Alexandria Tourist Attractions
Caesar entered Alexandria in triumph, but was then attacked by the citizens and Ptolemy XIV's army and had considerable difficulty in maintaining his position in the Regia or "Royal City". Cleopatra was able to win over by her charms first Caesar and later Antony, who lived with her in Alexandria from 42 to 30 B.C. Augustus enlarged the city by the addition of th suburb of Nicopolis.
At this prosperous period Alexandria was said to have a population of more than half a million; the Greek element predominated, followed by the Egyptian, while there was also a separate Jewish community, originally established in the time of Ptolemy I.In A.D. 69 Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor by the citizens of Alexandria, largely as a result of the influence of the philosophers of the Museum. In the reign of Trajan (98-117) the Jews, who then constituted a third of the population, were the cause of bloody riots. In the year 130 the Emperor Hadrian (117-138) visited Alexandria and instituted public disputations in the Museum. Marcus Aurelius (161-180) attended the lectures of the grammarians Athenaeus, Harpocration, Hephaestion, Julius Pollux and other scholars. During this period, too, the Greek satirical writer Lucian lived in Alexandria as Secretary to the Prefect of Egypt. Septimius Severus (193-211 ) visited the city in 199 and granted it a municipal consitution. The next Imperial visit was disastrous, for Caracalia (211-217) was derided by the citizens and revenged himself by a bloody massacre and the closure of the Academy. Alexandria suffered still more cruelly during the fighting between Palmyrene and Imperial forces in the second half of the third century, when a large part of the population was carried away by the sword, famine and pestilence.Christianity established itself in Alexandria at an early stage. According to tradition the Gospel was first preached here by St Mark (whose remains were carried off to Venice in 828). The first great persecution of the Christians in the reign of Decius (250) hit Alexandria hard. The city had been for many years the seat of a bishop, and had since 190 a theological school, presided over by Pantaenus and, at the beginning of the third century, by Clement of Alexandria, which sought to combine Christianity with the Neo-Platonism which developed about this period and was taught by Ammonius Saccas, Herennius, Plotinus, Porphyrius, lamblichus and others. A second persecution took place in 257 during the reign of Valerian, and soon afterwards, in the reign of Gailienus, plague carried off a large part of the population. Nevertheless Alexandria still remained the principal seat of Christian learning and the orthodox faith (Athanasian Creed) until it was compelled to yield this position to the newly founded city of Constantinople. Sanguinary quarrels took place between the Athanasian party and the Arians under their unworthy bishop Georgius. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) the Christians of Alexandria were again persecuted. Under Theodosius (379-395), however, paganism received its deathblow. Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria showed the utmost zeal in destroying pagan temples and monuments, and the famous statue of Serapis was destroyed by fire. The material prosperity of the city now declined, so that it could no longer meet the cost of cleansing the Nile and keeping the canals open. Its revenues were reduced still further when the Jews were expelled from the city by Patriarch Cyril. In 415 the learned and beautiful pagan Hypatia, the principal opponent of the fanatical Cyril, was stoned to death by a mob. The pagan schools were finally closed during the reign of Justinian (527-565).In 619 Alexandria was captured by King Chosroes II of Persia, but the Christians were not molested. In 626 the Persians were driven out by Heraclius; but soon afterwards the armies of the Caliph Omar advanced into Egypt under the banner of Islam, and in October 641 the city was taken after a prolonged siege. Omar's general, Amr ibn el-As, treated the inhabitants with moderation; but Alexandria now continued to decline, while the new capital of Cairo prospered. The discovery of America and the sea route to India finally destroyed the city's commerce.The decay of Alexandria, which by 1800 had a population of only 5,000, was finally arrested by Mohammed (Mehemet) Ali, who improved the harbor and constructed a number of canals. His main contribution was the construction of the Mahmudiya Canal (begun in 1819), named after the reigning Sultan Mahmud II, which irrigated the surrounding country and linked Alexandria with the rest of Egypt, whose products had hitherto been shipped from Rosetta and Damietta. Subsequent rulers also sought to improve the position of the town. During Arabi's Rising in 1882 much of the European quarter was burned down. Thereafter, however, Alexandria began to recover its prosperity, and it is now the largest and most important city in Egypt after Cairo.The Royal Library of Alexandria, founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, was once the largest library in the world. It was destroyed by fire on a few occasions. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a major library and cultural center, completed in 2002, to commemorate the Royal Library and keep the sense of Alexandria as a center of study.Alexandria has many notable landmarks such as the Roman Amphitheatre, Pompey's Pillar, Montaza, and Maamoura Beach, one of the main tourist attractions of Alexandria. The city is a popular summer resort for tourists in the Middle East who come to enjoy the sun and sea.
The hub of the city's life is the Midan el-Tahrir, in which are an equestrian statue of Mohammed Ali, the Law Courts, the Anglican St Mark's Church and the old Exchange.
Aswan - Navigation Canal
To the west of the dam is a navigation canal 1.25mi/ 2km long which enables boats of some size to move up and downstream, overcoming the difference in level (75ft/23m) by the use of four locks 230ft/70m long and 31ft/9.5m wide. The two uppermost lockgates are 62ft/19m high, the other five 49ft/15m, 39ft/12m and 36ft/11m.
Southwest of the old harbor is the modern western harbor, known in antiquity as Eunostos ("Harbor of the Safe Return"). It consists of the small Inner Harbor within the Coal Pier and the Outer Harbor, protected by a breakwater 2mi/3.2km long, which can accommodate large vessels.
Within the harbor archeologists have recently discovered, at a depth of some 26ft/8m, remains of Cleopatra's palaces, of which Strabo gives a detailed account, and other ancient buildings and quays.
Immediately north of Midan el-Tahrir is the Midan Ahmed Orabi, also laid out in gardens, which leads to the magnificent seafront promenade known as the Corniche (Sharia July 26). It runs around the south side of the old eastern harbor, the principal harbor (Portus Magnus) of the ancient city, in a wide arc.
St Catherine's Cathedral
To the south of Midan el-Tahrir stands the Roman Catholic St Catherine's Cathedral. In the crypt is the tomb of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, who died in exile in Egypt in 1947; it is planned to transfer his remains to Italy.
The Graeco-Roman Museum displays artifacts found primarily in tombs in and around the Alexandria area, dating from 300 BC to 300 AD.
A short distance west of the Graeco-Roman Museum is the excavation site of Kom el-Dik, formerly occupied by a fort, where a Roman Amphitheater and remains of baths (third century) and an odeon have been brought to light.Excavation began in 1947 by the Farouk 1st University in Alexandria.
Museum of Fine Art
In the southwest of the city, near the large Arab cemetery, is a hill littered with the remains of ancient walls, architectural fragments and rubble on which stands Alexandria's largest ancient monument, Pompey's Pillar, rising from the ruins of the ancient and famous Serapeion (Temple of Serapis). This column of red Aswan granite with a Corinthian capital, standing on a badly ruined substructure and rising to a height of almost 90ft/27m, is traditionally believed to have been erected by the Emperor Theodosius to commemorate the victory of Christianity over paganism and the destruction of the Serapeion in 391. More probably, however, it was set up in 292 in honor of Diocletian, who supplied food for the starving population after the siege of the city.
The Catacombs of Kom el-Shukafa were first discovered in 1900. Today they are lighted and can be easily toured.
In the southeast of the city the beautiful Nuzha Gardens incorporate a small Zoo.
Immediately south of the Nuzha Gardens are the no less attractive Antoniadis Gardens, once the country estate of a wealthy Greek citizen.
Twelve km/7.5mi northeast of the Montazah Palace, on a promontory defended on all sides by old forts, is the fishing village of Abuqir (Aboukir). The Battle of the Nile (August 1, 1798) was fought in Abuqir Bay, in which Nelson inflicted an annihilating defeat on the French fleet. Here, too, in 1799, Napoleon defeated a numerically much superior Turkish force; and here in 1801 Sir Ralph Abercromby defeated the remnants of the French army and compelled them to evacuate Egypt. Southwest of the village is the site of the important ancient port of Canopus, of which only scanty remains survive; the site is now in a military area and closed to the public.
Some 28mi/45km southwest of Alexandria we come to Abusir, with the scanty remains of the ancient city of Taposiris Magna, which lay in the plain.
On a limestone ridge rising from the seashore, however, are the well preserved remains of the enclosure wall of an Egyptian temple, which the Greek name of the city suggests may have been dedicated to Osiris. The temple, oriented from east to west, was entered by a handsome pylon, which, like the rest of the walls, was built of limestone blocks. In the interior of each of the two towers is a staircase (fine view from top). Adjoining the pylon is the temple (interior destroyed), which was 295ft/90m long and surrounded by high walls. A little way north of the temple are the remains of a Roman lighthouse. The rocks in the neighborhood contain many old quarries and Roman tombs. Near the temple a bath has been excavated, and rather farther away is an animal cemetery.
More Alexandria Pictures
Map of Alexandria Attractions
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