Alexandria Travel Guide
Introduction in Alexandria
Home to two former Ancient Wonders of the World and capital of Egypt until Islamic conquerors decided to move it to Cairo, Alexandria may not be the dominant force it once was, but it still has plenty of attractions to be worth your time on a visit to this country.
With Roman ruins, catacombs, an intimating medieval-era fortress, and an ultra-modern library meant to pick up where its ancient predecessor left off, you’ll have plenty to see and do over a stay of three to four days.
Cultural Attractions in Alexandria
There are many captivating attractions that can be visited in Alexandria, but be sure to make the Citadel of Qaitbay your first stop. It was a massive fortress built by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay in the 15th century that was meant to defend this Mediterranean port city against the expanding power of the Ottoman Turks.
While it failed in its primary objective, it remains one of the most prominent buildings built during Egypt’s Islamic period. Its castle-like appearance, authentic cannons that participated in the defence of Alexandria, and bold Islamic design features all make this place a worthwhile place to visit.
Next, head beneath the earth into the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa. First opened in the 2nd century AD, this macabre but fascinating place provides a unique look into a time when Egyptian, Greek, and Roman influences became mixed up with each other in unexpected ways.
For example, some of the statues within the catacombs, while having typical Egyptian features, are depicted with Roman vestments and hairstyles.
Don’t miss the Hall of Caracalla, which is where barbaric treatment of Early Christians by the Roman regime is laid out in full effect. Here, you’ll find a mass grave where skeletal remains from men and women murdered for their beliefs can be found.
Though the original Library of Alexandria was sacked ages ago, a movement to build up an institution worthy of its legacy resulted in the construction of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the 1970s. Located on the shore of the Mediterranean just as its ancient successor was, this revitalized institution of learning has millions of books written in three languages (Arabic, English, and French).
Even if you aren’t an enthusiastic bookworm, its stunning modernist design makes it a can’t miss destination while you are in Alexandria.
Other Attractions in Alexandria
Back in the 1960s, plans were drafted to replace a destroyed Napoleonic fort with a government building. When the excavation work for the foundation uncovered a perfectly preserved Roman Amphitheatre, though, those plans were immediately scrubbed, and archeological work to uncover this amazing site began.
Today, the site contains seating (numbered in Greek to assign people specific places, just as we do today), the remains of pillars, and statues of Roman and Egyptian origin, including sphinxes crafted during the reigns of Pharaoh Ramesses II and Senusret III.
Those wanting to explore what is considered to be the finest garden in Alexandria will want to visit the grounds of the Montaza Palace. Built as a hunting lodge by Khedive Abbas II, the last ruler of the Muhammad Ali dynasty, this royal residence has since been used as a residence by various presidents since the founding of the Egyptian republic.
While the house remains off-limits, the gardens have been opened to the general public. Lush and filled with a variety of naturally-occurring plant species and imported varieties, it is a relaxing place to get away from the busy streets of Alexandria.
Those wanting to mix with Alexandria locals will want to head to its waterfront to stroll along the Corniche. A promenade stretching 10 miles along the Mediterranean Sea from the Citadel of Qaitbay to the Montaza Palace, there are plenty of cafes, tables where old men play backgammon, as well as plenty of spots where photographers can capture the Alexandria skyline at night.
The Stanley Bridge is a highlight of this walk, as this quaint structure is a great place to snap some stunning pictures.