Alexandria City

The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria, known ‎as "The Pearl of the Mediterranean", has an ‎atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle ‎Eastern; its ambience and cultural heritage distance it ‎from the rest of the country although it is actually only ‎‎225 km. from Cairo.‎

History of the city:

Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, ‎Alexandria became the capital of Graeco-Roman ‎Egypt, its status as a beacon of culture symbolized by ‎Pharos, the legendary lighthouse that was one of the ‎Seven Wonders of the World. The setting for the ‎stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark ‎Antony, Alexandria was also the center of learning in ‎the ancient world. But ancient Alexandria declined, ‎and when Napoleon landed, he found a sparsely ‎populated fishing village.‎

From the 19th century Alexandria took a new role, as ‎a focus for Egypt's commercial and maritime ‎expansion. This Alexandria has been immortalized by ‎writers such as E-M- Forster and Cavafy. Generations ‎of immigrants from Greece, Italy and the Levant ‎settled here and made the city synonymous with ‎commerce, cosmopolitanism and bohemian culture.‎

Alexandria is a city to explore at random. It's as ‎important to enjoy the atmosphere as it is to see the ‎sights. ‎
Dinocrates built the Heptastadion, the causeway ‎between Pharos and the mainland. This divided the ‎harbors into the Western and Eastern. The Eastern ‎harbor was really where the old harbor from the Middle ‎Ages was located.‎

Of modern Alexandria, the oldest section is along the ‎causeway which links what was once Pharos island ‎with the mainland and includes the districts of ‎Gumrok (the oldest dating to about the 16th century ‎and known as the customs district) Anfushi, and Ras ‎el-Tin (Cape of Figs). The latter two districts date to ‎about the period of Mohammed Ali (1805-49). ‎Collectively, these districts are known to westerners ‎as the Turkish Quarter. They have had a number of ‎ups and downs over the years, particularly due to the ‎plague during the 17th century. The area forms ‎somewhat of a T-shape, dividing the Eastern Harbor ‎from the Western Harbor.‎

This section of Alexandria is known to us more from ‎books then what we may actually see in the area. ‎Where the Pharos Lighthouse once stood, is now ‎occupied by the Fort of Quit Bay out on the area that ‎circles up around the top of Eastern Harbor forming ‎the eastern section of the top of the T. Heading south ‎from the Fort of Quit Bay, we come to the stunning ‎Abu El-Abbas Mosque. West of this is the Anfushi ‎Tombs, some of the oldest in Alexandria and well ‎worth a visit.‎
Heading towards the mainland past the Abu El-Abbas ‎Mosque and connecting with Shari Faransa street ‎leads to the Suq district. Just before entering the ‎district one finds the interesting little Terbana Mosque. ‎In the Suq district, one finds Alexandria's only ‎surviving wakalas, which is a part of the El-Shorbagi ‎Mosque complex founded in 1757. This was also the ‎area where Alexandria's Jewish community lived, but ‎most have now migrated to Israel. Different areas ‎have specialized in different goods and one may find ‎all manner of products from jewelry to Medicinal plants ‎‎(Suq El-Magharba) to Bedouin clothing (Suq El-Libia).‎

Continuing down Faransa one passes Midan Tahrir ‎and the street turns into Salah Salem, and finally ‎connects with Al-Horreya. ‎
However, Midan Tahrir, popularly called Manshiya, ‎has considerable history. The areas was once home ‎to Diplomats and known as Place Des Consuls, but ‎after the statue of Mohammed Ali was placed here in ‎‎1873 the name was changed to Midan Mohammed Ali. ‎In 1882, it was bombarded by the British and all but ‎destroyed. The Alexandria Stock Exchange was once ‎located here, and it was from the midan that Nasser ‎announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. ‎
The street named Al-Horreya (Tariq Abd el-Nasser) ‎which transverses the area from east to west was in ‎ancient times the Canopic Way with the Gate of the ‎Sun at the eastern end and the Gate of the Moon at ‎the western end. At that time, there were probably ‎columns lining the road. The main north to south ‎street, now Sharia el-Nebi Daniel, ran from the East ‎Harbor all the way to Lake Harbor on Lake Mariout.

Just south of the intersection of Al Horreya and el-‎Nebi Daniel was the site traditionally thought to be the ‎burial place of Alexander the Great, but that has not ‎been located, and may in fact be beneath the Mosque ‎of Nebi Daniel or in a nearby Greek necropolis. The ‎famous Alexandria Library was probably nearby. ‎However, the only real antiquities site that can be ‎viewed in the area is Kom el-Dikka, a small Roman ‎theater that has been excavated. Nearby is also a ‎bath house of the era. To the east is the Antiques ‎District where dealers sell antiquities, books, old ‎weapons and furniture. Here is also the Attarine ‎Mosque, which was once a church dedicated to ‎Athanasius.‎
Further south along the tramway is Pompey's pillar ‎and nearby the Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa.‎

Wondering along el-Nebi Daniel are several other ‎attractions, including the French Cultural Center, and ‎nearby the Eliahu Hanabi Synagogue, which is the ‎only active synagogue inAlexandria and houses the ‎combined treasures of the seven former Alexandrian ‎synagogues.‎

Back to the north on el-Nebi Daniel, next to the harbor ‎where Ramla station is now located at Midan Saad ‎Zaghlul was the location of the Caesareum. This was ‎a magnificent temple begun by Cleopatra for her lover ‎Antony and subsequently completed by their enemy ‎Octavian, though none of this remains in situ. Nearby ‎is the well known Cecil Hotel, built in 1930, Smerset ‎Maugham stayed here, as did Winston Churchill, and ‎the British Secret Service one maintained a suite for ‎their operations. ‎
Midan Saad Zaghlul is the entertainment heart and ‎nerve center of Alexandria. here, as terminals and ‎train stations provide a backdrop for cinemas, ‎restaurants and night spots. It was the setting of ‎Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and the famous ‎Alexandria coffee houses. The square is dominated by ‎an impressive monument dedicated to Saad Zaghlul, a ‎former national leader.‎

The Greek Quarter and Bab Rosetta District

Back on Al Horreya heading east, as we pass the ‎Graeco-Roman Museum (a notable museum well ‎worth a visit) we move into the Greek Quarter of ‎Alexandria, one of the most beautiful residential ‎districts. The wonderful old villas include the massive ‎Miclavez building, which is opposite the Town Hall and ‎nearby the Adda Complex built in 1929. This is where ‎the wealthy Greeks lived at the turn of the century, ‎and the streets are still named after the Ptolemic, ‎Pharaonic, Abbasid and Fatimid rulers. Further east is ‎the Greek Orthodox patriarchate and the Church of St. ‎Saba.‎

Further east, Al Horreya opens into a beautiful green ‎area known as the Shallalat Gardens, which was once ‎the fortification of Bab Rosetta. But in 1905, ‎Alexandria created a garden area here with waterfalls ‎and the only Alexandria cistern which can be viewed. ‎This cistern is an example of those which once dotted ‎Alexandria providing fresh water to her inhabitants.‎

The Corniche

The Corniche is dotted with Casinos built on stilts and ‎rows of beach huts. The avenue here did not always ‎exist, for until the 20th century, the areas remained ‎fortified by a five mile long wall with towers which had ‎protected the city since the 13th Century. In the early ‎‎1900s, a strip of land with a width of about 100 years ‎was reclaimed from the sea, and the area became ‎popular with beach goers. That is no longer the case, ‎but it remains a lively area of Alexandria. ‎
On the western end of the Corniche near Silsila where ‎the New Alexandria Library is being constructed is the ‎Shatby Tombs which are said to be the oldest in ‎Alexandria. Nearer the San Stefano, area across the ‎tram tracks is also the Royal Jewelry Museum.‎
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