A Beautiful Day in Alexandria

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February 28th 2020
Published: February 28th 2020
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Ahhh - the ocean (ahem - my tour guide said "Not ocean, the sea") Okay, the Mediterranean Sea. I love the ocean/sea because I live near the ocean/sea.

From Wikipedia:

Alexandria is the second-largest city in Egypt and a major economic center. With a population of 5,200,000, Alexandria is the largest city on the Mediterranean, the sixth-largest city in the Arab world and the ninth-largest in Africa. The city extends about 40 km (25 mi) at the northern coast of Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria is a popular tourist destination, and also an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez.

Alexandria was founded in Alexander the Great, king of Macedon and leader of the Greek League of Corinth, during his conquest of the Achaemenid Empire. An Egyptian village named Rhacotis existed at the location and grew into the Egyptian quarter of Alexandria. Alexandria grew rapidly to become an important center of Hellenistic civilization and remained the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt and Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1,000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641, when a new capital was founded at Fustat (later absorbed into Cairo). Hellenistic Alexandria was best known for the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world); and the Necropolis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Alexandria was the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient Mediterranean world for much of the Hellenistic age and late antiquity. It was at one time the largest city in the ancient world before being eventually overtaken by Rome.

It's about 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive from Cairo to Alexandria. There was not as much traffic today because it's Friday, and Friday and Saturday are the weekend. So getting out of Cairo wasn't too bad, plus we left at 7 a.m. The first place we went to in Alexandria was the catacombs:

Alexandria's catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa (meaning "Mound of Shards") is a historical archaeological site located in Alexandria, Egypt, and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. It consist of a multi-level labyrinth, reached via a large spiral staircase, and featuring dozens of chambers adorned with sculpted pillars, statues, and other syncretic Romano-Egyptian religious symbols, burial niches, and sarcophagi, as well as a large Roman-style banquet room, where memorial meals were conducted by relatives of the deceased. The catacombs were long forgotten by the citizens until they were discovered by accident in 1900.

The necropolis consists of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues and archaeological objects of the Pharaonic funeral cult with Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman influences. Due to the time period, many of the features of the catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa merge Roman, Greek and Egyptian cultural points; some statues are Egyptian in style, yet bear Roman clothes and hair style whilst other features share a similar style. A circular staircase, which was often used to transport deceased bodies down the middle of it, leads down into the tombs that were tunneled into the bedrock during the age of the Antonine emperors (2nd century AD). The facility was then used as a burial chamber from the 2nd century to the 4th century, before being rediscovered in 1900 when a donkey accidentally fell into the access shaft. To date, three sarcophagi have been found, along with other human and animal remains which were added later. It is believed that the catacombs were only intended for a single family, but it is unclear why the site was expanded in order to house numerous other individuals.

Next stop was the Roman amphitheater, village, place for students to study, and baths. In 1965 the semicircular amphitheater was discovered when they removed a Napoleonic fort to build a housing project. It dates from 2 A.D. with remains of beautiful mosaics. There is also an exhibit of objects brought from underwater. Much of the royal and civic quarters sank beneath the harbor due to earthquake subsidence from the Crete earthquake in AD 365, estimated to be 8.0. The tsunami devastated Alexandria. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus described in detail the tsunami that hit Alexandria and other places in the early hours of 21 July 365. His account is particularly noteworthy for clearly distinguishing the three main phases of a tsunami, namely an initial earthquake, the sudden retreat of the sea and an ensuing gigantic wave rolling inland.

Due to the constant presence of war in Alexandria in ancient times, very little of the ancient city has survived into the present day.

Next stop was the fort:

The Citadel of Qaitbay (or the Fort of Qaitbay; Arabic: قلعة قايتباي‎) is a 15th-century defensive fortress located on the Mediterranean sea coast, in Alexandria, Egypt. It was established in 1477 AD (882 AH) by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay. The Citadel is situated on the eastern side of the northern tip of Pharos Island at the mouth of the Eastern Harbour. The founder of the Citadel of Qaitbay is a Circassian Sultan named Al-Ashraf Abou Anasr Saif El-Din Qaitbay El-Jerkasy Al-Zahiry (try saying that 3 times very fast) (1468–1496 AD) who was born about 1423 AD (826 AH). He was a Mamluke who had come to Egypt as a young man, less than 20 years old.

The Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the 15th century AD.

Then a wonderful fish lunch by the sea, and a short stop at a mosque. The Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque (Arabic: جامع أبو العباس المرسي‎) is an Egyptian mosque in the city of Alexandria. It is dedicated to the 13th century Murcian Andalusi Sufi saint Abul Abbas al-Mursi, whose tomb it contains. I couldn't go inside because they were having prayers so we just looked at the outside.

Next and last stop, the library.

The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. The Library was part of a larger research institution called the Mouseion, which was dedicated to the Muses, the nine goddesses of the arts. The idea of a universal library in Alexandria may have been proposed by Demetrius of Phalerum, an exiled Athenian statesman living in Alexandria, to Ptolemy I Soter, who may have established plans for the Library, but the Library itself was probably not built until the reign of his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The Library quickly acquired many papyrus scrolls, due largely to the Ptolemaic kings' aggressive and well-funded policies for procuring texts. It is unknown precisely how many such scrolls were housed at any given time, but estimates range from 40,000 to 400,000 at its height.

Alexandria came to be regarded as the capital of knowledge and learning, in part because of the Great Library.

It has been reasonably established that the library, or parts of the collection, were destroyed by fire on a number of occasions (library fires were common and replacement of handwritten manuscripts was very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming). The Library, or part of its collection, was accidentally burned by Julius Caesar during his civil war in 48 BC, but it is unclear how much was actually destroyed and it seems to have either survived or been rebuilt shortly thereafter; the geographer Strabo mentions having visited the Mouseion in around 20 BC and the prodigious scholarly output of Didymus Chalcenterus in Alexandria from this period indicates that he had access to at least some of the Library's resources. To this day the details of the destruction (or destructions) remain a lively source of controversy.

The idea of reviving the ancient Library of Alexandria in the modern era was first proposed in 1974, when Lotfy Dowidar was president of the University of Alexandria. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in 2002, near the site of the old Library.
glass-panelled roof, tilted out toward the sea like a sundial, and measuring some 160 m in diameter. The walls are of gray Aswan granite, carved with characters from 120 different human scripts. It also houses 4 museums: Antiquities, Manuscripts (The Manuscript Museum operates alongside the Manuscript Center, which provides digital access to more than 6,000 rare books, maps, and documents within the museum's collection), Sadat, and History of Science..

There is a planetarium next to the library that looks like the Death Star to me. Time for the drive back to Cairo to get there in time for the 6 p.m. meeting with the GAdventures group. They are a nice group of people, and our guide is quite funny. This should be a good trip.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 31


Black Sphinx.Black Sphinx.
Black Sphinx.

From underwater excavation, possibly dating to New Kingdom (1550 B.C.)
Obelisk of Seti 1. (1294 B.C.)Obelisk of Seti 1. (1294 B.C.)
Obelisk of Seti 1. (1294 B.C.)

From underwater excavation.
One of many hallways.One of many hallways.
One of many hallways.

There are 3 levels with many hallways.

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