The City of Alexandria
If you are traveling to Egypt, then a visit to legendary Alexandria is a must. This beautiful city on the Mediterranean simply resonates with the richness of its history and culture, and Egypt’s second largest city maintains an atmospheric juxtaposition between old and new. Known as ‘The Pearl of the Mediterranean’, Alexandria is both a modern commercial hub as well as a fascinating tourist destination.
History of Alexandria
Founded by military icon Alexander the Great during the Hellenistic era, Alexandria soon become the Graeco-Roman capital of Egypt. Dating back to 331 BC, the city was founded as a link between ancient Greece and the Nile, the river that for centuries had brought wealth into Egypt. Alexander believed the location would prove to be a stronghold for Greece, and the leader commissioned Dinocrates to design the layout for the new Hellenistic city.
As well as Alexander the Great, the city is also synonymous with the beautiful Queen Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh and ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. A beautiful and seductive ruler, her life story was one of drama and tragedy.
Modern day Alexandria is a city that bustles with commerce and tourism, but the industry in no way detracts from its wondrous past. The city’s East Harbor is where much of ancient Alexandria was located, and to take a walk around the water’s edge is to walk back along thousands of years of history.
Alexandria is saturated with heritage, culture and architecture, and the list of things for visitors to see and experience is long. There are world-class museums, the magnificent library, an opera house, a plethora of famous and important historical sites, and even a zoo. With so many wonderful options you won’t be disappointed to visit the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’.
There are several top class museums to visit during your stay in Alexandria, the most prominent of which is the National Museum. This exceptional museum showcases the diverse history of Alexandria, from the era of the pharaohs right through to the 19th century. More of the city’s fine range of museums include The Royal Jewelry Museum, The Cavafy Museum and the Aquarium.
One of the most famous buildings in history, the original Royal Library of Alexandria was the stuff of legend, a shining light of the past until it was destroyed by fire under mysterious circumstances. Once the biggest library in the world, the city lost its ‘symbol of knowledge’. However, in 2002 the new Bibliotheca of Alexandrina was completed and opened its doors for the first time. The ultra-modern library memorializes its predecessor, and is now a beautiful contemporary space where history, culture, philosophy, art and science come together under one roof.
Pompey’s Pillar is a freestanding Roman style column built in the center of The Temple of Serapeum, flanked either side by two well-preserved sphinx statues. Pompey’s triumphal Pillar is the largest column ever built outside of Rome and is the only example of its kind ever built. This magnificent icon of Alexandria is just one of the city’s significant historical treasures.
Alexandria Light House
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was built between 280 and 247 BC, and became a beacon of light not only in the physical sense, but for the for the ingenuity of the ancient world. Alexandria’s large Mediterranean port was a significant trading post, and the need for a lighthouse was paramount. At the time of its construction it was one of the largest buildings in the world, and is considered by some scholars as the first lighthouse in history. It stood for 1,600 years until an earthquake destroyed the main tower, but its foundations remain, and with The Temple of Tapporsis Magna situated nearby, the area is well worth a visit.
Another interesting historical site to visit while in Alexandria is Fort Qaitbey. Built in 1480 by Sultan Qaitbey, some of the remains of the lighthouse where reconstituted in the construction of the fort, adding to its interest, and a visit to the imposing fortress affords wonderful views across the harbor and the passive waters of the Mediterranean.
Montazah Palace and Royal Gardens
The Montaza Palace is now a museum known as the Muhammad Ali Dynasty Museum. The Muhammad Dynasty ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1953, until Egypt became an independent republic. This fine museum showcases the history of that era, and to get a better perspective of the diverse heritage, culture and ancestry of Alexandria then the palace is an excellent resource to visit. The palace’s Royal Gardens are now a beautiful public park and nature preserve, and the nearby Salamlek Palace has been transformed into a classy hotel.
Near the center of Alexandria is the Roman Amphitheatre, discovered while excavating the site of Paneion. The structure lies largely in ruins, however those ruins are well preserved and remain a wonderfully atmospheric example of classical Roman architecture.
If you’re traveling to Egypt with kids and they need a break from their history lesson then check out Alexandria zoo. There is a small entrance fee, but the well maintained zoo is a nice place to enjoy the animals and relax with your family.
At only a decade old, Stanley Bridge is a mere baby in the context of Alexandrian history. Nevertheless, the stylish structure has become an iconic landmark, and locals and visitors alike love to stroll across the sweeping cornice to enjoy its beautiful views and wonderful photo opportunities, especially for weddings.
Located just east of the Royal Gardens of Montaza, the beach at Maamoura is considered one of the most popular tourist attractions in Alexandria. Its lovely cobblestone boardwalk is alive with food vendors and ice cream parlors and, sitting far from any main roads, the beach provides a peaceful respite from the lively city and affords visitors stunning views of the Mediterranean.
Mahmoud is the owner and operator of Osiris Tours. Osiris Tours offers custom private guided tours to Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, Dubai, and more. The flexibility of Osiris’s offerings result in custom-made journeys that are designed carefully to deliver personalized and different travel experience like no other company.