Egypt: A Day in Ancient and New Alexandria


Egypt’s “Pearl of the Mediterranean” is a city with a long history but is also cosmopolitan and vibrant. Once the historical Capital of Egypt for almost a millennium, today only a few ancient wonders survive. Unfortunately, our visit was brief, and we only touched the surface of the scattered ancient sights in this city founded by Alexander the Great in 331B.C.

Kom Al-Dikka – Roman Amphitheatre 

At the centre of the busy urban city, a fourth-century Roman complex was discovered in the 1960’s while excavating for a new housing project. Compared to other sites of the Roman Empire, the open-air museum is quite small, but it is tidy, well-preserved, and enjoyable to discover.

The complex features a Roman Amphitheatre and Theatre, ancient baths, living quarters, and 22 auditorias; small lecture halls with stone seating, evidence that higher education played an important role in Alexandria in late antiquity.The AuditoriaA focal point is a horseshoe-shaped theatre which could hold 700 to 800 people.IMG_0385The large Roman bath, designed to provide warm steam and hot bathing is a major architectural feature. IMG_0382DSC_0413Archaeological reconstruction is an ongoing process at the site. IMG_0381

Amud El-Sawari – Pompey’s Pillar and The Temple of Serapeum 

A lonely Roman pillar stands erect on a small hill. The first impression of the seemingly dominant and solitary column in the middle of a residential neighbourhood is unimpressive. Yet, at the thought of how a massive column, 30 m (99 ft) high, made from a singular piece of granite was raised and still stands tall 18 centuries later (300AD) is astonishing.
DSC_0445Various archaeological fragments and sculptures are scattered around the site, and underneath the pillar, steps lead to small caves, remnants of the Serapeum, a great temple dedicated to the Greek-Egyptian god Serapis of ancient Alexandria.DSC_0462From the city centre, we headed for the seafront, stopping along the Corniche, a 12-mile long congested avenue that follows the shoreline, and caught glimpses of the relaxed ambience, and of the cafe culture that overlooks the sea.

Citadel of Qaitbay

The Fort of Qaitbay is built on the site of the legendary Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. It was constructed in the 14th century, using salvaged stone from the old lighthouse to defend Alexandria from the advances of the Ottoman Empire.DSC_0543

The place was busy with local school groups, and these young women approached Ginette, asking for selfies with her. In turn, we took their photo.DSC_0538View of the peninsula leading to the fort.DSC_0534

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The beautiful architecture of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina stands as an icon on the skyline facing the Mediterranean sea. More than a library, it is a modern agora, museum and cultural centre, meshing memories of the destroyed old Royal Alexandria Library with the heritage of tomorrow.DSC_0594The exterior of Aswan granite is carved with various characters of human scripts from every language in the world. DSC_0605

Thanks again, Alexandria, for the (too short) visit and a glimpse of your glorious past and bright future.

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