City-history and city-monument, city-legend and city-fairy tale, city named after the great commander, “Capital of memory” and “Pearl of the Mediterranean” – all this is Alexandria.
The history of the glorious city is more than 2300 years old. Time passed, the centuries passed, Alexandria entered the 21st century as a mysterious “beautiful stranger”, slightly revealing the secrets of the distant past and promising many surprises ahead. The second largest city and cultural center of Egypt, Alexandria is rich in attractions.
In terms of the number and beauty of historical and architectural masterpieces, places of worship and memorial sites, Alexandria will give odds to many European cities. Lovers of history, connoisseurs of beauty, adherents of lazy or active recreation, adherents of intellectual pastime, adventure seekers expecting a miracle – everyone will find something to see in Alexandria, where to spend time, what to admire and be enchanted by.
An architectural masterpiece, an engineering genius, striking the imagination with its beauty and scale – the building of the Alexandria Library. The circular structure has a diameter of 160 m, the height of the dome is 32 m, while the lower floors go 12 m underground. The walls outside are dotted with letters, hieroglyphs and pictograms from more than a hundred languages of different peoples. The building is surrounded by a swimming pool.
The “ancestor” of the Library of Alexandria is the oldest book depository, built before our era. In those distant times, great minds worked and created in the book depository, including Archimedes and Euclid. At the turn of the millennium, the library was set on fire, the fire destroyed valuable manuscripts, probably the first written sources. The library was rebuilt at the beginning of the 2000s.
Now the Library of Alexandria is a storehouse of world knowledge and wisdom; it houses a unique collection of books from different times and peoples – about 8 million copies. The huge reading room can simultaneously accommodate 2500 people.
There are special rooms for children and youth, a library for the blind, equipped with a planetarium, museums and exhibitions. The giant panel “invites” you to take an interactive tour in ancient times. The screen, curved at a specific angle, allows you to fully immerse yourself in the events of days gone by.
Address: Library of Alexandria, Al Azaritah WA Ash Shatebi, Qism Bab Sharqi, Egypt.
Fort Kite Bay
One of the main attractions of Alexandria is the ancient fort of Kite Bay, a kind of “successor” to the famous Pharos lighthouse. The fortress was erected in the middle of the 15th century just on the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the remains of a lighthouse were used for construction.
Its direct function – to protect the harbor from enemies, the fortress performed until the end of the 19th century, until it was destroyed by bombs of British aviation. For almost a century, the citadel remained in ruins; large-scale restoration work began in the 80s of the last century.
The fort covers an area of 2 hectares, surrounded by thick fortified walls with loopholes for guns, chutes for boiling mixtures and many watchtowers. Tunnels have been laid underground, elevators have been installed passing through several floors.
Inside the fortress there are barracks and outbuildings, a prison, an ancient mosque, and a garden. On the territory of the citadel, there is the Maritime Museum, which displays exhibits raised from nearby sunken ships.
Address: Fort Qaitbey, As Sayalah Sharq, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria, Egypt.
In the ancient part of Alexandria, Kom el Dikka, which means “pile of stones”, is the Roman amphitheater, the only such structure in Egypt. The “legacy” of the Romans among the piles of stones was discovered by accident in the middle of the last century. Presumably, the amphitheater was erected in the 2nd century, for such a “venerable” age the structure is well preserved.
The amphitheater is small, with a maximum capacity of 800 people. The seats occupy 14 rows arranged in a horseshoe shape. The first row is made of red granite, the rest are made of white and gray marble. The embossed numbers are different in some places. Once upon a time, the amphitheater was covered with a roof; only collapsed columns have survived to this day.
An amazing feature of the Roman Amphitheater is the presence of a “magic” place from which every word, even in an undertone, is perfectly heard even on the highest benches.
Address: Roman Amphitheater, Kom Ad Dakah Gharb, Al Attarin, Alexandria, Egypt.
Montazah Palace and Park
Montazah is a picturesque landmark of Alexandria, a palace and park complex located in the eastern part of the city on the shores of a beautiful bay. The construction of the complex began at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries; it was originally used as a summer residence of the Egyptian rulers. The pearl of Montazah is the magnificent Al-Haramlik Palace, built in the 30s of the last century. The architecture of the building intertwines Moorish and Florentine styles, and the towering turret is an exact “cast” from the belfry of the Palace of Vecchio in Florence.
Today, Montazah Park, spread over 60 hectares, with adjacent cozy, sandy beaches, is a favorite vacation spot for townspeople and tourists. It is impossible to get inside the royal palace, but a walk among conifers, date palms and colorful, fragrant flower beds more than compensates for the insignificant limitation.
Address: Montaza Palace, Al Mandarah Bahri, Montaza 2, Egypt.
Column of Pompey
The visiting card of Alexandria is Pompey’s Column, a mighty tower of pink granite with a height of almost 30 m and a volume at the base of 9 m, located in the center of the city on a high hill.
The name of the column is a historical incident, the structure has nothing to do with Julius Caesar’s counterpart Gnei Pompey. The crusaders, who “named” the column, mistakenly believed that a Roman commander was buried there. However, the triumphal stele was erected approximately in 300 to the glory of the Roman emperor Diocletian, and in the place where the Acropolis of Alexandria was once located.
Nowadays, Pompey’s column is a historical and architectural monument, a “living” witness to the times of the prosperity of Ancient Egypt. Some artifacts discovered in the vicinity of the column as a result of archaeological research are exhibited in the Greco-Roman Museum.
Address: Colona at Pompeii, Colona at Pompeii, Al Karah WA at Toubageyah WA Kafr Al Ghates, Karmouz, Egypt.
The Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria is a historical and archaeological monument, a repository of unique finds during the reign of the Greeks and Romans. The museum was founded at the end of the 19th century. At first, the exhibits were exhibited in an ordinary, albeit spacious, five-room apartment. As a result, an old mansion, immersed in thickets of plants, was given to the museum.
To date, the museum has more than 40,000 exhibits. Among them are sculptures and figurines, art canvases and papyri, ceramic utensils and sarcophagi, mummies of ancient animals and elements of ancient religious buildings, coins with images of Cleopatra and Alexander the Great. Most are found in Alexandria and the surrounding area, some were brought from remote Greek settlements.
Archaeological work continues in Alexandria, which means that the collections of the Greco-Roman Museum will be regularly replenished with new artifacts.
Address: Roman Museum, Al Mesallah Sharq, Al Attarin, Alexandria, Egypt.
The main Orthodox church in Alexandria, towering on the central square of the city, is the Cathedral of the Annunciation. Notable for its severity and harmony, the church is made in the neo-Gothic style and is a basilica of three naves with two belfries along the edges.
The first stone of the sacred building was laid in 1847, the construction lasted almost 10 years, in the following years decorative elements were added. It is noteworthy that the temple was erected literally “by the whole world” – the Russian emperor provided impressive financial assistance, the architects of Greece and Constantinople were engaged in the interior design, the stained glass windows were produced in France, the chandeliers were made by Russian craftsmen, the clocks from the facade of the building were made by the British, the icons were painted by the painters of Constantinople.
A century later, by the end of the last century, the cathedral was in a deplorable state. The money for a large-scale restoration was allocated by the foundation of the Greek millionaire Onassis. In 2006, the church opened its doors to parishioners.
Address: Cathedral of the Annunciation, Al Atarin Mosque, Al Attarin Gharb, Al Attarin, Egypt.
Hydrobiological Museum and Aquarium
An interesting and informative place in Alexandria is the Hydrobiological Museum. Here you can get acquainted with the inhabitants of the underwater world of the Mediterranean, Red Seas and the Nile River. In 50 huge aquariums, schools of colorful fish and small fish splash, mollusks scurry, jellyfish, sea urchins and stars fly.
In addition to traditional, widespread species, there are rare and exotic individuals. Corals appear as a magnificent “decor” of aquariums, their shaggy “bushes” surprise with a variety of shapes and colors. The pride of the museum is the skeleton of a huge (over 17m) whale, washed ashore in the vicinity of Alexandria in the middle of the last century.
Address: Alexandria Aquarium, As Sayalah Sharq, Qesm Al Gomrok, Egypt.
Abu El Abbas Mosque
A monument of history and architecture, a beautiful structure, as if coming out of an oriental fairy tale, is the Abu el-Abbas mosque. The majestic, monumental building rises 73 m above the ground, such are the dimensions of the southern, largest minaret, magically illuminated at dusk.
The height of the walls, trimmed with light beige artificial stone, is 23 m. The air domes are decorated with openwork carvings and ornamental designs. The interior decoration of the mosque is notable for its luxury and wealth.
The sacred building was erected at the beginning of the 14th century over the tomb of the Sufi saint Abu el-Abbas, especially revered in Egypt. During its long history, the mosque was rebuilt more than once, the last serious “interference” was in the 50s of the last century.
Because of this, its current appearance is significantly different from the original. But all the reconstruction work was invariably carried out by the best masters of their time, who carefully preserved what was created by the ancient architects.
At the beginning of the last century, during the next reconstruction of the religious building, they began to build up the adjacent territory. This is how a special mosque for women and a mausoleum mosque appeared, where important religious figures are buried. And the territory itself was named the Mosque Square.
Address: Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque, Al Mazar, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria, Egypt.
El Cornish promenade
The long embankment that crosses Alexandria and stretches for many kilometers is the most picturesque and beautiful street in the city. Its official name is “July 26”, but locals and tourists prefer to call the street a short, sonorous Cornish, which means “embankment” or “coast” in Arabic.
On the one side of the embankment, the sea splashes, comfortable beaches are equipped, on the other – a real open-air museum. At the ends of the street are the iconic sights of Alexandria, the Montazah Palace and the Cai-Bay fort, and along its entire length there are a lot of old buildings, historical and architectural monuments.
You can walk or cycle along the promenade. For lovers of cycling, there are special paths, full of rental points. The Cornish is especially beautiful at dusk, when thousands of lights are reflected in the sea.
Address: Al Kornish, Al Ibrahimeyah Bahri WA Sidi Gaber, Qism Bab Sharqi, Egypt.
The opera house in Alexandria opened at the beginning of the last century on the initiative of the local aristocrat Badr el-Din-Kerdana, who financed the construction of the building. Initially, it bore the name of the Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali, but in the 60s it was renamed in honor of Syed Darwish, the author of the national anthem.
The theater staged opera and ballet performances, gave concerts. The popularity of the theater was so great that it was attended not only by Alexandrians, but also by guests from other countries.
By the beginning of this century, the building was noticeably dilapidated. After a large-scale restoration, the theater resumed its work in 2004. The Alexandria Opera’s permanent troupe and symphony orchestra are now popularizing exotic Arab art with their performances.
Address: Alexandria Opera House, Al Mesallah Sharq, Al Attarin, Egypt.
Palace of Antoniadis
The Antoniadis Palace is a piece of France in Alexandria, a kind of miniature “remake” of the Versailles Palace. The luxurious mansion was erected in the middle of the 19th century by order of the Greek businessman John Antoniadis. Then the villa was the center of the city’s social life, the local nobility gathered here, balls and parties were held.
After the death of the businessman, his heirs transferred the mansion to the city municipality. For some time in a spacious, two-story building, they received high-ranking guests, held important meetings and events. At the beginning of this century, the palace became part of the museum complex of the Alexandria Library.
The palace and the surrounding park with an area of almost 50 hectares are famous for the rich collection of sculptures collected by Antoniadis. Among them are statues of Greek gods, marble monuments to the great navigators Columbus, Magellan and Nelson, symbolic sculptures that personify the seasons. Particularly noteworthy is the statue of Venus with a mirror in hand, positioned in such a way that the sun’s rays are reflected from the mirror surface directly into the windows of the villa.
Address: Antoniades Palace, Ezbet Saad, Sidi Gaber, Egypt.
Catacombs of Kom El Shukaf
The catacombs in Alexandria are part of the “city of the dead”, the largest antique necropolis in Egypt. The estimated date of the origin of the tomb is the 2nd century BC, and it was used for at least two centuries. The name of the catacombs is due to a pile of ceramic shards that were found at the burial site – Kom-el-Shukafa in Arabic means “mound of fragments.” Scientists believe that in earthenware, relatives brought “treats” to the deceased.
The necropolis is a three-tiered structure, where on the upper level there is Triclinium – a memorial hall, and on the second and third there are tombs. To lower the bodies of the dead, they used a spiral staircase laid in the mine.
The uniqueness of the Kom El Shukaf catacombs lies in the symbiosis of different cultures and beliefs. The walls of the halls are dotted with inscriptions in different languages, elements of the Egyptian, Greek and Roman styles “coexist” in the wall drawings and bas-reliefs. And literally in adjacent tombs are the remains of the deceased, buried according to the traditions of different peoples.
Address: Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, Karmouz, Egypt.
Coptic Church of St. Mark
St. Mark’s Cathedral is the seat of the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, a temple with a long history and a difficult fate. There is an assumption that the church was built on the site of the chapel founded by Saint Mark, the author of the second Gospel, at the dawn of our era. According to legend, Mark the Evangelist promoted Christianity in Egypt and was the first patriarch of Alexandria.
The cathedral was destroyed more than once by warlike conquerors. But each time the temple was restored in a short time, while the religious building became even larger and more beautiful.
In the middle of the last century, the church was completely demolished and a completely new building was built. Two chapels remained not dismantled, and the carefully preserved iconostases were placed in the old place. The decoration and interior painting were made as similar as possible to the original version.
Address: The Cathedral of St. Mark, Al Akbat Church, Al Attarin, Egypt.
Royal Jewelery Museum
Museum of Jewelry – “Eldorado” of Alexandria, a unique treasury of works of art, precious jewelry and luxury items that once belonged to the ruling dynasty of Muhammad Ali, and now exhibited for everyone’s admiration and admiration.
The collection of the museum has more than 11,000 exhibits. Among them are antique dishes, old coins, decoration signs and watches, antique jewelry, items made of gold and platinum, inlaid with precious stones, rare pearls and diamonds.
The royal regalia – crowns and diadems, most “densely” covered with diamonds, stand out especially. Thus, the platinum diadem that adorned the head of the great-granddaughter of the founder of the dynasty at the wedding is decorated with 2000 selected diamonds.
The exhibits of the museum are exhibited in the palace where Princess Fatma lived at the beginning of the last century. It is noteworthy that the building itself can be safely equated with the treasures stored in it, the interior and exterior of the palace is so luxurious.
The walls are finished with oak and chestnut wood, the ceiling is hand-painted, there are a lot of mosaic and stained glass panels, art canvases, sculptures. Moreover, eminent masters of that time worked on the interior and the creation of masterpieces.
Address: Royal Jewelery Museum، San Stifano, First Al Raml, Egypt.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is a collection of paintings, sculptures, artistic carvings by Egyptian and European masters. The history of the museum began at the dawn of the last century, when the authorities of Alexandria received a small collection of paintings by foreign artists as a gift.
The building for the gallery was donated by a local businessman. But in the battles of World War II, it was destroyed. A new, modern building in the Art Nouveau style was built in 1954, and the grand opening of the museum was timed to celebrate the second anniversary of the July revolution.
Now the museum displays the first two hundred paintings, donated in the last century, by masters of different nationalities who once lived and worked in Egypt. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum offers a variety of temporary exhibitions. In addition, a significant event is taking place within the walls of the museum – the Alexandria Biennale, an exhibition of paintings by Mediterranean artists.
Address: Museum of Fine Arts, El-Mohandes Ahmed Ismail, Emberouz WA Moharram Beik, Moharam Bek, Alexandria, Egypt.
Necropolis of Anfushi
The necropolis of Anfushi is a complex of ancient burials in the eastern part of Alexandria, dating back to the 3rd century AD. The ancient tomb was discovered at the beginning of the last century. The necropolis includes five tombs, carved directly into the rock, and located along the perimeter of a small, open courtyard. The courtyard is below ground level with a staircase leading down to it.
The Alexandria necropolis is a “speaking” cultural and everyday cross-section, an “eyewitness” of many important historical events and everyday disturbances, as evidenced by the decoration and design of the tombs. The richness of some tombs is striking, the use of noble materials for sarcophagi – marble and granite.
The walls of some tombs are decorated with images of gods from Egyptian mythology, drawings on everyday themes from the life of the Egyptians, others – with drawings, frescoes and carvings describing Roman military equipment. The door to one of the tombs is “guarded” by statues of sphinxes crowning low columns.
Address: Necropolis of Anfushi, Ibrahim Al Awal Sq., Ras at Tin, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria, Egypt.
Wadi Natrun monasteries
The Wadi Natrun Valley, or otherwise the Nitrian Desert, located near Alexandria, is known for its impressive reserves of sodium oxide, an indispensable substance for embalming bodies. (The chemical element sodium owes its name to the valley). And the Christian monasteries, the first of which was founded in the middle of the 4th century, glorified the Nitrian desert all over the world.
After 300 years, there were already several dozen of them. To this day, only four ancient religious buildings have survived, which are still functioning. Each monastery has one or several churches, many chapels, cells and outbuildings. The entire “economy” is surrounded by thick walls.
The oldest and most significant is the Coptic monastery of St. Macarius, which was founded by Macarius himself in the 4th century. After the death of the saint, his relics were placed in a “nominal” monastery, and the monastery was taken under the patronage of his followers. A few kilometers from the monastery of St. Macarius is the monastery of St. Bisvi, founded by the student of Macarius.
It is the only one of the four monasteries that is open every day. There is a Syrian monastery literally half a kilometer from the Bisvi monastery. It was erected in the 6th century by monks who “broke away” from Biswi as a result of religious misunderstandings.
The monastery is famous for its ivory iconostasis and unique frescoes. In the most remote monastery, the Monastery of the Romans, the relics of Isidore and Moses are kept, and a shirt with a bloody cross – a mark left after the exorcism session.
Address: Wadi Natrun, El Beheira Desert, Egypt.