Alexandria - Egypt : the Pearl of the Mediterranean sea

Alexandria - Egypt : the Pearl of the Mediterranean sea
    Alexandria - Egypt : the Pearl of the Mediterranean sea
    Founded in 331 BC, the ancient city of Alexandria lies on a strip between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mareotis.

     It soon became one of the cultural capitals of the ancient world.

      The city is home to a number of spectacular sites including one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World – Pharos Lighthouse. Recently, new architectural feats have emerged (or have been refurbished) from this ever-bustling city, with the likes of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Four Seasons San Stefano Hotel – The latter of which was my temporary place of residence during the five-day trip.

      Despite its sea-side location, the city isn’t solely a leisure destination. Interesting historical sites are in abundance and could provide ample opportunity for incentive trips. A group could go and explore the Roman Amphitheatre, which consists of ancient remains from an amphitheatre used in the second century AD. Constructed using mostly marble, the site used to have a domed roof but this was destroyed over time. A number of stone statues were scattered around the site, many beautifully restored with very little loss in detail. Excavated by a Polish team, the Amphitheatre is the only one that has been discovered so far – in a city where 400 of them were said to have been in existence in ancient times.

      Dive companies operate near Alexandria’s Grand Harbour offering enough scuba training to allow even a novice diver access to this aquarium of a museum. In just 15 metres you scuba your way through history from the hundreds of Roman amphora scattered across the seabed to hieroglyphic stone to wrecks of Greek vessels and the canons of Napoleon’s defeated fleet, sunk by Nelson in the 19th century. There is even a relic of the 20th century in the shape of World War II Italian plane.

      Another attraction, Pompey’s Pillar, is the tallest monument in Alexandria. It’s a 25-metre tall granite column, which was built to honour Emperor Diocletain. Known to the Arabs as Amoud el-Sawari, which is directly translated into ‘Column of the Horsemen’. A visually impressive structure, the site was once a mighty temple, although all that is left now is the pillar and a couple of sphinxes. Still, a visually impressive site, Pompey’s Pillar was one of the highlights of the trip.

      The Alexandria National Museum was officially inaugurated by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president on December 31, 2003. The actual building was originally sold to the Americans in the 1960’s and used as a consulate. In 1997 it was bought back by the Ministry of Culture. The museum contains around 1,800 artefacts which explain and describe the history of Alexandria through the ages, including the Pharonic, Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras and influences. More modern pieces in the museum include glassware, jewels and china from the 19th century.
      Our group also explored the Citadel of Quaitbay, which is considered to be one of the most important defence strongholds on the Mediterranean Sea coast. It was formerly home to one of the ancient wonders of the world, Pharos Lighthouse. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest and most of it was destroyed due to a destructive earthquake in the 14th century.

      A popular site with visitors to Alexandria is the Montazah Gardens. Montazah Palace is located in the centre of the site and is surrounded by trees, palms and flowers. It was the summer residence of the former Egyptian royal family and was restored by President Sadat. Although the Palace is not accessible to the public, the gardens contain a number of wonderful flowers, trees and pines and is a great place to escape from city living.
    Another garden we visited was the Antoniadis Villa and Gardens. The villa is a historical monument and lies near the south of Alexandria. It is surrounded by nearly 50 hectares of land and was once owned by Greek citizen Sir John Antoniadis who used the villa to hold his collection of Greek statues. Antoniadis’ son later donated the site to the Council after his passing.

      There are a number of MICE-related facilities in the city, in particular the Bibliotecha Alexandrina – which contains a conference centre area of 5,000 square metres (comprising of four conference halls, four meeting rooms, two exhibition halls, a VIP lounge and a VIP meeting room). Plenty of conferencing facilities and meeting rooms are available in a number of hotels in the city.

      With its ideal location just west of the river Nile and with the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Alexandria has long been a leading trading port for different regions including Asia, Europe and Africa. Alexandria International Airport is roughly a 30-minute drive from the bustle of the city (traffic dependant), serving a number of international airlines and destinations. The centre of Alexandria also has efficient transport networks with a tram and regular bus links.
      Overall, Alexandria seems to have it all. Good weather most of the year, a host of culture, plenty of leisure and business destinations – yet not as chaotic as Cairo.
    Wael Elyamani
    @Posted by
    writer and blogger, founder of CTV Egypt News .

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