A hybrid city that Darrell called the “Capital of Remembrance,” Alexandria faces the rest of Egypt and the Mediterranean, as if looking back at its glorious past. One of the majestic cities of antiquity, Alexandria lay dormant for 1,300 years until it was revived by Muhammad Ali and transformed by Europeans, who gave the city its modern form and made it synonymous with cosmopolitanism and decadence. This era came to an end in the 1950s with a massive departure of non-Egyptians and a dose of revolutionary Puritanism, but the beaches, restaurants and climate with the breeze of Alexandria still draw crowds of Cairo people in the summer, and historical mysticism continues to attract foreigners.
Alexandria in world history
When Alexander the Great wrested Egypt from the Persian empire in 332 BC at the age of 25, he decided not to use Memphis, the old capital, but chose to build a new city linked by sea to his native Macedonia. Choosing a location near the fishing village of Rhakotis, where two limestone cliffs formed a natural harbor, he gave orders to his architect Deinokratos before traveling to the Siwa oasis and from there to Asia, where he died eight years later. His body was then returned to Egypt, but the priests refused to conduct a funeral ceremony in Memphis.
His resting place is still a mystery, although most archaeologists believe that it is located somewhere near Alexandria. Alexander’s empire was divided between his Macedonian generals, one of whom took possession of Egypt and assumed the title of Ptolemy I Soter, founding a dynasty (323-30 BC). The Ptolemies, who actively spread the Hellenic culture, turned Alexandria into an intellectual center. Among its scientists were the “father of geometry” Euclid and Eratosthenes, who accurately determined the circumference and diameter of the Earth. The great lighthouse of Alexandria, Pharos, was both literally and figuratively a guiding star, comparable to the glory with which only the city’s library – the Library of Alexandria – the leading center of education of the ancient world could compare with glory.
The first three Ptolemies were energetic and enlightened people, but the subsequent members of the dynasty remained in history dissolute and leading the country to decline – perhaps as a result of their marriages between brothers and sisters in imitation of the pharaohs and gods of Ancient Egypt – and turned to Rome to secure their position. Even the brave Cleopatra VII (51-30 BC) was defeated after her lover Julius Caesar was killed, and his heir in Rome (and in her bed) Mark Antony was defeated by Octavian. The latter hated her and so disliked the capital of Cleopatra, Alexandria, that he forbade Roman citizens to enter Egypt on the pretext that local religious orgies were morally corrupting.
Roman rule and Arab conquest
The Egyptians and Greeks of Alexandria respected each other’s gods and even created a common syncretic cult (worship of Serapis), but during Roman rule (30 BC – 313 AD) religious conflicts arose. The Empire considered Christianity, which was supposedly brought by Saint Mark in 45 AD, opposing the authorities. The persecution of Christians, beginning in the year 250, reached a bloody climax under the emperor Diocletian, when, according to the Copts, 155,000 believers were tortured. (The Coptic Church begins its chronology from the year 284, the “Age of Martyrs”, not from the birth of Christ.)
After the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, new disagreements arose regarding the nature of Christ, the theological subtleties of which, but in essence, masked the political revolt of the Copts of Egypt against the rule of Byzantium (that is, the Greeks). In Alexandria, the Coptic patriarch became the supreme power, and his monks waged war against paganism, sacking the temple of Serapis and the library in 391 and killing the scholarly woman Hypatia in 415.
Local hatred of Byzantium contributed to the fact that the inhabitants of Alexandria welcomed the Arab conquest (641). The Arab Caliph Omar described the city as follows: “4000 palaces, 4000 baths, 400 theaters, 1200 greengrocers and 40 thousand Jews.” The Arabs absorbed elements of Alexandrian scholarship into their civilization, but they cared little for the city, which seemed to them “idolatrous and stupid”, and preferred to found a new capital in Fustat (now part of Cairo). Due to the neglect and alteration of the waterways that connected it to the Nile, Alexandria inevitably fell into decay over the next millennium. Therefore, when Napoleon’s troops landed here in 1798, they saw only a fishing village with 4 thousand inhabitants.
Muhammad Ali and colonial rule
The revival of Alexandria was the result of the desire of Sultan Muhammad Ali to turn Egypt into a commercial and naval power, he needed a seaport. The Mahmoudia Canal, completed in 1820, re-linked Alexandria with the Nile, and the harbor, docks and arsenal were built with French assistance. European traders erected residential buildings and warehouses, construction unfolded from Consuls Square (modern Tahrir Square) and the city’s population jumped to 230,000.
Nationalist outrage over foreign influence led to the Orabi uprising in 1882, in connection with which British ships shelled the city, the devastation of which was completed by arsonists and robbers. But such was the vitality and commercial importance of Alexandria that she quickly recovered.
Having survived the bombing of World War II, Alexandria faced new challenges in the post-war era, when anti-British riots marked the rise of nationalism. The revolution that forced King Farouk to sail from Alexandria into exile in 1952 had little impact on the foreign community (many of its members had lived here for generations) until the Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt during the 1956 Suez crisis.
The next year, however, Nasser expelled all French and British citizens and nationalized foreign enterprises, forcing one hundred thousand non-Egyptians to emigrate. The Jewish population also suffered after the exposure of Israeli-led sabotage in the city. Therefore, by the end of the year, only a few thousand Greeks and Jews remained. Foreign offices and streets were renamed in Egyptian style, and the custom of moving the capital to Alexandria during the hot summer months ceased.
Alexandria – a city in literature
While the inhabitants of “old” Alexandria undoubtedly regret the changes following the Suez crisis, Darrell’s complaints that they led to “dull monotony” and made Alexandria “intolerably oppressive” seem bitter and unfair. Egypt’s second city (population 5,500,000) has become more Egyptian and less patrician, but there is no lack of contrast and vitality. The difference is that middle-class Egyptians set the tone, not Greek, Levantine and European expatriates. If Kawafi, arak and brothels with children represented the old days, then McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Nike represent a new type of cosmopolitanism. Overcrowding, pollution and frequent traffic jams spoil the picture, but the Mediterranean still preserves Alexandria.
Alexandria can show very few monuments of its ancient heritage and much more of its rejected present. Her past can be seen in tarnished coffee houses, old signboards, memories of elderly Arabs, Greeks and Jews, and her literary heritage. The classic source remains the book by EM Forster Alexandria: History and Guide (1922), although Forster himself considered his most important achievement that he published the works of the native of Alexandria Constantine Kawafi. Nostalgia, excess, loss and futility – the leitmotifs of Kawafi’s poetry – also feature Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.
Darrell definitely used Kawafi as the prototype for his character Balthazar. In general, Darrell paid little attention to the Egyptians, and his books are not highly regarded in Egypt. Michael Haag’s book, Alexandria – City of Memory, brings to mind the world of three writers inspired by the history and society of the city, though it’s worth remembering the ancient adage “big book, big trouble.” Therefore, you may prefer Naguib Mahfuz’s Miramar, a concise description of post-revolutionary Alexandria from an Egyptian perspective. For an understanding of foreigners’ views on Alexandria, refer to Charles Pye-Smith The Other Nile, Douglas Kennedy Beyond the Pyramids, Paul William Roberts River in the desert.
Although Alexandria was ignored by travel writers since the mid-1990s, books on the city’s archeology and cultural heritage continued to be published. French archaeologist Jean-Yves Ampere of the Alexandria Research Center has written two excellent guides to city sites and history: Alexandria Revealed and Alexandria Rediscovered, as well as guides to the Greco-Roman Museum and the Catacombs. Hungarian Egyptologist Göza Vörös touches on the city’s maritime history in his book Taposiris Magna: Port of Isis. All of these books can be purchased at local bookstores and can be viewed at the Library of the Archaeological Society of Alexandria, 6 Sharia Mahmoud Mokhtar (opening hours: Monday-Friday and Sunday).
How to get to Alexandria
Alexandria is easily accessible from Cairo and you can choose between train, bus, shuttle or plane. Buses and minibuses offer two routes: the Green Road through the desert past the Wadi Natrun turn, or the unpredictable, crowded Delta Road, which is much slower, although the distance is about the same (225 kilometers). Remember that tickets for all transport for mid-June – end of September may be sold out, so book your seats in advance if you are not ready to use fixed-route taxis.
The best buses, which reach the destination in three hours, leave from the Ramses Hilton in Cairo by Superjet. Slightly cheaper and less comfortable buses from the West Delta Bus Company leave from Turgoman Garage and Abud Terminal. The fastest air-conditioned trains are Spanish and Turbini. Every day, both of them leave three times a day, the journey takes a little more than two hours. There are also so-called French trains that leave nine times a day, they run thirty minutes longer and cost thirty percent less.
Route taxis take about three hours and have the advantage that they leave throughout the day as soon as they fill up. In Cairo, both taxi cars and taxi minibuses are located near Ramses Station and Abud Terminal, their drivers shouting “Iskandaria! Iskandaria! ” It is not worth flying from Cairo (50 minutes; £ 330 one way): it will not save you time as you have to travel to and from airports and there are also security concerns at Alexandria airports. To get to Alexandria from other parts of Egypt, buses and / or shuttle buses are the best way. Transport from the Delta and the Canal Zone runs fairly regularly. From the Nile Valley, daily buses leave from Beni Suef.
Arrival, landmarks and information
West Delta and Superjet buses drop off passengers at 15 May station in Sidi Gaber, west of downtown. You can get to the center by minibus # 1, trams # 2 or 4 (25 piastres) or by taxi (locals pay 5 pounds, foreigners about 10). Trains from Cairo usually stop at Sidi Gaber Station (north of the bus terminal) before the final stop at Masr Station, about 1 km south of centrally located Milan Saad Zaglul, which can be reached on foot via Sharia Nabi Daniel (10-15 minutes).
Minibus taxis are most likely to turn off at Midan El-Gumkhorriya outside Masr station, but they can also stop near the Muharrem Bay depot. There you can take a mini-bus and get to Midan el-Gumhorriyah (25 piastres) or take a taxi to the center (5 pounds).
Alexandria is currently served by two airports, none of which matches their “international” status. An Nozha airport, 5 kilometers south of the town (used by Lufthansa, Olympic and Egypt Air), has such old runways and flight controls that other companies use the former military airfield at Burg al Arab, 60 kilometers west of Alexandria. None of the airports have currency exchange, ATMs or duty-free shops, so passengers arriving from abroad have to take Egyptian currency in advance in order to be able to pay for the trip to the town.
But if you plan to get a visa on arrival, it can only be purchased for US dollars, British pounds or euros. Public transport in the city is limited to bus # 555 (£ 6) from Burg al-Arab to Midan Saad Zaghlul (the schedule is designed to match the arrivals and departures of the planes). A taxi to Alexandria from Burg al-Arab costs 80-100 pounds, from An-Nozha airport – 20 pounds.
Landmarks, maps and street names
Alexandria runs along the Mediterranean Sea for 20 kilometers, without going inland for more than 8 kilometers – a real coastal city. Its great Corniche (promenade) runs around the East Harbor and along the coast, past a strip of city beaches to Montazah and Maamur, disappearing before the last beach in Abu Qir. Further offshore, visitors stroll around the central quarter of El Manshiyah, where most of the restaurants, hotels and nightclubs are located a few blocks around or near Midan Saad Zagloul.
The Corniche (and the breeze from the sea) makes orientation generally quite easy, but finding more specific locations can still be difficult. Unlike Cairo, central Alexandria has yet to be properly mapped. The standard Lehnert & Landrock Map of Alexandria skips entire streets and blocks. Street names are also a problem, as street signs do not always match the latest official or popular street name (usually one rename behind).
Other street names are simply altered in Arabic: street or square in Sharia or Midan, “Alexander the Great” in “Iskander el-Akbar”. In the city center, most signs are in French and Arabic, and people can use either option when explaining the way to go anywhere. The Arheological Sites of Alexandria Historical Map (Historical Map of Alexandria), published by the Alexandria Conservation Foundation, is sold in bookstores.
The main tourist office is located in the southwest corner of Midan Saad Zaglul, whose staff speaks English and can answer most questions, and will provide a free Alexandria Night and Day booklet. The office has branches at An-Nozha Airport, Masr Station and a non-permanent branch at the Maritime Terminal (opening hours are variable). The obvious sources of contact are the university and foreign cultural centers.
Alexandria city transport
The city center is compact enough to be navigated on foot, and a tour of the Corniche to Fort Kaitbey is a rewarding 35-50 minute walk. But in order to get to other areas, you will need transportation. The main terminals in the city center are Ramleh; the square in front of the station Masr Midan el-Gumhorriya; and Midan Khartoum east of the Greco-Roman Museum. Minibuses along the Corniche can be taken from the sea to Midan Orabi and Saad Zaglul.
Trams, buses and minibuses
Trams are an integral part of life in Alexandria, transporting all classes at snail speed and rumbling past homes of rich and poor alike. Originally built in Britain, the current trams were a gift from Denmark in 1960.
Routes are operated from 5:30 am to midnight (in summer until 1:00 am), the fare is 25-75 piastres. The signs and route numbers are in Arabic only, but you can tell where the tram is going by the color, since all trams going east of Ramleh are painted blue, and those going west are yellow and red. More secret clues lie in the background color of the tram numbers, which identify the route numbers # 1 (blue), # 2 (red), # 3 (blue on yellow), # 4 (white on blue) and # 5 (black on white).
On trams with three cars, the middle one is for women. Some have double-decker carriages with stunning views from the top floor. Standing below, it may be difficult for you to see the names of tram stops, which are written in English at some stops. All eastbound trams stop at the sports club, except for No. 4.
The bus numbers that are owned by the city or private operators (50 piastres – £ 1.50) are also listed in Arabic, and the bus hours are similar to trams, but faster. Passengers board between the main terminals – Saad Zaglul, Tahrir and El Gumhorriya squares.
City buses are often very crowded and, even worse, pickpockets and tram boors run on them. If possible, it is better to use another mode of transport. Fortunately, minibuses offer a fairly comfortable ride and cover most of the same routes.
Municipal minibuses are blue and white, private minibuses are blue. The fare is the same for both (1, 50 piastres – 2, 25 pounds), and they run in the same period of time as buses and trams.
|No. 1 and No. 2
|From Ramleh to Victoria via the Sports Club and Rushdie
|From Midan St. Catherine to Muharrem Bay
|From Ramleh to Ras el-Tin via El Gomruk
|From Midan Saint Catherine to Pompey’s Column and the Catacombs
|From Midan Orabi to Sidi El Sheikh
|Ras el Tin do San Stefano
|From Ramlech to Hannoville along the Corniche
|From Ras el-Tin to Montazah along the Corniche
|From Midan Khartoum to Hannoville along the Corniche
|From Midan Saad Zaghlul via Burg Al Arab Airport
|From Midan Saint Catherine to Pompey’s Column
|From Midan Saad Zaghlul to the bus station May 15
|From Ramlech to Hannoville
|From Ras el-Tin to Montazah along the Corniche
|From St. Catherine’s Midan to Maamura along the Corniche
|From Ramlech to Maamura along the Corniche
|From Masr Station to El Agami Beach (Hannoville)
|From Ras el-Tin to Abu Kir via Sidi Gaber and Cornish
|From Masr Station to Abu Kir inland
Taxis, Crews and Car Rentals
Regular black and yellow (or orange) taxis never use the meters and will charge you as much as they can get (especially if you are driving to Masr station or other point of departure). You have to pay around £ 4 for a ride through the city center (to Shatby, for example) and £ 20-30 for a ride to Montazah. Larger blue Peugeots are much more expensive than regular taxis. So don’t get caught up in this by mistake.
Copper-edged, horse-drawn, leather-topped carriages call passengers with shouts of “kalesh, kalesh” near Masr Station and along the Corniche. If you don’t get stuck in traffic and feel like a “colonialist,” this might be a good way to drive through the quieter parts of Alexandria and enjoy the sea breeze. You must agree on a price ahead of time – expect around £ 8-10 per hour.
It makes sense to rent a car with a driver if you are planning to visit El Alamein or more distant sites west of Alexandria. El Lord 6 Sharia Goul Gamal in Rushdie charges £ 130-195 per day depending on vehicle type including 120 miles of road. Avis at Hotel Cecil offers Mercedes and Peugeots (£ 90 / £ 170 for three to six hours) and charges £ 450 for a day trip to El Alamein and Mina.
Accommodation in Alexandria
Alexandria’s hotels include old guesthouses and luxurious citadels in the international Sheraton style, but few hotels for the mid-range budget. The sea view is a big plus and hotels set prices accordingly, although cheap hotels in these rooms are cold in winter. Two shortcomings that become clear only later – the noise from trams and huge orange cockroaches – a double misfortune of hotels by the sea.
You either learn to live with them or move to live further from the sea. Please be aware that room choices and availability are limited during peak season when it is advised to book in advance. The prices below are for high activity periods and are for rooms without sea view, unless otherwise noted, breakfast is included. You can count on hot water.
Alexandria Youth Camp is located on the main road opposite St Mark’s College at Shatby, 1 kilometer east of the town center. Take tram # 1 or # 2 from Ramleh to college and turn towards Corniche. The camp is located at 32 Sharia Bur Said, next to several Greco-Roman tombs. Its three-bed rooms (£ 25) are no less expensive than the double rooms in some cheap hotels in the center, and the location is very noisy and really convenient only for visiting the library.
If you want to stay for a while, it makes sense to rent an apartment. Most expatriates live in the Rushdie area, a few kilometers east of the city center, where a two-bedroom apartment costs £ 1,500-2,000 a month. In El Manchia, in the city center, you can rent a similar property for £ 1,500 a month.
Hotels in the city center
one). Hotel Acropole – Centrally located, old-fashioned hotel with tram noise, dusty rooms with sinks and clean beds. Extra charge – sea view (£ 10) or bath (£ 25). Hotel address: 27 Sharia Gamil el-Din Yassin;
2). Hotel Cecil – A centrally located hotel with a beautiful view of the East Harbor, this is an important site in Alexandria. Darrell, Churchill, Noelle Cavard and Somerset Maugham open the guest list, but Sofitel’s modernization and management have dissolved the old flavor. The regular rooms are cozy and air conditioned, but nothing special. You pay an extra $ 50 for the sea view, the large corner suite costs $ 278. French and Chinese restaurants, nightclub, Monty’s Ваr table of orders Avis. Accepts Amex, MC and Visa. Hotel address: 16 Midan Sa’ad Zaghloul;
3). Hotel Crillon – The best-preserved of Alexandria’s pre-war guesthouses, with a lobby filled with stuffed birds. On the 4th floor, fresh Art Deco rooms with balconies overlooking the sea and impeccable shared bathrooms, do not think of small rooms with all amenities on the 7th floor. Half board is required during peak season. Hotel address: 5 Sharia Abib Ishtak;
4). The Hyde Park Hotel is a scruffy hotel that advertises “water in the room,” “food 24 hours,” “regret elsewhere,” but neglects to mention the glass balconies overlooking the harbor, which is its only worthwhile feature. Hotel address: 21 Sharia Amin Fikhry;
5). Metropole Hotel – Centrally located on the corner of Midan Ramleh, this beautifully decorated 1900s hotel has been refurbished to a four-star standard. All rooms have air conditioning and beautiful bathrooms, while the suites have antique furniture and Jacuzzi. It is worth paying an extra $ 35 for the sea view. There is a French restaurant. Hotel address: 52 Sharia Sa’ad Zaghloul;
6). New Hotel Welcome House – Shabby old hostel with some of the cheapest rooms in Alexandria with all amenities and sea views (£ 35). The elevator may not work. Hotel address: 28 Sharia Gamil el-Din Yassin;
7). Hotel Normandie – In the same building as the Welcome House, this is the same old but reasonably clean hotel. Rooms with sea views are even cheaper here, but with shared bathrooms (some do not have hot water). No breakfast. Hotel address: 28 Sharia Gamil el-Din Yassin;
eight). Sea Star Hotel – A few blocks from Midan Ramleh. Some of the rooms on the upper floors have distant sea views, the rest are gloomy and claustrophobic, but equipped and fairly clean. Hotel address: 24 Sharia Amin Fikhry;
9). Triomphe Hotel – This is one of the best economy options on a popular street: attractive kitsch style, clean and with sea views from some rooms (£ 30 extra). No breakfast. Hotel address: 26 Sharia Gamil el-Din Yassin;
10). Union Hotel – This bright, clean Art Deco hotel is three blocks down the Corniche from Midan Saad Zaghloul and requires advance reservations. The hotel’s cool lounges overlook the eastern harbor. Worth paying an extra £ 20 for a large carpeted room with harbor views, private balcony and private bathroom. Breakfast (£ 8) is compulsory during high season. Hotel address: 164 Sharia 26 Yulyu;
eleven). Windsor Palace Hotel – This newly refurbished Edwardian hotel offers 3-star amenities (note Lady Spencer’s Terrace and Prince Charles Coffee House) and green and gold decor. Many rooms offer fantastic harbor views. Accepts MC and Visa. Hotel address: 17 Sharia ash-Shohada.
Hotels outside the city center
If you don’t mind staying off-center, Montazah has several quality hotels near shopping malls and the International Garden on the southern edge of Alexandria.
one). El Salamlek Hotel – This grandiose pseudo alpine chalet was once the residence of Khedive Abbas’s mistress and is decorated in the style of the period (suites for $ 370). Additional services include a private beach, the only casino in Alexandria (open to non-residents with passports), French and Italian restaurants (chic dress required). Accepts all major credit cards. Hotel address: Palace Montazah Gardens;
2). Helnan Hotel – Originally built to house the leaders of Arab states trying to solve the Palestinian problem in 1964, the hotel has been converted into a five-star conference venue. Spacious rooms overlook the palace or the lagoon. Water sports and night club. Out of season, prices are about thirty percent lower. Hotel address: Palestine near Haramlik courtyard;
3). Hilton Hotel – Opened in 2002. With first-class amenities, but a big drawback is its location on the highway on the outskirts of the city (20 minutes by taxi from the center). Accepts all major cards. Hotel address: Alexandria 14th of May Bridge, Smoulha;
4). Mercure Romance Hotel – Located on the Corniche between Montazach and the city center, this new 4-star Mercure hotel is worth considering. Bookings through Longshamps in Cairo can cost as little as $ 30 per person, an official rate at Hilton level. Its Chinese restaurant and disco are also good. Hotel address: 303 Tariq el-Geish, Saba Pasha;
5). Sheraton Montazah Hotel – Overpriced five-star tower at a busy intersection outside the palace. Night club, disco, small outdoor pool and tennis court. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, minibar and satellite TV. Accepts all major credit cards. Hotel address: Montazah.
Sights of Alexandria
Alexandria promotes nostalgic travel and exploration at random, if only because attractions are limited and random events are much more rewarding. Do not be afraid to follow your own intuition and dodge the usual routes that, with a little haste, can be completed in one day.
While the Roman theater and the catacombs of Kom es Shokafa are monumental sites of Alexandria, whose classical heritage is being housed in the new library and the National Museum of Alexandria, it is the atmosphere of the former European and “indigenous” neighborhoods that remains in your memory.
For convenience, descriptions start from the city center and go to the outskirts, intertwining the antique, memorial and existing city. The historical map, published by the Alexandria Conservation Foundation, helps you get an idea of the ancient city while walking.
one). South and East of Midan Saad Zaghlul
Since EM Forster wrote his travel guide to Alexandria in 1922, the city center has shifted east of the former Muhammad Ali Square (now Midan Tahrir) to the seaside Midan Saad Zaglul, a square named after the nationalist leader (1860-1927), whose statue is now looking at the Mediterranean Sea. His deportation to Malta by the British sparked a national uprising (1919) and secured Zagloul’s return as a national hero, although the national independence he demanded was not achieved for a whole generation. In the novel by Nagib Mahfuz “Miramar” Zaglul is called “Pasha”.
There are no traces of the Caesareum, which was located here in ancient times, and the square looks post-colonial. Dilapidated buildings that might have stood in Naples or Athens overshadow the tourist office. The dominant building is the pseudo Moorish-style building of the Cecil Hotel, where in a suite on the second floor the British Secret Service drew up a plan for a deception during the Battle of El Atamein. This building is now owned by the Sofitel chain and is no longer the dark and decadent one at The Alexandria Quartet.
The same mysticism surrounds the Alexandrian pastry shops, there are three of them nearby. Delices, under a red canopy, followed Trianon’s famous old corner establishment by installing air conditioners and a gatekeeper. Athineos near Ramleh tram station was the largest, but now there are holes in its Art Nouveau decor.
Trianon sits directly behind the former site of Cleopatra’s needles, two giant obelisks that once marked the entrance to Caesareum. Nineteenth-century visitors enjoyed drawing and photographing the one still standing and its fallen comrade (knocked down by the 1301 earthquake) until both were taken away in the 1870s to be re-installed on the London waterfront and Central Park. New York. Their name is incorrect as they were made for Heliopolis fourteen centuries earlier and transported to Alexandria fifteen years after Cleopatra’s death.
Sharia Nabi Daniel (synagogue and Coptic cathedral)
Starting as a small, discreet street near the Tourist Office, Sharia Nabi Daniel grows wider as it travels south along the ancient Soma Street. Paved with marble and surrounded by a marble colonnade, it amazed the Arabs in 641, although its most beautiful buildings have already disappeared. Before being destroyed by warring Christians in the fourth century, the northern part of the street was crowned with Caesareum, a temple that Cleopatra began to build for Antony, and Octavian finished and dedicated to himself. The complex was filled with “select paintings and statues”, entered through a gate with two huge obelisks that he took out of Heliopolis.
A little further down Nabi Daniel, there are tall wrought iron gates and police are guarding the Eliyahu Ha-Navi synagogue, which can be entered through an alley to the north (on Saturday morning, you may have to pay to enter, take your passport). Built in 1885 by Baron Jacques Menasche, the Italian-style columned interior is characterized by stained glass windows, giant meters, and a collection of Torah lists from the disappeared neighboring synagogues that once served a Jewish community of 70,000 dating back to the city’s founding. Today only fourteen remain, mostly elderly Jews, six of whom look after the synagogue and its vast archives.
Across the road, another set of gates marked with crosses gives out the Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark on a site surrounded by taller buildings. The entrance here is through Shariya al-Kinesa al-Kobtiyah (also called Coptic Church Street), which connects to Nabi Daniel further south. The cathedral is named after the apostle who was martyred in 67 by the pagans. He was kidnapped during Mass, dragged tied to horses through the streets of Alexandria, where his remains were kept in the local church until 828, when the Venetians secretly removed the body from Muslim-ruled Alexandria in a barrel of salted pork and placed it in the Basilica of San Marco. The head was donated to the Marie Girgis Church in Cairo. In 1997, Pope John Paul II returned one of St. Mark’s fingers to Pope Shenouda III as a sign of universal reconciliation.
The cathedral itself is an imitation of a Byzantine church of the early twentieth century, its interior incorrectly described by Forster as “senselessly ugly.” The remains of some of the first 47 patriarchs of the Diocese of Alexandria are buried in the chapel to the left of the iconostasis. Daily services run from 6:00 to 8:00 and from 20:00 to 22:00. This part of the city is the classic territory of Darrell: the author himself lived with Eva Cohen (the prototype of Justina) in an apartment at 40 Sharia Fuad. Some of his fictional characters also lived nearby: Darley and Pombal on Nabi Daniel, Clay, Justin and Nessim on Fuad I Street (now Sharia Fuad / Sharia Horria).
Cavafy Museum and Church of Saint Saba
A more tangible relic of Alexandria’s literary heritage can be found on the back street next to Nabi Daniel, formerly called Lepsius Street but now called Sharm el Sheikh. To find it, turn onto st. Sultan Hussein and follow the alley between the luggage store and the lighting store. Near No. 4 at the far end, a small sign in Greek denotes the Kawafi Museum, which recreates the apartment on the third floor where Constantine Kawafi (1863-1933) lived at the zenith of his poetic talent. It is located above the brothel around the corner from the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Saba. “Where could I live better? He asked. Downstairs, a brothel sells flesh. Here is the church that forgives sins, and the hospital where we die. ” He did die there and was buried in the Greek cemetery at Shatbi,
The current museum was organized by the Greek Consulate in 1992. Its keeper says that Cavafy (as he became known) had nine brothers, that he loved candlelight and died of throat cancer from drunkenness, but is silent about his homosexuality (he was never married). Visitors can see his brass bed, icons, books and a death mask, as well as a modest writing desk where he wrote The Barbarians, Ithaca and The City elegy.
There is also a room dedicated to Stratis Cirkas, a disciple of Cavafy, who wrote the Drifting Cities trilogy about Greece’s secret wartime politics in Cairo, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Across the road is the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Saba, built on the site of the ancient temple of Apollo. The 17th-century church contains a marble plaque on a column on which St. Catherine is believed to have been beheaded, a giant bronze bell and relics of Patriarch Petros VII, who died in a helicopter crash on Mount Athos in Greece (2004). When the Greek population of Alexandria decreased from 300 thousand (until 1957) to the current 1000, the whole of Africa was included in the Alexandrian diocese, and its congregation rose to 250 thousand – a figure unprecedented since Roman times.
If you want to see the building of the Opera House, formerly the Mohamed Ali Theater and now called the Syed Darwish Theater, walk through the Sharia of Saint Saba. This is a beautiful building, with some architectural elements reminiscent of the Odeon Theater in Paris and the Vienna Opera House. Be sure to look inside to see the magnificent lobby. Six blocks further down at no. 30 is a replica of Palazzo Farnese in Rome, built for an Italian bank. It is now home to the Misr Bank, whose rich Gothic interior is worth seeing.
To Midan el-Gumhorriya
The oldest crossroads in Alexandria lie near the modern intersection of Nabi Daniel, Fuad and Horria streets. The latter was the Canopic Road, surrounded by a marble colonnade and leading from the sunny gate through which visitors entered the city. Many scholars believe that this intersection was the site of the Muzeon (“Chapel of the Muses”), the institution from which the word “Museum” is derived. Founded by Ptolemy I Soter (323-282 BC), it contained lecture halls, laboratories, observatories and the legendary “mother of libraries.” Across the road stood Soma, the temple where Alexander the Great and several Ptolemies were originally buried. It is assumed that the victorious Octavian here honored the founder of Alexandria, but showed contempt for his heirs: “I wanted to see the king, not the corpses.”
Part of this site is occupied by the nineteenth-century Nabi Daniel Mosque, whose modern entrance is at the back. It is believed that the crypt contains the remains of the prophet Daniel (in fact, it contains the remains of Muhammad Danial al-Maridi, a Sufi sheikh, and a certain Lukman the Wise). Legends that the tomb of Alexander lies deeper underground, forced the Egyptian Society of Antiquities to conduct excavations at the beginning of 1990, but nothing was found. Two Greeks later announced that they had found her near the Siwa oasis. Professor Fakhrani of the University of Alexandria believes that the Romans reburied him outside the Tsar’s Quarter, where Christian cemeteries are now located.
Sharia Nabi Daniel ends at Midan el-Gumhorriya, a bustling array of bus and taxi lines near the neo-Baroque Masr station, designed by a Greek and an Italian in 1927. You can retreat to the Roman Theater near Sharia Youssef.
In 1959, Polish archaeologists and staff at the Greco-Roman Museum removed the Turkish fort and rubbish Kom el-Dikka (Garbage Mountain), revealing a layer of the Roman period beneath the Muslim cemetery. In the days of the Ptolemies, there was Pan’s Park – a hilly amusement garden with a limestone peak, carved in the shape of a main cone, where Roman villas, baths and an amphitheater were later built. The elegant Roman theater had marble seats for seven to eight hundred people and rougher galleries for the plebs and a front courtyard with two sections of mosaic floors.
In Byzantine times, gladiatorial games were interspersed with chariot races, where teams were based at the Blue and Green racetracks in Constantinople. Some of the theater seats retained graffiti in support of one of the teams (which were closely associated with political factions). Along the north side of the theater’s portico are thirteen auditoriums that could have been part of the ancient University of Alexandria, with an annual enrollment of 5,000 students.
A separate ticket, sold at the main entrance, allows you to enter the newly opened Bird Villa (£ 5). It is named for its mosaic floors, depicting nine different breeds of birds (and the panther). On the way to the villa, you will pass a laboratory for the purification of antiquities, where stone parts recently found in the sea are delivered.
Further north, excavations are underway in a residential area (closed to visitors). The arches and walls of the quarter dissolve into the streets, shops and houses of the neighboring quarters. Many of the buildings were constructed of alternating layers of brick and stone, a technique called opus mixtum (“mixed work”). Five centuries later, the Arabs used the same method to build a wall around a shrinking city. The wall was then reinforced by the Turks. The eastern gate (Bab Sharq) of the Arab city is built into the Stadium next to the Masr train station.
Sharia Safia Zaghlul and the Greek Quarter
Leaving Kom el-Dikk and turning north around the corner of the facility, you will come to the statue of Khedive Ismail that once stood near the Corniche. It was removed in 1956, when nationalists scolded him as puppets of colonialism, and only recently was it given a permanent home here. From the statue, cross Sharia Gumkhorriya and head north along Shariya Safiya Zaglul.
In the days of Kawafi, it was called Missala Street and was famous for billiard rooms and easy-going men. Now named after the wife of the nationalist leader, she is known for shopping and cinemas. The Metro Cinema bend leads into the heart of what was once the Greek Quarter, one of five urban areas that Muhammad Ali has allocated to various ethnic groups that have become as wealthy and cosmopolitan as Alexandria itself. Many of the villas here along Shariya Batals (still called by its old name, Ptolemaic Street) and Shariya Faraan (called Pharaohs Street) now host cultural centers. Among them is the American Center in a building that used to belong to the Zionist and philanthropist Georg Menashe.
The most famous building in the Greek Quarter is the Greco-Roman Museum, whose classic facade was made by Leopold Dietrich Bey (1892). It is visible at the far end of the Museum Street. It houses Egypt’s finest collection of classical antiquities, but the museum is currently closed for refurbishment. Its opening date and future layout are unclear, but some of its extensive collections will be on display in other museums until then. When it opens, it will be possible to see treasures such as a mummified crocodile, human mummies dating from 100-250 years, relics of the Serapis cult spread by Ptolemy I and death masks, statues and busts of Roman emperors, including Julius Caesar. In the garden of the museum, there are several rock-cut tombs and the giant head of Mark Antony.
Alexandria National Museum
Back at Shariya Horriya (also called Tariq Gamal Abdel Nasser), head east past the local administration building, walk the multi-layered section of ancient walls behind some of the houses in the alley and you will reach the impressive Alexandria National Museum at 110 near the corner of Midan Khartoum. The museum is housed in an Italian-style building once owned by the wood merchant Assad Basili. It displays some of the startling archaeological discoveries made in and around the city over the past decade. Artfully illuminated and with English signage, the museum also offers an impressive art collection and a history bookshop.
On the ground floor, a place of honor is given to artifacts from Heracleion and Canopus. Diorite Sphinx, priest of Isis, carrying a Canopian jug, and a statue of the goddess with a granite stele of Nectanebus II, which once stood at the mouth of the Canopian branch of the Nile. From ancient Alexandria, there are images of the emperor Caracalla in the headdress of the pharaohs, the mosaic of Medusa found under the Diana cinema, the marble hand of an unknown colossus and the head of Berenice, wife of Ptolemy II. Upper Egypt is represented by a life-size statue of Ben Menkh, ruler of Dendera during Roman times.
On the top floor, beautiful pearl doors and mashrabiyas precede Coptic stelae and friezes depicting lions, sheep, and grape clusters, followed by icons, priests’ robes and paraphernalia. Islamic artifacts are even more widely represented: belts and headdresses of Persian and Turkish origin, gold coins made during the Fatimid and Byzantine empires and indicating trade between them, Mamluk and Ottoman weapons (all ceremonial and made in Europe, when the balance of power shifted to the West ). The last room upstairs is called Alexandria in the twenty-first century and features photographs of street scenes from colonial times and a satellite view of the city today, as well as tableware, pearl-adorned rings and medals from the King Farouk collection. Note the lithe silver fish.
2). Around Midan Arabi and Midan Tahrir
The old heart of European Alexandria lies nine blocks west of Midan Saad Zaglul. To get there, you can take a tram to Shariya el Ghofra el Tigariya or walk along Shariya Saad Zaghlul, which starts as a bustling shopping street, gleaming with neon signs, and ends as a shady alley.
On the street you can meet local characters, such as a bookseller whose family escaped the Armenian genocide, came here penniless, got rich by founding a piano factory, and then lost everything in 1957. Or the shabby old man who, in his youth, pimped for British soldiers and tells you his dirty tales of drinking in one of the side-street bars. You can also dive into the maze of furniture and clothing workshops across the plaza from the telephone exchange.
On reaching Midan Orabi, you will see the neoclassical monument to the Unknown Soldier overlooking the sea. There is no trace of the French Gardens where expatriates once roamed among the acacias and bushes, but the abandoned synagogue at the corner of Saad Zaglul and the Maronite Church near the square bears witness to the social diversity of the area a century ago.
To the south of the French Gardens lies the “Frankish Square” – the center of social life in a European city. “There is nothing in Alexandria but Frankish Square and the shacks of the inhabitants,” wrote Florence Nightingale in 1849. Originally the Place des Consuls, it was renamed in honor of Muhammad Ali, whose equestrian statue (by Jacques Marthe, 1868) is now barely visible against the hideous facades around it. After the Orabi uprising in 1882, the British tied the rioters to the acacias and shot them here. Not surprisingly, after the revolution, the name was changed to Liberation Square – Midan Tahrir.
Midan Tahrir also witnessed two major events of the Nasser era. In October 1954, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood organization shot Nasser during a public speech. The failed (or perhaps staged) assassination attempt gave Nasser an excuse to ban the organization and replace General Naguib (who was falsely identified as part of the conspiracy) as the recognized leader of Egypt. Two years later, on the fourth anniversary of King Farouk’s abdication, Nasser delivered a three-hour speech broadcast live on national radio, culminating in the announcement that Egypt had taken possession of the Suez Canal. The repetition of the name “Lesseps” in his speech before this statement was actually the signal to start this operation.
Shariya Salah Salem and surroundings
Several streets around Midan Tahrir deserve special mention, and maybe a walk along them. Heading southeast, Sheriff Pasha Street, once called Alexandria Bond Street, was the birthplace of Kawafi. On the corner stood the Cotton Exchange, which was buzzing with the shouts of European merchants. Renamed Sharia Salah Salem in honor of Nasser’s colleague, the street is now less chic, but antiques and jewelry can still be found here, most of which were once owned by foreigners who were deprived of this property by Nasser. The main landmark here is the Moorish-Gothic Anglican Church of St. Mark, whose congregation includes many Sudanese.
In 1942, Darrell was working around the corner at the propaganda bureau at 1, Sharia Mahmoud Azmi. Placard # 2 marks the site of the first trading company established by Al-Fayed, two poor guys born in Sharbangi Alley in Alexandria, who became big international businessmen. Muhammad Al Fayed is best known for owning a Harrods store in London and his son Dodi’s relationship with Princess Diana. The al-Fayeda believe they were killed by MI6 and are shared by many in Egypt.
The back streets north of Salah Salem and along the two highways further south – Ahmed Orabi and Mesjid al-Attarin – house jewelers. The last street gets its name from the Attarin Mosque, which takes the place of the 14th century St. Anastasia Church. The church was named for the rector, who argued about the “dual nature” of Christ with his theological opponent Arius Monophysitus. The mosque is crowned with a lacy multi-tiered minaret, reminiscent of al-Nasir Muhammad’s mosque in Cairo, and also dates back to the 14th century. It was from here that Napoleon’s troops took the seven-ton sarcophagus, considering it to belong to Alexander. It was later transferred to the British Museum, where it was determined that it belonged to Nectanebus I.
Further west are two reminders of the city’s diverse religious heritage. The Greek Orthodox Church maintains a small Hellenistic enclave, and a huge Catholic cathedral rises above the busy intersection of Mesjid al-Attarin and Abo Dardaa streets. To the northwest of Midan Tahrir, grandiose European architecture gives way to smaller-scale buildings that pass directly into city boughs.
Here the main artery is Sharia Nokrashi, filled with fruit and vegetable shops, butchers, bakeries and household goods sellers, as well as Sharia Faransa (French street), full of shops selling clothes, fabrics and sewing materials. The network of alleys between these two highways is known as the Zinkat al-Sittat (women’s gathering). Before the revolution, Nokrashi was famous for her children’s brothels. In the Alexandria Quartet, Justina searches here for her kidnapped daughter, diplomat Muntoliv is beaten by children, and Scobie (whose prototype was Bimbashi MacPherson, the pre-war head of the secret police) killed his neighbors with homemade whiskey.
3). Anfushi, Fort Kaitbeya and Pharos
Although the eastern harbor is no longer the busy port of antiquity, its grand curvature is still attractive. As it curves towards Fort Caitbeya, the bureaucratic monoliths of the last decades of the twentieth century give way to stately palm trees and weathered colonial mansions that Michael Palin has likened to Pimpled Cannes. Closer to the fort, fishermen throw fishing rods and mend nets, fresh fish is also sold here and ship carpenters are working on ships. It is highly recommended to walk at least a little along the Corniche, but for longer distances you can take a mini bus or tram.
In ancient times, a seven league long dam – the Heptastadion – connected Alexandria with Pharos, which was then an island. After the Arab conquest, it was allowed to creep apart, and the Heptastadion gradually turned into a peninsula, which was built up by newcomers, creating the Anfushi quarter. Its Ottoman mosques and some old houses with mashrabias are just “spectacles”, but the variety of street life makes this an interesting place to explore. The best strategy is to catch tram 15, which runs one block from the Corniche and passes most of the attractions.
The Terban Mosque, 700 meters away, is notable mainly for its antique columns, no one knows where they came from. A huge pair of them with Corinthian capitals support the minaret. Columns of lesser exchange are lined up, forming an arcade, they are painted in brilliant white. There is also a beautiful facing tile – the mosque has undergone episodic “improvements” since its construction in 1685. The brickwork of red and black painted bricks on the façade is in the usual Delta style.
The main religious building of the city – the Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi mosque is located at the same distance even further to the north. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the local fishermen and sailors, the Andalusian sheikh of the thirteenth century. The existing building was built in 1938 by Italian architect Mario Kosi, but its gabled pointed arches and meticulously carved domes and cornices look as old as their sixteenth-century original. Women are only allowed into the premises at the back of the mosque.
After visiting, have a drink in the arcade across the street as you watch life go on. If you’re in the mood for adventure, you can explore the maze of old houses behind the mosque, or you can continue towards Fort Kaitbeya.
Fort Kaitbeya and Pharos
A tram stops behind the Ali Mursi Mosque, then after a short walk past the fishing port and a repair dock filled with brightly painted ships, you come to the promontory, which houses the fort of Sultan Kaitbey and the Alexandria Yacht Club. In October, the club holds an annual regatta. Fort Kaitbeya is an important object of Alexandria, the citadel of Toytown is constantly blown by the wind-driven spray of water. Built in the 1480s and later fortified by Muhammad Ali, it offers a magnificent view of the city and the lamb-covered Mediterranean Sea. The main tower houses a mosque whose minaret was knocked down by the British in 1882.
The fort takes the place of Pharos, the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Combining aesthetic beauty and technological ambition, it has transcended its practical role as a means of navigation and early warning and has become synonymous with the city itself. Perhaps conceived by Alexander himself, it was built during the reign of Ptolemy II (circa 279 BC) under the leadership of the Asian Minor Greek Sustratos and was over 125 meters (maybe 150 meters), including a statue of Poseidon at the summit.
Its square base housed three hundred rooms, which, according to legend, once housed rabbis who translated Hebrew scriptures into Greek for Ptolemy Philadelphus (about 200 BC), providing identical texts, although they worked separately. (In reality, the Septuagint – the version of the Bible – was not completed until 130 BC, and the rabbis lived in huts on the island.)
It is also believed that it housed hydraulic equipment for lifting fuel to the second, octagonal floor. This could also have been done by a procession of pack mules climbing a spiral ramp. The cylindrical third floor housed a lamp whose light was believed to be visible 50 kilometers away. Some chroniclers also mention the “mirror”, which allowed the keepers of the lighthouse to watch the ships far out to sea. It was decided that it was some form of lens (the secret of which had been lost).
Around 700, the lighthouse collapsed or was destroyed by a treasure-seeking caliph. The base remained intact, and Ibn Tulun restored the second level, but the earthquake of 1303 turned the entire structure into a heap of stones. In the northwestern part of the walled area of the fort, there are several huge pillars of red granite that may have been part of Pharos. Since the 1990s, CEA divers have located more than 2,500 stone objects underwater at a depth of 6-8 meters. Among the finds are the head of a colossus.
Ptolemy in the form of a pharaoh and the base of an obelisk dedicated to Seti I, which were raised to the surface, as well as several monoliths weighing 50-70 tons each and ingrown into the rock as a result of the fall, they could only be part of the lighthouse. The remains of Greek and Roman merchant ships loaded with amphorae of wine and fish sauces and more than fifty anchors from all eras were discovered five hundred meters from the coast – also remnants of a mosaic picture of ancient Alexandria, which emerge from the inspection of the Eastern Harbor.
Tombs of Anfushi, Ras al-Tin and Western Harbor
Tram number 15 goes to the Ras el-Tin quarter, where you can get off at Shariya Ras el-Tin and find the rock-cut tombs of Anfushi, which were opened in 1901. Set in pairs around a staircase leading to an open courtyard, the four tombs are painted to imitate expensive alabaster or marble and belonged to the 3rd century BC Alexandrians who adopted ancient Egyptian funeral practices.
In the right pair – images of Egyptian gods, warships and feluccas. Greek workers also immortalized the dignity of their comrades with graffiti. Both tombs on the left have vestibules with benches for the relatives of the deceased to eat and drink in memory of them. Walk around and a guard will appear who can open the tombs.
Perhaps this necropolis continues under the gardens of the Ras el-Tin palace overlooking the Western Harbor. In the days when Pharos was an island, the temple of Neptune stood here. The Cape of Dates, which is now the presidential residence, and where access is closed, was built for Muhammad Ali. The audience hall was positioned so that, reclining on the sofa, he could look at his new fleet at anchor.
Rebuilt and converted into a summer government residence under Fuad I, it witnessed the abdication of King Farouk on July 26, 1952. “I was ready to do to you what you did to me,” the king said to General Naguib and added: “You will have a difficult task. It is not easy to rule Egypt. ” In the uniform of Admiral Farouk departed on the royal yacht, accompanied by 21 salutes of cannon salute, the royal family, an English maid, three Albanian bodyguards, a dog trainer and 244 suitcases left with him. To get a glimpse of the interior of the palace in the Moorish style.
The Western Harbor has been the main port and naval base since the mid-nineteenth century. She witnessed the most daring raid by the Italian military during the Second World War. On December 18, 1941, three human torpedoes entered the harbor and laid mines under the Royal Navy battleships Valiant and Queen Elisabeth. The British pretended to be afloat when their hulls had sunk to the bottom, but sixteen months of repair work took place before they could return to action.
Blocks of tires, or warehouses, with foreign names are still visible on the coast. They are given to the cotton industry; dirty pile and rags are scattered in the streets, as in the days of Forster. Another major industry is smuggling, for which this port is known. More than 5 thousand ships pass through its 62 marinas every year, they transport about 75% of all imports and exports of Egypt. On the way back, you can have a great lunch at one of the many fish restaurants on Shariya Safar Pasha, between Ras el Tin and Anfushi, or at Kadouga on the Corniche towards the center.
4). Flooded royal quarters
The opposite side of the East Harbor is formed by a narrow promontory called Silsilekh (Chain), which is occupied by the navy and has no access. In addition to being the site of the fictional boarding house Miramar Naguiba Mahfuza, the site’s interest lies in the underwater discoveries made since 1996 by Frank Goddio and the French National Research Center, whose bottom exploration five meters underwater uncovered vast submerged ruins, including granite columns made by on the vows statues, sphinxes, sidewalks, pottery and the dam of the ancient Royal Quarters of Alexandria.
In 1998, they removed a specimen to show it to the world: the largest and most striking objects were a meter-long black granite figure of the goddess Isis holding a canonical vessel and an entire 380-kilogram diorite sphinx, whose face is believed to depict Ptolemy XII, the father Cleopatra. Goddio was quick to announce that they had found the site of Cleopatra’s palace on the island of Antirrodos (where she met her death), which had sunk into the sea by earthquakes and tidal waves about 1,600 years ago. The Egyptians came up with the idea of creating the world’s first underwater museum with plexiglass tunnels that would allow visitors to walk at a depth of five meters.
However, many archaeologists believe that the origin of the ruins and their location are only tentatively determined, since several palaces have existed here over the centuries. More of a treasure hunter than an archaeologist by trade, Goddio has been criticized for rushing from project to project without completing one. And yet he continues to find something, not only in the East Harbor, but also in Abu Kira. His secret weapon is a magnetic resonance device, which allows him to find supposed antiquities by measuring the relative density of objects below in comparison with the magnetic field.
Earth and photograph them on a digital map obtained from GPS satellites. But as Goddio goes from triumph to triumph, the idea of an underwater museum gradually died down after it was realized that in the summer due to algae blooms, plexiglass tunnels would become opaque. Diving is quite accessible, during periods of best visibility from April to June and from September to December, the visibility is approximately 7-20 meters. Divers can see seven or eight sphinxes, a giant obelisk and many columns, as well as the remains of an Italian fighter jet that was shot down and fell into the ruins.
5). Alexandria library
On the mainland behind Silsilekh, another wonder of antiquity was erected in a new form. The Library of Alexandria is like a giant disc angled into the earth, representing the old Sun rising over the Mediterranean. On it are carved hieroglyphs, pictograms and letters from all known alphabets, recalling the various knowledge embodied in the ancient library and the hopes associated with the new one.
Designed by a Norwegian-Austrian team of architects and built by Egyptian, British and Italian builders, the complex includes the Planetarium (a spheroid overlooking the sea) and a cultural center (in a block opposite the library entrance). The project for the new Library of Alexandria was approved by UNESCO in 1987 at a cost of approximately US $ 355 million, most of which came from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Iraq. The opening was postponed several times for various reasons until 2002, but now the library is open and recognized as one of the must-see places in Alexandria, in particular for its architecture and museums.
Meanwhile, scientists continue to work on uncovering the secrets of the ancient library. Founded shortly after Alexandria itself on the recommendation of the adviser of Ptolemy I, Demetrius of Phaler, it stood next to the Museumon in the heart of the city. Dedicated to “the books of all nations”, she welcomed scientists and philosophers, supported research and debate. By law, all ships that docked in Alexandria were required to provide all the scrolls on board for copying if they were of interest. Around the middle of the first century BC, the library contained 532,800 manuscripts (all of which were cataloged by the chief librarian, Callimachus). Later, a branch was opened at the temple of Serapis. The libraries were known as “mother” and “daughter,” and together they contained perhaps 700,000 scrolls (corresponding to roughly 100-125,000 books today).
40 thousand (and maybe even 400 thousand) were burned during the attack of Julius Caesar on the city in 48 BC, when he supported Cleopatra against her brother Ptolemy XIII. As compensation, Mark Antony gave her all the contents of the Pergamon Library in Greece (200 thousand scrolls). The vast repository of “pagan” knowledge was destroyed by Christians, who set fire to the “Mother of Libraries” in 293 and the “Daughter” in 391, although medieval Europe later created the myth that they destroyed the library as a symbol of Arab barbarism. The apocryphal story tells how the leader of the Muslims Amr said: “If these Greek texts say the same as in the Koran, then they are useless, there is no need to keep them. If they do not agree with the Koran, then they are harmful and should be destroyed. “
Visiting of museum
From the side facing Sharia Bur Said, the colossus of Ptolemy II, brought from the eastern harbor, looks at the wardrobe, where all bags are checked, and at the box office selling tickets to visit the library (10 pounds) and two museums in it (20 pounds each ), as well as a combined ticket for all of them (£ 45; no student discounts).
Photographing is permitted in the Museum of Antiquity and the Museum of Manuscripts (£ 20, no flash; video filming £ 150), but not in the library itself. You can join a free tour in English right outside the entrance, or walk freely through the large reading space – a striking cascade of levels supported by stainless steel pillars reminiscent of the columns of pharaonic temples. To sign up for the library (£ 110 a month, £ 55 students, £ 10 disabled), you need to show your ID, photo and proof of your address. Announcements of events and exhibitions are posted in the corridor.
Start with the permanent Images of Alexandria (free), which maps, prints and photographs from the Awad collection show how the city has developed since ancient times and the ruins left behind by the British bombing of 1882. Then, make your way to the intriguing Museum of Antiquity in the basement. In addition to the gigantic head of Serapis, the headless statue of the ibis and the black basalt Isis recovered from Heracleion, there are depictions of Thoth from Thun el-Gabel and Hermopolis, model boats of the 11th Dynasty, and details of two mosaic floors excavated during the construction of the current library. One of the sexes depicts a dog near a copper cup, the other as a gladiator during a fight.
To get to the Museum of Manuscripts, you need to return to the main entrance. It is less interesting, its ancient scrolls and antique volumes are so dimly lit that it is almost impossible to see any details. Finally, there is a Planetarium similar to the Death Star. The shows “Space Travel”, “Human Body”, “Oasis in Space” and “Return to the Red Planet” are the most favorite part of the complex for children.
6). Column of Pompey and catacombs
The poor Karmuz quarter in the southwest of the city houses two of the most famous ancient monuments in Alexandria. The Column of Pompey can be reached by taxi (£ 5), or bus no. 709, or tram no. 16 from Midan St. Katerina. From the Column of Pompey, you can either take the tram or walk to the catacombs of Com es Chokafa. If you’ve just arrived in Egypt, the poverty of the slums in between can seem shocking.
Column of Pompey
Pompey’s Column rises 25 meters above a limestone ridge and a garden surrounded by fruit trees and excavation ditches. Contrary to its name, the red granite column was actually erected in honor of the Roman emperor Diocletian, who threatened to stage such a massacre of the disgruntled population that “their blood would reach the knees of the horses,” but changed his mind when his horse slipped and got stained with blood prematurely.
The column comes from the ruined temple of Serapis, which once competed in greatness with Soma and Caesareum. Started by the Greek architect Parmeniskos during the reign of Ptolemy III (246-221 BC), it was completed in the Roman era and contained a “Daughter Library” with religious texts. The temple and library were destroyed by crowds of Christians by order of Bishop Theophilius in 391.
The three underground galleries where the sacred bulls of Apis were buried are all that remain: you will find them west of the ridge, where the nilomer is also located, three sphinxes (from Heliopolis) and several underground cisterns. Overall, however, this place is disappointing considering what it once was.
Catacombs of Kom es-Shokafa
One of the most significant monuments of Alexandria, the catacombs of Kom es-Shokafa combine gloom and kitsch, despite the prosaic Arabic name “Hill of Shards”. To get there, turn right around the corner after visiting Pompey’s Column and follow the road upwards for about 500 meters. The entrance to the catacombs is on the left near a small square. You need to leave your cameras here, since it is forbidden to take pictures inside.
The three-level complex penetrates 35 meters into the rock, you can get there by a spiral staircase, past the shaft along which the bodies were descending. From the vestibule with a spring and carved niches, you can squeeze through a crack (on the right) into the long hall of Caracalla, dotted with loculi, or family funeral niches. Each was once sealed with a stone block on which the names and ages of the dead were written. Even more impressive is the Triclinium (left), where relatives commemorated the dead on stone beds.
But the most interesting thing is the central tomb below, the corridor of which is guarded by the reliefs of bearded serpents with shields with the head of Medusa. Inside are comic statues of Sobek and Anubis in Roman armor that date from the second century AD, when “the old faith began to dissolve and melt” (Orster). Water infiltrated the Hall of the Goddess Nemesis (still accessible) and flooded the lowest level, accelerating the destruction of the catacombs. For more information, purchase Jean-Yves Amprer’s beautifully illustrated Short Guide to the Catacombs of Côtes es-Shoqafa.
7). Muharrem Bey, Bab Sharq and Smuha
To the east of Karmuz lies Muharrem Bay, a once affluent suburb of mansions and villas that has now fallen into disrepair and neglected. The area expanded in the mid-nineteenth century with the construction of the Mahmoudiya Canal (dug at the cost of 20,000 lives), which revitalized commerce and created a trading elite who built palace-like residences along its banks, described in Murray’s Handbook as “a fashionable place for daytime walks.”
Its charm lasted for a century, the last decades of which were graced by the presence of inhabitants such as Kawafi (before he moved to Lepsius Street) and Darrell. In 1943, Darrell and Eva Cohen rented the top floor of a turret house at No. 19 Shariya al-Ma’amun, where he wrote Prospero’s Chamber and Dark Labyrinth (The Alexandria Quartet was written later). The house then passed to the artist and sculptor Effat Nagi and her husband and colleague the artist Saad el-Hadem. For several years it was threatened with destruction. To check if it’s still worth it, take a taxi (£ 5) from Masr Station along Sharia Muharrem Bay (about 3 kilometers).
Northeast of Muharrem Bay, the thriving Bab Shark area is easily accessible from the Greek Quarter or on the way to the Corniche beaches. Its connecting link is Midan Khartoum, an L-shaped park whose Ptolemy Column (erected to mark the British recapture of Khartoum in 1898) is a local landmark at the junction of Sharia Horria and the Suez Canal Highway.
On both sides of the square are the hilly gardens of Shallalat, which burn with a scarlet flame of leaves during the summer. A nineteenth-century French designer of these gardens used the remains of the western gate of the Arab city walls and the Fakhr Canal to create rocky areas and ponds. Here EM Forster first met Muhammad el-Adl, a tram conductor, whom he met in Ramleh in the winter of 1916-1917. Prior to this, Forster’s sexual inclinations had never met an answer.
The racial, class and sexual barriers that their relationship challenged are highlighted by the finale of A Passage to India, which Forster was working on when he learned of Muhammad’s death from tuberculosis in 1922. Near the northwest corner of the gardens is the Ibn el-Nabih cistern, whose three levels are supported by antique columns taken from older structures. Of the 700 underground reservoirs that the historian El Maqrizi wrote about, only this cistern is currently available (from dawn to dusk; admission is free).
Near the Suez Canal Highway, there is a necropolis of high-walled cemeteries belonging to various faiths. Although most of the graves date back to the nineteenth or twentieth centuries, burials have been carried out here since ancient times. A Catholic cemetery near the crossroads may belong to a royal tomb, perhaps even Alexander himself. Unlike Catholic cemeteries, Coptic, Greek, Orthodox, Armenian, Maronite, Uniate, Protestant and Jewish cemeteries are full of rich mausoleums and sculptures from the heyday of European rule.
The necropolis extends almost as far as St Mark’s College in Shatbi, and is closest to the Jewish cemetery. In the summer, wealthy citizens flock to the Alexandria sports club, 1 kilometer east along Tarik Gamal Abdel Nasser. The pool and tennis courts are some of the best in town. Polo and golf matches take place, billiards and movies go on all night, and this is only part of the entertainment. All trams going east stop at the sports club.
The Smukha region in the southeastern suburbs is a magnet for the wealthy inhabitants of Alexandria. The Zahran and Smuha shopping centers, 300-400 meters from Sidi Gaber station and the Green Plaza shopping center, as well as the City Center supermarket (operated by the French chain Carrefour) near the 14 May bridge are popular places to spend time. Smuha is also home to the International Garden and the Jungle Theme Park, filled with attractions for children.
The area is named after the Baghdad-born Jewish architect Joseph Smukh, who moved to Egypt in the 1920s. Its Smuha City (as it was originally called) is an analogue of Heliopolis in Cairo, a modern suburb for the upper middle class. Although all foreigners were stripped of their property by Nasser, their legacy (and names) live on in modern-day Alexandria. The zoological gardens were opened in 1907 and cover an area of 26 acres.
Among the many breeds of birds are Macau, which swear like soldiers, they were taught this by long-gone British soldiers. Nearby, various trees planted by Khedive Ismail grew and formed the gardens of Nuzh, where military bands once played.
Nearby, herons nest among the vines of the Antoniadis Gardens (open at the same time; 1 lb.). Decorated with classical statues, they were once the private property of a wealthy Greek family. In ancient times, the area of Nuzh was a residential suburb inhabited by people like Callimachus (310-240 BC), the chief librarian of the Library of Alexandria. Somewhere here, before entering the city in 641, the Muslim troops of Amr were camped.
eight). Corniche beaches
The beaches of Alexandria are overused. During the season, hardly a single square meter is left unoccupied when millions of Egyptians arrive in the city. Until June, the most distant beaches are relatively free, and they are mainly used by locals, but even the Alexandrians themselves can number in the hundreds on Fridays, Saturdays and on holidays – so these days it is better not to go there.
The popularity of beaches does not mean Western-style beach culture. On most, you rarely see women over their teens in a bathing suit – they enter the water fully clothed. The only place where Western women can swim without being disturbed by galabiya or undue attention is Venice Beach in Montazah.
On most beaches you can rent umbrellas and chairs, sometimes there are public showers, fish restaurants everywhere, vendors of snacks and soft drinks. Since 1991, civilian authorities have tackled the image problem posed by 47 sewer outlets that have littered coastal waters from the city center to Montazah. Now sewage is diverted to Lake Mariut, from where they find their way to the Mediterranean Sea more secretly.
If that holds you back, you still have three undeniable points of interest: the Royal Jewelery Museum in Gliema, the Mahmoud Said Museum in San Stefano, and the vast expanse of Montazah Palace further along the coast. Many visitors head to Abu Kir for its seafood, although you can eat well in more pleasant surroundings in central Alexandria.
East of Montazah and Abu Kir
Traveling east past the Corniche beaches on the map looks easy, but in practice it is not so easy. From the starting section to Cleopatra Beach, minibuses 735, 736 and 768 run one block inland, and tram # 2 five blocks, leaving you to walk further from the most named beach stops. Since most of the city’s beaches are sandwiched by hotels and restaurants, they are difficult to distinguish without nearby landmarks. The following describes places that lie somewhat inland.
From Shatby to Rushdie
The area known as Shatby (or Chatby) is enclosed by St Mark’s College, a huge neo-baroque red brick building whose dome is visible from afar. Founded to educate the city’s Christian elite, it is now part of the University of Alexandria. On the far side of the Shariya Bur Side is the Shatbi necropolis, a small moat in which several rock-cut burials and sarcophagi from the third century BC are visible.
They can be seen for free by looking through the wall of a nearby youth hostel. Shatbi Beach looks suitable to spawn the “Swamp Monster” and then moves to Ibrahimia, where the Fuhrer’s assistant Rudol Hess was born in 1896. When Alexandria was bombed during World War II, residents took refuge in underground Roman cisterns between Ibrahimia and Sidi Gaber.
Shortly before Cleopatra beach, tram number 2 turns inland, reaching the Sidi Gaber stadium and passing through the Bakos quarter, where Gamal Abdel Nasser was born on January 15, 1918. He was eleven years old when he first participated in a nationalist demonstration, was beaten with a truncheon and spent the night in prison. Tram number 1 goes closer to Cleopatra Beach. He has nothing to do with this lady, although the nearby Rushdie area was the site of Nikopolis, which Octavian (or Augustus Caesar, as he called himself then) founded out of unwillingness to live in Alexandria. The British also built houses and barracks here in areas they called Stanley, Glim and San Stefano.
Today Rushdie is the center of Alexandria’s expatriate life, many foreigners rent housing here, but traces of its origin remain in the form of the Mustafa Kemal necropolis. Opened in 1933, the four tombs date from the second century BC. In two of them there are Doric columns, and in one there is a wall image of a horseman. To get here, take tram 2 from Ramleh to Rushdie tram station and walk towards the Corniche on Shariya al-Mo-asker al-Romani. When visiting the Corniche Beach area, be sure to visit the Stanley Bridge, a stunning piece of modern architecture, modeled on Al Montosa Palace in 2006.
Royal Jewels Museum
The Royal Jewels Museum at 27 Sharia Ahmed Yehia is located three blocks from the Corniche, between Glim and San Stefano – a short walk from El Fenun el Gamilia or Qasr el Safa stops on tram line 2. The museum is located in a house built for Muhammad Ali’s granddaughter Princess Fatima el-Zaharaa (1903-88) and her husband Ali Hader, and it is as vulgar as the treasures on display.
Among the most significant exhibits are Muhammad Ali’s diamond-encrusted snuffbox, King Farouk’s gold chess set, a platinum crown set with 2,159 diamonds, and his diamond gardening tools. The main gallery on the ground floor exhibits stained glass cameos depicting scenes of eighteenth-century French court love, while Provencal farmers, milkmaids, and food adorn the service corridors. Upstairs are his and her most striking bathrooms: it is tiled with images of nymphs bathing in a waterfall, his – with scenes of fishermen on the Cote d’Azur.
Mahmoud Said Museum
Another attraction in this part of town is the Mahmoud Said Museum at Sharia Mahmoud Said Pasha: take tram # 1 or # 2 to Gianaklis (stop after the Treasure Museum), cross the paths, go up the road and turn right. The hobby of Judge Mahmoud Sayd (1897-1964) was painting, he was the first Egyptian artist to receive a state prize, but did not like official orders like the “Opening Ceremony of the Suez Canal” in the whole wall that greets visitors to the museum. He preferred to paint pensive, sensual women: “Siren of Alexandria”, “Egyptian peasant”, “Nabavia in a colorful dress”, or landscapes of Alexandria, Lebanon and Stockholm.
The six upstairs rooms are dedicated to the brothers Seyf (1906-79) and Adam (1908-59) Wanli, who founded Egypt’s first art studio in 1942 and taught fine arts at the University of Alexandria after the revolution. Seif was an expressionist who portrayed such bourgeois entertainment as casinos, nightclubs and horse racing, and left a vast legacy of 3,000 oil paintings, over 80,000 sketches, and theater and opera sets. Adam was a representative of Cubism, Abstractionism and Socialist Realism, and performed such polemic works as “Hunger”, “Peace” and “Palestine”. Two halls show works by contemporary local artists: Miriam Abdel Alim, Magda Sad el-Din, and Abdel Khadfi al-Ghazzar, as well as strange abstractions by Farouk Hosni, Egyptian Minister of Culture since 1987.
From Sidi Bishr to Montazah
Fourteen kilometers east of the center is the suburb of Sidi Bishr, served by minibuses from Midan Saad Zaglul in the center or from Sidi Gaber. The Sidi Bishr Mosque stands between the two beaches of the same name, and to the east, under the car club, lies the Bir Masud “Aquifer Rocks”, where the ancient inhabitants of Alexandria placed water mills and whistles with a complex arrangement. Here, the geometer Hero invented the world’s first deep-sea winch and a vending machine that sold for coins (sold holy water) in the first century.
Near Sidi Bishr, behind the Miami casino, there are two more sandy sections of Asafra and Mandara, and a couple of kilometers later, Montazah, the city’s walled amusement park. It can be entered through the gate opposite the Montazah Sheraton. 400 acres of land are well tended, with copper lamps, a clock tower, a ball game alley and the vibrant Turkish-Florentine Haramlik Palace.
Commissioned by King Fuad and designed by Ernesto Verrucci Bey, the palace became a Red Cross hospital during World War I, and it was here that EM Forster worked as an orderly. It was from here that King Farouk fled to Ras el-Tin before his abdication. The building was restored by Sadat for £ 7 million and is now the presidential residence and is used for receiving guests. Closed for visits.
The largest of the bays, Montazah, is surrounded by the sandy Venice Beach, where dress standards for Western women are optional. The promontory ends with an ornamented “Turkish” Belvedere and a lighthouse, covering the bay, creating a sheltered area for windsurfing and diving in summer. On the shore is the smaller El Salamlek Palace, built for the Austrian mistress of Khedive Abbas, which is now one of two luxury hotels in Montazah.
Maamura and Canopus
Behind the headland lies Maamura, a private enclave of apartments and villas that charge visitors £ 3 before they even get a glimpse of the beach, which costs another £ 10 to access. Its sands are cleaner than most other beaches, but modest clothing is recommended for women. The main entrance to the beach is around the bend on the Abu Kir road, about 1 km east of the Sheraton. The 736 minibus takes you to the Maamoura Palace Hotel, located in an enclave that has its own private beach.
After Maamura, the road goes inland past the military and naval bases, which occupy the ancient site of Canopus. It cannot be said that anything significant remained of this once great city in the Delta, which flourished when the Nile arm reached the sea at the near Canopic mouth, but fell into decay when the arm dried up and Alexandria rose. Classical mythology says that Canopus was founded by a Greek sailor returning from the Trojan War, who was worshiped by the locals in the form of a jug with a human head.
Nineteenth-century archaeologists called similar vessels used to store the insides of mummies Canopic vases. Each organ had its own protector deity (the youngest son of Horus), whose image adorned the lid (human heads went out of fashion at the end of the 18th dynasty). Even after embalmers began replacing organs in mummies during the 21st Dynasty, the practice of leaving Canopic vases in tombs continued. In 2004, marine archaeologists found life-size statues of Ptolemaic rulers and thousands of bronze pots, candelabra and incense burners at the bottom of the sea near Canopus.
When a line of hastily constructed houses appears behind the naval bases, it means that you are entering Abu Kir (pronounced Abu Eeyah). You can get to this small fishing town by minibus or minibus number 768 (from Masr station). If you are coming from Montazah, the mini-bus stops under the bridge and to the left around the corner of the palace walls from Sheraton – look for groups of people waiting.
Abu Kir is littered with garbage and is ugly, the sewage that floats along its banks will keep him from swimming. The only draws here are the itinerant traders selling everything from dolls to candlesticks and seafood restaurants. Abu Kir is the site of two historic battles. The defeat inflicted by Admiral Nelson on the French fleet at Abu Qir in 1798 shattered Napoleon’s dream of an eastern empire and is known in English history as the Battle of the Nile, inspiring Ms. Hemans to write: “A boy stood on a burning deck …”
Admiral Bruet’s fleet was numerically equal to the English, but he positioned his ships, chained together, in shallow waters. Nelson’s fleet attacked from the sea, devastating in close combat. The French lost 11 ships and 17 thousand people, the British – two ships and 218 sailors. In 1998-99, Goddio’s divers found the remains of the French flagships L’Orient, Serieuse and Artemise at a depth of 11 meters, 8 kilometers offshore. But Bonaparte took revenge when, in 1799, he personally led 10,000 cavalry against the fifteen thousand Turks landed by the Royal Navy and drove them back to sea.
In 2001, Goddio’s team announced the discovery of Heracleion, a mythical ancient Egyptian warehouse that went out to sea 1,300 years ago. Over the centuries, it was buried under sediments in the Gulf of Abu Kir, its identity was confirmed by the stele erected by Nectaneb I, on which the name of the city was written, and a pink granite naos believed to belong to the temple of Hercules-Khons.
Herodotus saw this temple during a visit to Heracleion in the fifth century BC. Divers also discovered three colossal statues of the god Nile Hapi. In ancient times, the city stood at the mouth of one of the branches of the river. Diving in these locations is a fantastic experience that Alexandra Dive can organize, although bureaucratic procedures require you to report 4-5 days in advance of your intention to dive and that the group consists of at least four people paying for the excursion.
Food and drink in Alexandria
Alexandria cannot compete with Cairo in culinary diversity, but it surpasses the capital in terms of seafood and Greek restaurants on offer, and when it gets boring, you can always return to the favorite dishes of the Egyptians – shawarma, pizza, ful and felafel, or find solace in a few establishments of Far Eastern cuisine.
There are also coffee shops that are also a specialty of Alexandria and some good bars if you know where to look. In addition, there are branches of Western fast food outlets operating throughout the city. McDonald’s (daily 10: 00-23: 00) is located near the top of Shariya Safiya Zaglul. Around the corner from Kentucly Fried Chicken and Baskin-Robbins (both 10: 00-02: 00 daily) in Ramla. Another McDonald’s is located in Montazah, and on the Corniche in Rushdie there is a branch of KFC.
Confectionery coffee shops
Coffee shops and pastry shops like Athineos and The Trianon are shrouded in a certain mystique, and despite Kawafi or Darrell, their luxurious interiors cannot be missed. All of them are shown on the map on p. 680-681. For those who prefer the night, there are expensive coffee shops at the Cecil and Montazah Sheraton, open 24 hours.
Traditional Arab cafes (ahwa) are a completely different world from European pastry shops. If you want to drink tea or hibiscus surrounded by people banging backgammon or domino bones between the burning light clubs of shisha, there are many such places around Midan El Gumhorriya. You can always find them by the sound of coughing, which is heard in the background of the singing of the Koran or the sobs of Umm Kaltum on the radio.
one). Athineos – Traditionally decorated with mirrors, eccentric personalities often come here. Note the friezes and columns in the restaurant upstairs – the entrance is around the corner. Opening hours: daily 8: 00-24: 00. Facility address: Midan Ramleh;
2). Brazilian Coffee Stores – This stand-up establishment features an ancient coffee grinder, a glass map of Brazil, and other periodically changing exhibits. There is also a sedentary branch at Shariya Salah Salem. Opening hours: both work daily 7: 00-23: 00. Facility address: Corner of Nabi Daniel and Sa’ad Zaghloul;
3). Delices – The place has become less attractive after being remodeled, ditched the teak bar and installed air conditioning, but the tables outside offer great views. Cakes, aromatic snacks, soft drinks and beer are sold. Opening hours: daily 7: 00-23: 00 Facility address: between Midan and Sharia Sa’ad Zaghloul;
4). Pastroudis – This dark-paneled cafe featured in the “Alexandria Quarter” (Darrell first met Eva Cohen here in 1943), but is now a sad parody of itself. Sidewalk tables on the south side overlook the antiques market. Those who drink alcoholic beverages should sit at the back of the room. Opening hours: daily 9: 00-24: 00. Facility address: 39 Sharia Horriya;
5). Sofianopouio Coffee Store – Another classic stand-up coffee shop with silver grinders and sacks of beans. Excellent cappuccino and croissants are served Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays only coffee beans are available. Facility address: 18 Sharia Sa’ad Zaghloul;
6). The Trianon – Newly decorated and air-conditioned, Alexandria’s most fashionable pastry shop boasts gilded pillars and a luxuriously appointed restaurant that is currently out of use. The menu includes continental breakfast (£ 7), pizza (£ 15-18), beer (£ 13), cocktails (£ 17) and wine (£ 77 Egyptian, £ 295 French, 715 champagne). Try dishes doused with burning alcohol. Opening hours: daily 7: 00-24: 00. Facility address: corner of Sa’ad Zaghloul and Ramleh;
7). Vinous – A very faded Art Deco parlor serving cakes and coffee. Alcohol is not served. Opening hours: daily 7: 00-24: 00. Facility address: Corner of Nabi Daniel and Horriya.
Restaurants and cafes
The following restaurants and cafes more or less represent the culinary and budget spectrum. Most of them are located in the city center, in the area bounded by Ramleh, Safia, Zaglul, Nabi Daniel and Noria streets, but there are also a few proposals further down the Corniche. Telephone numbers are given only in cases where it is recommended to reserve seats in advance. Unless otherwise stated, credit cards are not accepted.
one). Abu Ashraf – This street, accessible by tram 15, is full of quality fish and kebab restaurants that entice passers-by with their street grills. Abu Ashraf specializes in fish and seafood that are sold by weight and cooked in front of your eyes. Opening hours: daily 24 hours. Facility address: 28 Sharia Safar Pasha, Anfushi;
2). China house – The best Chinese restaurant in Alexandria, offering beautiful views of the harbor. Try the great rolls, chicken dumplings, sweet and sour shrimp, grilled lamb in garlic sauce, but leave room for the fried bananas with maple syrup and vanilla ice cream. Minimum bill 24 pounds plus 22% taxes. Accepts all major credit cards. Opening hours: daily 13: 00-24: 00. Facility address: Hotel Cecil, Midan Sa’ad Zaghloul;
3). Coffee Roastery – Friendly environment with MTV and karaoke (Wednesdays from 21.30; seats must be booked in advance). Fruit drinks and soft drinks although fajitas salads and syrups are disappointing (minimum bill 5-9 pounds). Opening hours: daily 7: 30-01: 00. Facility address: 48 Sharia Fouad;
4). Denis – A 1930s-style Greek fish bar where you pick samak or squid from the fridge. Fish with chips, salad, taine and beer costs about 40 pounds. Opening hours: daily 10: 00-24: 00. Facility address: 1 Sharia Ibn Basaam, next to Ramleh;
5). Elite – An old-fashioned bohemian-style place, decorated with art by Chagall and articles about its owner Madame Christine and the artists she knew. Simple Greco-Levantine dishes: Choose from the long menu on the wall, not the short one offered to tourists. Beer and zibib are served. Opening hours: daily 8: 00-24: 00. Facility address: 43 Sharia Safiya Zaghloul;
6). Fish Market – Spacious and pleasant with great harbor views and close to servile service. No menu: you choose from mountains of fish (45-80 pounds per kilogram) and crustaceans (105-160 pounds). The salad itself is a dish. Wine and beer. Working hours: 13.00-01.00. Facility Address: Anfushi – 3rd floor of the seafront complex, which includes the Tikka Grill;
7). Kadoura – Exit Tram 5 as it turns inland at the headland leading to Fort Kaitbeya and walk down a side street to this famous fish restaurant. Kadoura is a rather dirty place with no menu. Visitors choose from frozen sea bass, mullet, blue fish, squid, shrimp and crabs. All orders come with salad. Opening hours: daily 12: 00-24: 00. Facility address: 33 Sharia Bairam al-Tonsi next to Cornish in Anfushi;
eight). Malek es-Samaan – Look for the bird sign and you’ll find this humble open-air diner in the courtyard that hosts a clothing market during the day. The only thing they serve is lovely fried partridge (£ 7 apiece). Opening hours: daily 20: 00-01: 00 (or later). Facility address: Next to Sharia Attarine;
9). Mohammed Ahmed – One of the cheapest places in the city center for a quick meal or takeaway. Delicious ful, felafel and other Egyptian vegetarian dishes are served here. Opening hours: daily 6: 00-01.00. Facility address: 17 Sharia Safar Pasha next to Sa’ad Zaghloul;
10). Mohammed Hosni – This half open-air restaurant is located in the courtyard on the same street as Abu Ashraf. It serves seafood, kebabs and quail, and two courses cost £ 20-30. Opening hours: daily until midnight or later. Facility address: 48 Sharia Safar Padha, Anfushi;
eleven). Samakmak – Even more trendy than Kadoura or Abu Ashraf, this fish restaurant is famous for its crabs, lobster and clam spaghetti. It belongs to the already retired belly dancer Zizi Salem. In summer, you can eat outside in a large tent. Facility address: 42 Qasr Ras el-Tin, Anfushi;
12). Taverna – Popular chain restaurant with shawarma and kebab to go downstairs. Prepares Egyptian and Western style pizza, seafood and soup. Opening hours: 8: 00-03: 00 (in winter until 2:00). Facility address: Opposite the Ramleh tram terminal
thirteen). Tikka Grill – Chic finishes and great service, although the chicken tikka is not outstanding. Alcohol is served. Opening hours: daily 13: 00-01: 00. Facility address: Anfushi. Under the Fish Market;
14). Zephirion – Once the best fish restaurant in Abu Qir, Zephyrion (Greek for sea breeze) has degraded since the death of its former owner, although its breeze-blown terrace is still inviting. Opening hours: daily 12: 00-24: 00. Facility address: Abu Qir Beach.
Although Alexandria is the center of the Egyptian wine and distillery industry (wineries are located in Gianaklis near Lake Mariut), the bars here are of a low standard. The Monty’s Bar (daily 18: 00-02: 00) at Hotel Cecil lets you console yourself with a beer or cocktail. If you’re willing to pay higher prices, the more trendy one is the Fouad Bar (daily 11: 00-02: 00) at the El Salamlek Palace Hotel in Montazah, where music plays in the evenings (appropriate clothing required).
But foreigners and local drinkers prefer to congregate in the more specific locations below, where prices are lower. If you are looking to buy a drink, Drinkies (11: 00-24: 00, except Fridays and Muslim holidays) at the corner of Sharia Gamil el-Din Yassin and Sharia el-Ghorfa el-Tigariya sells local wine, spirits, cocktails and imported beer. Other foreign brands can be purchased within 48 hours of arrival in Egypt at the duty-free store at 31 Sharia Salah Salem (daily 11: 00-21: 00, Ramadan 10: 30-14: 30 and 20: 00-23: 00).
one). Cap d`Or – A real slice of old Alexandria with Art Nouveau cornices, teak carvings and carved mirrors. Intellectuals, bohemians and expatriates crowd around fried sardines and bottles of whiskey or tequila. The establishment has a friendly atmosphere and is popular with gay people after midnight when live music can be played. Opening hours: daily 12: 00-03: 00. Facility address: Sharia Adib Ishtak next to Sharia Zaghloul;
2). Elite – A simple blue-tinted sequel to the restaurant of the same name. Tourists, writers and various eccentrics often come here, here you can talk and meet people. Selling beer. Opening hours: usually open until midnight. Facility address: 43 Sharia Safiya Zaghloul;
3). Portuguese Club – A country club with records and a bar, frequented by expatriates from Rushdie, there are pool and darts competitions (on Tuesdays), disco (on Thursdays) and monthly night parties. Non-members must purchase a £ 60 drink card. Located 3 kilometers from the center, next to Tarik Gamal Abdel Nasser. Take tram 2 to the Egyptian American Center and walk two blocks inland to the first side street from Shariyah Kafr Abdou – this is the name you need to call when traveling by taxi (£ 5). There is no sign on the club. Opening hours: Daily 15:00 – until the last visitor leaves, on Fridays open for breakfast from 10:00. Facility address: 42 Sharia Abd el-Qader Ragab, Roushdi;
4). Spitfire Wag – A small establishment hung with stickers from oil companies, warships, and groups of travelers (foreigners who come here often) that show western pop music and sports on TV. Working hours: Monday-Saturday 12: 00-24: 00. Facility Address: Next to Sharia Sa’ad Zaghloul.
Nightlife and entertainment in Alexandria
Thursday and Friday are important nights in Alexandria’s life, but something happens all week. Several hotel nightclubs offer belly dancing and / or “Russian Show”, as well as DJs. Helnan Palestine (June-September daily 23.30-04.30; October-May 3-4 nights weekly) only allows heterosexual groups and has a minimum bill of £ 100 per person.
El-Salamlek Palace has a night program in summer 22: 30-03: 00 (£ 120 per person including dinner). The thirty minute show at midnight at Montazah Sheraron hardly deserves attention (minimum bill 45 pounds per person). At the center of the Cecil nightclub (daily 23: 30-04: 00), four dancers perform from midnight (minimum bill 60 pounds per person).
Although most four and five star hotels have a disco, they are only open in the summer, with the exception of the Mercure, which is open on Thursdays all year round. All discos restrict entry to heterosexual groups only, so if you are alone, wait in the Portuguese club until a decent-sized group of people from there decides to go dancing at the Mercure and join them. You should not be guided by this club’s own disco, which is located at the top. If you prefer karaoke, then such a party takes place on Wednesday night at the Coffee Roastery, albeit without alcoholic drinks, to get rid of the embarrassment.
Arts and celebrations
After decades of decline, the cultural scene of Alexandria is undergoing a renaissance. The new library is naturally at its forefront, but significant funds have also been spent on the historic Opera House and other facilities. The Tourist Office is aware of the details of their monthly programs, which can also be found on site and at Elite Restaurant. The Cultural Center at the Library of Alexandria gives concerts of classical music (Arabic and European), contemporary dance and drama. Larger works by the orchestra and ballet are presented at the opera house next to Sharia Horria.
A few blocks west of the Opera is the former Muhammad Ali club, where the city’s elite gathered during colonial times. It is now home to the Alexandria Arts Center, where the blue and gold auditorium has become the venue for concerts by invited musicians from Egypt and abroad. Another smaller venue where you can also listen to music is the Alexandria Music Conservatory at 90 Sharia Horriya. In August, you can watch belly and folk dancing performed by the Reed Troupe (Reed Ballet) or the National Troupe (El-Fir el-Qawmiyya) at the Abdel Wahab Open Theater, or at St Mark’s College in Shatbi. Inquire about concert times at the Tourist Office.
In September, the annual Alexandria International Film Festival gives Egyptians a rare opportunity to see uncensored foreign films: the Convention Hall on the way to the library is the main screening site for films, but every cinema in the city also shows several films. During the year, residents often go to the cinema, during Ramadan, additional screenings are held in all cinemas. In the city center, Royal Renaissance with three screens near the Syed Darwish Theater and Amir with six screens at the corner of Sharia Horriya and Safiya Zaghloul show two or three films in English that you may have already seen a year ago. A much better premiere in a dilapidated old Rialto on Safiya Zaghloul, which far outperforms the horrible B movies in the faded Metro further down the road.
In Smuha, the four-screen Renaissance at the Zahran mall and the five-screen Osman Group Cinéma at the Smuha mall try to show the latest Hollywood blockbusters. Other cultural events include the two-week Alexandria Biennale, an exhibition of art from Mediterranean countries in November on odd-numbered years, a long-distance yacht festival every July and an annual international regatta in October. During Ramadan, the Egyptian, Islamic side of Alexandria celebrates five maulids over five consecutive weeks, which begin with dhikrs in front of the Al-Mursi Mosque. The day after the “big night”, the action moves to the Sidi Gaber Mosque, then to Sidi Bishr, followed by the mawlids of Sidi Kamal and Sidi Muhammad al-Rahhal.
Sports and outdoor activities in Alexandria
For those with diving qualifications, there are many ancient ruins and shipwrecks in the waters off Alexandria between five and eighteen meters deep. Few of the other cities can boast such a wealth of historical underwater objects: the Pharos blocks that carve the bottom of the sea near the Caitbeya fort, Roman merchant ships lying 500 meters from the coast. More than 11 thousand artifacts and parts of buildings remain from what was once the Tsar’s Quarter in the Eastern Harbor; the remains of Napoleon’s ships and the ancient port lie at the bottom of the Abu Kir Bay.
Visibility in East Harbor diminishes as the water warms up, while in other less sheltered areas it is better to dive in summer when the sea is calm. Alexandra Dive near Tikka Grill in the Corniche can usually forecast weather conditions for the next 24 hours and offers diving for groups of at least three people in two different locations for $ 90 each (includes lunch and fees to the Department of Underwater Archeology, equipment costs another $ 20 per person).
It also offers open water PADI, CMAS or SSI courses (from £ 150), as well as Master and Diving Specialist ($ 90-150), windsurfing (£ 80 per hour), water skiing (£ 200 at one o’clock); half-day fishing trips (minimum four people, $ 50 each) and one-day water safaris for groups of ten to Abu Kiru or Nelson’s Island (£ 100 per person). In summer, the Mersa Matruh Diving Center also offers diving to the wrecks of the Second World War. It is worth contacting them in advance to discuss the availability of specific properties, as some require a permit, which takes 4-5 days.
Other outdoor activities are offered at the sports club. Dr. Ashraf Fabri can book you as a guest (£ 25), after which you pay to use the pool (£ 25), tennis and squash courts, 18-hole golf course (£ 250) or stables. Non-residents can use the tennis court at Montazah Sheraton (£ 25 per hour plus £ 8 for each piece of equipment). If you prefer to watch football, find out who plays at the Municipal Stadium, where the Al Ittihad team is based. Founded by students from Ras al-Tin in the 1920s, the club has won the Egyptian Cup six times.