5 tips for Alexandria

Alexandria harbor view
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Alexandria, located in the far west of the Nile Delta, is also called the “Pearl of the Mediterranean”. It is the second largest city in Egypt with a population of about 4.3 million. It was founded in 332 BC by Alexander the Great and soon developed into the center of the Hellenistic world. Later, Alexandria was under Roman rule – as was all of Egypt. It was followed around 642 by the Arabs, the Ottoman Empire, the British…. The Great Library of Alexandria – once the center of the ancient world – is still famous today. Today it is a beautiful blend of history and modernity that makes Alexandria worth seeing. And the beautiful coast of the Mediterranean invites you to relax. And the old town of Alexandria is – as in ancient times – full of oriental life. The center of the city is the freedom square Midan Tahrir. From here it is straight to the magnificent Corniche and the main harbor. Alexandria is – after Cairo – the most important city in Egypt.

Tip 1: Pompey’s Pillar

The Pompey Column in Alexandria is one of the obligatory sights in Alexandria. It is a gigantic column made of red Assuan granite with a height of about 26-29 meters (here opinions differ). It dates back to the 3rd century BC and is a remnant from the Sarabium temple. The column was erected in memory of Emperor Diocletianus.

Pompey Column in Alexandria
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The latter saved the city from famine after a suppressed uprising. He achieved a victory in 296. BC over the Christian Achilles. The city governor at that time Publius had the Pompeius Column, which is about 3 meters thick at its lower end, erected. It was supposed to be called Diocletian’s Column. However, it was mistakenly christened Pompey’s Column by the Crusaders because it was erected over the tomb of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106-48 BC).

Pompey’s column stands in a kind of walled quarry surrounded by a few scarabs and sphinxes. In the immediate vicinity, housing estates pile up and take away the charm of the stony witnesses of history. But so it is with most of the sights of Alexandria. Only a little still testifies to the eventful history of the once so important port city.

Tip 2: Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Library of Alexandria was around 300 BC until its destruction, the largest library in antiquity. It was located in the palace district, its exact location and the time of its destruction are not known to this day. No remains of the library have been found so far. At that time scientific texts were written on scrolls. Possibly there was never a real library, perhaps the scrolls were stored in different buildings in the palace district.

Library of Alexandria
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In 2002, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina was opened with a capacity of 8 million books. The new Library of Alexandria was built right on the harbor. The Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta designed a futuristic disc that rises from a circular floor plan formed by a water basin. The base is made of gray granite in which writings from all the world’s languages were carved. Of the construction cost of US $220 million, Egypt contributed 120 million and 29 other countries paid the rest.

Tip 3: Citadel of Qaitbay

After two years of construction, the citadel was completed in 1479. It stands on the ruins of the old lighthouse of Alexandria, which is considered the first lighthouse in history. Its foundation was also built into the Qāitbāy Citadel.

The structure was built as a protection against the Ottomans, but in 1517 it was nevertheless conquered by Selim I and from then on it was used as a military base of the Ottoman Empire, but visibly lost its importance.

Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria
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In 1798 it was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte. Six years later, the citadel was renovated and brought up to military standards. At the end of the 19th century, the building suffered great damage due to a bombardment by the British, but starting in 1904, the structure was rebuilt at the suggestion of the Ministry of Defense.

Since the 1950s, the Qāitbāy Citadel has housed a naval museum and, in addition, a mosque is now part of the complex.

Tip 4: Princess Fatma Al-Zahra Palace

Princess Fatma Al-Zahra Palace is probably one of the most beautiful buildings in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. It was designed by the famous Italian architect Antonio Lasciac and completed in 1923. The palace is a magnificent, richly decorated work of art, incorporating many past architectural styles.

Jewelry Museum in Alexandria
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Today, the rooms house the Royal Jewlery Museum. It displays not only the jewels of the former Egyptian ruling house of Muhammad Ali Pasha, but also many oil paintings of members of the royal family. Paintings also adorn the walls and ceilings of the 31 rooms. Very impressive is also the stately bathroom on the upper floor. It is decorated with ornately painted tiles.

Tip 5: Montaza Palace

The Montaza Palace resembles a fairy-tale castle. The building is one of the newer ones in the city. It was built from 1923 to 1928 by Ernesto Verrucci for the ruler Fu’ad I as a summer residence in the style of eclecticism.

Montaza Palace at Alexandria
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Typically, the building is characterized by the combination of different styles of past times. The Montaza Palace is a mixture of Ottoman and Florentine architectural styles and has two towers of unequal height. The Italian Renaissance inspiration can be well seen in the taller of the two.

The royal gardens, now called Al-Montaza Park, which surround the building are open to the public. The palace itself can also be visited. It is now used as a public museum for artifacts and the family history of the Muhammad Ali dynasty. The older Salamlek Palace, which has been on the site since 1892, currently functions as a hotel.