by Sandy Lai
Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria was the capital of Egypt for a thousand years. Most commonly associated with the Royal Library of Alexandria and the loss of a mass amount of ancient texts, nowadays you can glimpse into its past and enjoy the cultural attractions of Egypt’s second-largest city. Despite its size, after visiting Cairo, this great city is a welcomed change. By comparison, the streets are much less crowded and have a more relaxed atmosphere than the capital.
Citadel of Qaitbay
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Alexandria, this gorgeous fortress overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. The famous Pharos Lighthouse was here but it was destroyed over the years by earthquakes. In 1477, Sultan Qaitbay built the citadel over the site for the price of one hundred thousand dinars. This magnificent stronghold protected the city against the Turks. Indulge your eyes with a view that can be seen by going high up on the outer wall of the fort and taking in the open sea.
Pompey’s Pillar and Kom al-Shoqafa
Located on the ancient acropolis, this Roman column was originally part of the Serapeum temple colonnade. It is one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected, standing at 26.85m tall with a 2.71m base. Also in this area are the subterranean galleries of the Serapeum. A short 15 min walk away will take you to the Kom el-Shoqafa catacombs. After going down the spiral staircase, you can see dozens of chambers decorated with elements of Roman, Greek and Egyptian styles, fused together in unique adornments. These catacombs were originally a wealthy family’s tomb, but this was later expanded into a public cemetery. It has three underground levels containing sarcophagi, statues and sculpted pillars.
Montazah Palace and Royal Gardens
Built in 1892, this palace now has buildings that have been converted into modern amusements. The Haramlek building houses a small museum of relics on the upper floors and the ground floor has a casino. You can even stay at the palace as the Salamlek building is now a luxury hotel. Over 200 acres of beautiful royal gardens are located along the shore with beaches close by. The landscaping is incredible and it is the perfect place to relax.
A Bit of Culture
The Alexandria National Museum holds more than 1,800 pieces in its collection, some dating back to prehistoric times. The second floor is quite interesting as it shows Coptic and Islamic era artifacts that have recently been recovered from underwater excavations. To see ancient texts, the Biblioteca Alexandrina is the place to go. Built on the site of the Ancient Library of Alexandria, this giant library is also a research centre and a conference centre. It even has a planetarium, which truly makes this library stand out as a place for learning and knowledge.
By the water
The Corniche is a 15km boardwalk along the harbour dotted with markets, historic sights and some of the best seafood restaurants in the country. If you feel like doing some sunbathing, head to Montazah Beach. Expect a lot of people, but you can pay extra in some areas to get more space. You can also try some waterskiing or wakeboarding with Montazah Water Sports.