illustrates the city's long history through paintings, maps and drawings.

In the center of Alexandria is no beach, but the resort Muntaza (Muntazah) 8 km to the east offers a sandy beach, the sea and the hotels. The Muntazah Palace, built in the 19th century, now houses a trendy hotel and casino surrounded by beautiful gardens.

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