The Catacombs (meaning underground tunnels) lie in the district of Karmouz to the east ofAlexandria. The area was called Kom El-Shouqafa or a pile of shards. The cemetery dates back to the 1st century A.D and was used until the 4th century A.D. It was discovered in 1900 when by pure chance, a donkey drawn cart fell into a pit, which led to the discovery. The Catacombs in Alexandria are so called because the design was very similar to the Christian Catacombs in Rome. Most likely it was a private tomb, later converted to a public cemetery. It consists of 3 levels cut into the rock, a staircase, a rotunda, the triclinium or banquette hall, a vestibule, an antechamber and the burial chamber with three recesses in it; in each recess there is a sarcophagus. The Catacombs also contain a large number of Luculi or grooves cut in the rock.
After decreasing the level of the subsoil water in 1995 the 2nd level was opened to visitors, but the lowest level is still submerged. The entrance leads to a spiral staircase of 99 steps that goes around a shaft, which was used to lower the body of the deceased, by means of ropes, to prevent any damages to it. Some slits were cut into the sides of the shaft to allow the daylight through to the staircase that was used by the visitors. The staircase leads to a vestibule with two niches on both sides. The top of each niche is in the shape of a shell, while the inferior part contains a half round bench, cut into the rock, which was used by the visitors to take some rest after descending the stairs of the tomb.The vestibule leads to a circular hall called the "rotunda".