Egypt’s second city is a metropolis of 6 million people located on the Mediterranean coast at the western edge of the Nile Delta. While Cairo is nearly impossible to compete with in terms of historic architecture and monuments, Alexandria may actually be one of the few cities in the world that has a more storied history.
Alexander the Great founded the city in 331 BC, making it nearly 1400 years older than Cairo, and it quickly became one of the wealthiest, largest, and most cultured cities in the world. Today, Alexandria has relatively little to show for its iconic past. Natural disasters, repeated conquests and sieges, and the fact that the city has been repeatedly rebuilt overtop of itself have removed much of ancient and historic Alexandria from view, but it remains a beautiful and enchanting city with immediate access to the beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean.
Alexandria catacombs of Kom el-Shuqafa:
The tombs at Kom Al-Shuqafa are thought to have originally belonged to a single wealthy Roman family that began using it for burials around the 2nd century AD; however, the complex was significantly expanded and it was used through the 4th century AD.
It contains a large number of graves, including a mass grave of animal and human remains that is attributed to a mass execution carried out in Alexandria by the Roman Emperor Caracalla in 215 AD. The tombs are organized around a central spiral staircase that leads down through several levels. The lower levels are flooded, but in the accessible areas, the walls of the tombs are extensively decorated. They display an unusual fusion of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian iconography gave the era of their construction.
The Library of Alexandria:
the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a vast and striking example of the modern 21st-century architecture, but the building recalls something much older. The library and cultural center were inaugurated in 2002 as part of a huge project to commemorate the city of Alexandria’s legacy as an ancient center of world learning and culture.
The Great Library of Alexandria was founded in the 3rd century BC, shortly after the founding of the city as a new capital of Egypt by Alexander the Great. It is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in the legacy of ancient Alexandria since the library and the Mouseion, the larger institution of learning of which the library was a part, are credited with preserving most of the knowledge of the ancient world.
The modern complex seeks to rekindle the intellectual light that once shown from Alexandria. The library itself boasts of a huge and visually stunning main reading room and space for storage of nearly 9 million books, but the complex also houses several smaller specialized libraries, a conference center, art galleries for both permanent and temporary exhibitions, and a planetarium.
Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria:
Sultan Qaitbey built this picturesque fortress during the 14th century to defend Alexandria from the advances of the Ottoman Empire. His efforts were in vain since the Ottomans took control of Egypt in 1512, but the fortress has remained, strategically located on a thin arm of land that extends out into Alexandria’s harbor from the corniche.
The fortress’ current form is not the original. It was heavily damaged during the British bombardment of Alexandria during a nationalist uprising against British hegemony in 1882 and rebuilt around the turn of the 20th century.
Qaitbey built the fortress here to take advantage of an existing foundation on the site—that of the legendary Pharos Lighthouse, which by the 14th century had fallen into ruins due to repeated damage by earthquakes.
Montazah Park Alexandria:
Khedive Abbas II, the ruler of the Khedivate of Egypt and Sudan from 1892 to 1914, built Montazah along the Alexandrian coastline as a summer residence.
However, since the Free Officers Revolution in 1952 removed the ruling family from power, the Montazah palaces and gardens have been much less exclusive than they once were. The gardens are now a well-maintained and very attractive public, seaside park. It is the most pleasant place to relax and walk in Alexandria and for the very modest price of 50 piasters.
There were two palaces on the grounds. The first one, Al Salamlik, was built in 1892 as a hunting lodge for the Khedive and his friends. The palace was renovated during the 1970s to serve as an official presidential residence during the summer months.