Alexandria, the city created by Alexander the Great in 333BCE and with a history very different from any of the other cities in Egypt. When this famous Macedonian (the Greek state, not the former Yugoslav country) was en route to visit the Oracle Temple of Amun at the Siwa oasis he stopped overnight at the village of “Re-qdt” (its Greek name is “Racotis”) between the Mediterranean Sea and the Lake of Mariott (its location today is the area of Tel Bab Sadrah or Karmouz). Alexander decided that this was to be the spot where a great city would be built and charged one of his architects, Dinocratis, to build it.
He continued on to Siwa, to consult the oracle about his destiny and then left Egypt to fight the Persians in Asia. Sadly it is not known what the Oracle told Alexander, but it is generally believed that he was told he was to be a great leader. After his triumphal campaigns, Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 BC without ever seeing the city that bears his name: in fact it was not until the reigns of Ptolemy I, (Soter – the Saviour), and his successor Ptolemy II (Philadelphus) that the building of the city was completed and it became the main capital.
Dinocratis planned the city in squares, like a chessboard with two main streets interlaced vertically and horizontally extending from east to west as well as from north to south. Alexandria had 5 districts, each one named after a letter of the first five letters in the Greek Alphabet: A (Alpha); B (Beta); G (Gamma); D (Delta) and E (Epsilon). These 5 letters represent the initial letters of the text: “Alexander the king, the descendent of the gods, erected the city”.
- Alpha was the royal district where the royal palaces, the main Temple, the museum, the libraries, and the gardens were built,
- Beta was the district of the Greek aristocracy.
- Gamma was dedicated to the settlement of the Greek commoners.
- Delta was the district of the foreign minorities such as the Syrians, the Persians, and the Jews. Epsilon was the district for the native Egyptians.
Drinking water was supplied by a canal starting from the western Canopic branch of the Nile, at a point called “Shedia” about 27 km to the south of Alexandria. The water was stored in Cisterns; some of which remain into modern times.
At the beginning of the Roman period, about 30 BC, a new city was built here by the Romans, bearing the name of “Nicopolis” which means the city of Victory, in order to commemorate the victory of Octavian over Mark Anthony in Aktium in 31 BC. Most of it was destroyed or vanished for several reasons, including disturbances, civil wars, revolts, natural disasters, subsoil water and unplanned urbanization etc.
Among the fabulous monuments mentioned by ancient Greek books are the Enclosure Walls and the Gates of the City, the Lighthouse, the Great Library, the Royal Necropolis including the Tomb of Alexander and the Museums. Today the remaining monuments of ancient Alexandria are different cemeteries scattered in many various locations, some of which date back to the Ptolemaic period: El-Shatby, Moustafa Kamel, El-Anfoushy, and El-Wardain. Others date back to the Roman period: the tombs of Kom El-Shouqafa (the Catacombs), the tomb of Tigran, Pompeii’s pillar, Tomb of Silvago and the cemetery of El-Qabbary which was only recently discovered. There are other important monuments in the city that date back to various periods, such as the Serapium, the Roman Theatre, the Temple of El-Ras El-Souda, Citadel of Quaitbay, the Jewellery Museum, Mosque of El-Naby Daniel, Mosque of El-Moursi Abou El-Abbas and the Memorial of the unknown soldier.
Sites to see in, or around, Alexandria:
is located at the Eastern edge of the city of Alexandria.
is the biggest memorial column in Egypt.
Situated just to the west of Pompy’s Pillar.
acted as a major center for science and culture for many centuries.
Watch this wonderful view of alexadria
Location of Alexandria
Alexandria is situated on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, 179Km (111 miles) north of Cairo. It is Egypt’s second largest city, behind Cairo, but is sadly overlooked by tourists. It is accessible by many ways:
Alexandria International Airport or El Nouzha Airport is located 7Km (4 miles) southeast of the city centre. It offers services to domestic destinations within Egypt and cities across the Arab world. EgyptAir is the largest airline at the airport, operating over 50 weekly domestic and regional flights.
The future of El Nouzha was in doubt with the opening of Borg El Arab Airport, however in early 2010 the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation announced major plans to overhaul the airport and its facilities to ensure its future as one of the two commercial airports for Alexandria and Nile Delta region. The airport will be closed to commercial operations by late 2011 for major renovation and all traffic transferred to Borg El Arab Airport, Alexandria’s second airport. The renovation project is expected to cost US$120 million which will include lengthening the main runway (04/22) by an additional 750m and the construction of a new passenger terminal to replace the existing ageing facility. The airport will be closed down for two years to implement the expansion project and development.
Alexandria is the northern terminus for the line which runs through Cairo to Aswan and the service to Cairo is extremely good. Services are also available to Marsa Matruh, via El-Alamein, and Port Said.
Alexandria has a huge road network connecting it with towns to the east, the west, and south towards Cairo, including the myriad of towns in the Delta region. Cairo is reached by 2 main highways: The Desert Road and the Agricultural Road. Both are very busy with the former being 6-8 lanes wide.
Alexandria has a major seaport which is a popular stopping point for ocean going cruises and many visitors experience Egypt by arriving here.
Alexandria Travel Guide