Alexandria Egypt : The Pearl Of The Mediterranean sea

Alexandria Egypt : The Pearl Of The Mediterranean sea
    Alexandria : The Pearl Of The Mediterranean الاسكندرية : عروس البحر الابيض المتوسط
    The second largest city in Egypt,  Alexandria  has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern; its ambiance and cultural heritage distance it from the rest of the country although it is only 225 km. from Cairo.

    The beginning :

    Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Graco-Roman Egypt; its status as a beacon of culture is symbolized by Pharos, the legendry lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  The setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Alexandria was also the center of learning in the ancient world, but ancient Alexandria declined, and when Napoleon landed he found a sparsely populated fishing village.

    Since the 19th century Alexandria has played a new role, as a focus for Egypt's commercial and maritime expansion. This Alexandria has been immortalized by writers such as E.M. Forster and Cavafy. Generations of immigrants from Greece, Italy and the Levant settled here and made the city synonymous with commerce, cosmopolitanism and bohemian culture; Lawrence Durrell described it as " The capital city of Asiatic Europe, if such a thing could exist".

    The city:

    The Mediterranean opens its arms widely to embrace it eternal bride (Alexandria) as she moves gracefully, while its waves splash on her rocks. All the world was witness to this historical marriage contract about 2330 years ago. It was an illustrious wedding scented by history and concluded proudly under the auspices of Alexander the Great. The beginning of the idea was on the road to the Mediterranean coast when an isthmus dividing the Mediterranean from Lake Mariout attracted Alexander. Alexander pondered deeply about this site with its strange advantages that were suitable for the foundation of a great modern city in compliance with its period. Alexander's city was divided into five districts named after the first five letters of the Greek Alphabe. From these districts, the Royal Districts occupied nearly one third of the whole area of the city and overlooked the Eastern Harbor.

    The Egyptians lived in the national district (Rhakotis) and the Jews lived in the fourth district known as the Delta, considered to have been the most important district in the ancient city. As for the main avenue - parallel to our present Nabi Daniel Street - it was boarded from the north by the gate of the moon and from the south by the gate of the sun. 

    Alexandria Library:

    Alexandria the charming city, presents to every visitor the fragrance of the past rich in history, civilization and culture. It is the city that has attracted the greatest men of letters in the world. The revival of the Alexandria Library is a huge international project which costs millions of dollars. The Labrary shall contain more than 8 million books and a reading area with two thousand seats. 

    This Library when it is inaugurated will possess about 400000 volumes in a hard and electronic copies. It is designed to hold 4 million volumes. In the future its capacity will reach 8 million using the compressed storage system. A museum will be attached to the Library to house the antiquities discovered at the site in 1993-1994 during the excavation work done under the supervision of the Egyptian Antiquities Department. 

    The antiquities discovered belong to Pharaonic, Greek and Roman periods. Two statues will be positioned in the museum; one of them will be of the goddess Isis currently at the Marine Museum, and the second one is the statue of King Ptolemy 2, both are made of granite.

    Within the framework of the cooperation and support of UNESCO and Italy, the Alexandria Library has just received the most modern Photocopy Lab, and will later be provided with a Microfilm Lab.  

    The Underwater Discoveries:

    Relatively new discoveries in the Eastern Harbor involve two different sites. Around Fort Qaitbey the site has unearthed hundreds of objects, including what experts believe are the remains of the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the ancient wonders of the world In the south east part of the harbor archaeologists have apparently found the Royal Quarters, including granite columns and fabulous statues, including one of Isis and a sphinx with a head thought to be that of Cleopatra's father. There may vary well be an underwater exhibit in the future.
    Heading towards the mainland past the Abu El-Abbas Mosque and connecting with Shari Faransa street leads to the Suq district. Just before entering the district one finds the interesting little Terbana Mosque (4). In the Suq district (5), one finds Alexandria's only surviving wakalas, which is a part of the El-Shorbagi Mosque complex founded in 1757. This was also the area where Alexandria's Jewish community lived, but most have now migrated to Israel. Different areas have specialized in different goods and one may find all manner of products from jewelry to Medicinal plants (Suq El-Magharba) to Bedouin clothing (Suq El-Libia).
    Continuing down Faransa one passes Midan Tahrir (6) and the street turns into Salah Salem, and finally connects with Al-Horreya.

    However, Midan Tahrir, popularly called Manshiya, has considerable history. The areas was once home to Diplomats and known as Place Des Consuls, but after the statue of Mohammed Ali was placed here in 1873 the name was changed to Midan Mohammed Ali. In 1882, it was bombarded by the British and all but destroyed. The Alexandria Stock Exchange was once located here, and it was from the midan that Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal.
    The street named Al-Horreya (Tariq abd el-Nasser) which transverses the area from east to west was in ancient times the Canopic Way with the Gate of the Sun at the eastern end and the Gate of the Moon at the western end. At that time, there were probably columns lining the road. The main north to south street, now Sharia el-Nebi Daniel, ran from the East Harbor all the way to Lake Harbor on Lake Mariout.
    Just south of the intersection of Al Horreya and el-Nebi Daniel was the site traditionally thought to be the burial place of Alexander the Great, but that has not been located, and may in fact be beneath the Mosque of Nebi Daniel (7) or in a nearby Greek necropolis. The famous Alexandria Library was probably nearby. However, the only real antiquities site that can be viewed in the area is Kom el-Dikka (8), a small Roman theater that has been excavated. Nearby is also a bath house of the era. To the east is the Antiques District where dealers sell antiquities, books, old weapons and furniture. Here is also the Attarine Mosque, which was once a church dedicated to Athanasius.

    Further south along the tramway is Pompey's pillar (9) and nearby the Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa (10). Wondering along el-Nebi Daniel are several other attrations, including the French Cultural Center, and nearby the Eliahu Hanabi Synagague (11), which is the only active synagogue in Alexandria and houses the combined treasures of the seven former Alexandrian synagogues. Back to the north on el-Nebi Daniel, next to the harbor where Ramla station is now located at Midan Saad Zaghlul was the location of the Caesareum (12). This was a magnificent temple begun by Cleopatra for her lover Antony and subsequently completed by their enemy Octavian, though none of this situ. Nearby is the well known Cecil Hotel, built in 1930, Smerset Maugham stayed here, as did Winston Churchill, and the British Secret Service one maintained a suite for their operations.

    Midan Saad Zaghlul (13) is the entertainment heart and nerve center of Alexandria. here, as terminals and train stations provide a backdrop for cinemas, restaurants and night spots. It was the setting of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and the famous Alexandria coffee houses. The square is dominated by an impressive monument dedicated to Saad Zaghlul, a former national leader.
    Wael Elyamani
    @Posted by
    writer and blogger, founder of CTV Egypt News .

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