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The Macedonian, Alexander the Great, conquered Greece and then came to Egypt. In 331 BC he chose a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast to be its new capital, Alexandria. His embalmed body was laid to rest in the city when he died eight years later after conquering Asia. Alexandria became Egypt's capital under the Ptolemaic dynasty, until Cleopatra committed suicide and the Romans took over. During the Roman rule the city was one of the most important centers of Christianity in the Middle East. The locals hated the Christian rulers so much that, when the Arabs conquered Egypt in 641 AD they were welcomed as liberators. Alexandria's decline started in the 18th century when the Turkish Empire started collapsing. In the 19th century it became more important again and during both World Wars many troops were stationed in the city. Nowadays Alexandria is Egypt's main industrial center and port.

Alexandria is oriented around the big square of Midan Saad Zaghoul, which runs all the way down to the waterfront with its dirty beaches. You will have to go to Agami or Hannoville some 17 km west of the city center for better beaches. At its historical height the city of Alexandria was a great center of science, philosophy and intellectual thought and learning. It used to have a library containing more than 500,000 volumes. There is not much left of the old glamour, but there are still some interesting sights in the city.

Places to Visit

The Greco-Roman Museum contains antique relics as old as the 3rd century BC. It is at 5 Sharia al Mathaf al Romani. In the museum you will find a fantastic black-granite sculpture of the sacred bull worshipped by the ancient Egyptians named Apis, mummies, sarcophaguses, pottery, jewelry and tapestries. It is the only museum in the city covering the period between ancient Egypt and the Arab conquest. Not far from the museum you will find Kom el Dikka, a series of Ptolemaic and Roman excavations. On the site is the only Amphitheatre the Romans ever build in Egypt. 13 white-marble terraces, still in excellent condition, are arranged around the arena.

The Pillar of Pompeii is a huge 25-metre high pink granite pillar that measures 9 meters around its girth. The pillar was erected in 297 AD in the center of the Serapeum for Diocletian. Around 100 years later the Christian crusaders destroyed the Serapeum and Cleopatra's library and left only the pillar, which they credited to Pompeii, standing. Nowadays it's all that remains of Serapeum.

The largest known Roman burial site in Egypt are the Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa. Three tiers of burial tombs, chambers and hallways can be seen there. The Romans began burying their dead there in the 2nd century AD and later the site was expanded to bury more than 300 people. A banquet hall where the grieving would pay their respects with a funeral feast can also be seen.

The Fort Qait Bey is west of the harbor. There is a naval museum inside and the views from the top of the building are excellent.

Other museums include the Fine Arts Museum where modern Egyptian art is displayed and the Royal Jewelry Museum where jewels from Mohammed Ali's early rule can be seen.

Alexandria is connected to the rest of Egypt by rail, road, air and boats that run on the Nile river. The city also has sea-connections to many Mediterranean places. Transportation within the city goes by bus or tram. The main station for both is Midan Ramli. There are many hotels in the city and restaurants can be found everywhere.

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Miscellaneous Information

Latitude:    31 12 N
Longitude: 29 53 E
Elevation:  32 m (105 ft.)

Population: 3,500,000
Cost-of-living compared to Washington D.C.: n/a

Hours from UTC: 3
Daylight savings time: Late March through late October

City phone code: 3
Country phone code: 20

Average Weather Patterns

January14.4°C (57.9°F)4.8 cm (1.89 in)
April19.2°C (66.6°F)0.3 cm (0.12 in)
July26.1°C (79°F)n/a
October24.2°C (75.6°F)0.5 cm (0.2 in)

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