by Céline Crespy
Alexandria got its name from Alexander the Great who founded the city in 331 BC. It became soon the capital city of Greco-Roman Egypt thanks to a huge seaport whose lighthouse Pharos used to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Around the Citadel of Qaitbay, underwater excavations came to the discovery of some remains of the lighthouse. After the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, Fustat (now part of Cairo) was chosen as the new capital and Alexandria started declining.
From the 19th century on, the city became one of the most dynamic and modern cities in Egypt: its port became the largest commercial seaport in Egypt and the city grew thanks to an efficient public transport network. Its tramway that was set up in 1860 is still running and it is worth using it in
alternative to the yellow and black cabs that are more expensive. You can use the tram to get to the main touristic attractions of such as Pompey’s Pillar, the Catacombs of Kom As-Shoqafa and ancient Roman ruins including a theatre and the remains of baths.
Until the 1950s, many European immigrants mainly from Greece and Italy settled in Alexandria, which contributed to give the city a European atmosphere that makes it different from the rest of the country even if it is only 225km far from Cairo. Alexandria has always been a major center of education and culture. Do not miss the Biblioteca Alexandrina that opened in 2003 on the site of the ancient library. The building also hosts a research and a conference center. That is the best place to see Roman, Greek and Arabic manuscripts as well as modern publications, which is relevant of Alexandria’s cosmopolitan tradition. When you leave the library, go to the seafront and have a walk on the Corniche, a 15km long avenue full of restaurants and casinos. Do not hesitate to try some of the best fish restaurants in Egypt. Then enjoy a glass of tea with an Oum Ali pudding and why not a sheesha. Always keep in mind that the best way to discover a city like Alexandria is exploring it at random.