Beyond doubt, Egypt is one of the most beautiful countries around the world; it holds a mount of the world’s acclaimed attractions. To the whole world, Egypt’s history revolves around its embracement of the Great Pyramids of Giza; on the other hand, there are other parts in Egypt that are not taking the same hype yet clinch a superb history, including Alexandria. There are a lot of different sites in that city of the exquisite glory that reveal all about the history of Alexandria. Alexandria is actually the second largest city all around Egypt; above and beyond, it is being one of the most significant touristic, industrial, and economic centers in the country. There are several religious landmarks and historical sites of Alexandria to get introduced to, alongside more than a few cultural endpoints.
The Strategic Location of Alexandria
In spite of being the second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria is also characterized by being in a remarkable site, for it lies in the north central part of the country where the Mediterranean Sea is located on its corners, extending for almost 20 miles along its coast. It’s a worldwide notion that Egypt’s cities are one of the best touristic attractions and, definitely, Alexandria is no exception; conversely, it is also a requisite trading and industrial center, for the existence of oil pipelines and natural gas.
That location is a strategic one; besides, it has contributed in founding the history of Alexandria and played a great role in shaping it. What is more, Alexandria has managed to become the foremost international shipping center and a substantial point in the trading industry during the 18th century; that is because its privilege of connecting between two major seas- the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Inauguration of the History of Alexandria
Alexander the Great was the founder of Alexandria; seemingly, the name explains it all. Back in 331 BBC, Alexandria made an appearance to the world, being the second prevailing city, right after Rome, of the Ancient World. Definitely, speaking of the history of Alexandria, a story behind the reason for the naming exists. However, it is obvious in this case, for the founder was called Alexander and he, definitely, wanted to keep his name surviving long even after he was gone.
Alexandria was back then related to the Greek history; it was a momentous focal point for the civilization of the Hellenist, so it can be a noteworthy linkage between the Nile Valley and Greece. Alexandria remained the capital of several civilizations along the Hellenist’s, including the Roman and Byzantine for almost about 1000 years, but it ceased being so during the Muslim overthrow of Egypt that took place in AD 641. After the Muslim conquest, Alexandria was no longer the capital of Egypt.
The Tale of the Lost Cities
That exquisite city has recently changed so much and lost a lot of its momentous places that made up a lot of the history of Alexandria, including the eastern part of the city that used to possess several islands during the ancient times, but they are no longer there and that site is currently known as Abu Qir Bay. Alexandria also used to embrace several noteworthy port cities that existed during the ancient era; those cities included Canopus and Heracleion which were recently discovered to have existed under water throughout all of those years.
Among the cities that existed during the ancient times, but was lost along the way, was Rhacotis which used to exist on the shore. Rhacotis is also said to have been the name of Alexandria before Alexander the Great came along; it was the name given by the residents of the city as well as the Greeks by that time.
Great Contributors of the History of Alexandria
Alexander the Great might have been the reason of the launching of the history of Alexandria; however, he wasn’t the only contributor to all of that great history as he departed. Cleomenes preceded the completion of the city’s expansion. The development of the city went on by several other rulers until, in less than a hundred years, it managed to become the largest city in the ancient world and, after a short while, it became the second largest Greek city, right after Rome, for almost 1000 years.
The history of Alexandria embraces a wide range of diversity in cultures, ethnicities, and religions as well. Alexandria managed to be a home to the Hellenist and the Greek for long centuries; above and beyond, it was also a home for the largest Jewish community in the world back then. Alexandria surely went through times of flourishment during the ancient times; on the other hand, it also went through a rough patch where a great portion of the city was massively destroyed due to wars and other natural disasters like the earthquake that hit Alexandria.
The Historical Sites of Alexandria
Alexandria; the city of exquisiteness, has definitely been through a lot since its foundation and that is exactly what makes history; being through a lot of different phases. Seemingly, the history of Alexandria was no exception. In spite of all the rough times the city had been through, It managed to keep some of its splendid landmarks and significant historical sites surviving. They are a clear evidence of the whole history of Alexandria since the time of its foundation. Alexandria had been home to several different ethnicities and religions; successively, those people have definitely left traces behind that would keep their memories alive for as long as it is possible.
Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
Kom El Shoqafa is an Arabic equivalent of Mounds of Shards. It is one of the historical landmarks that play a great part in the history of Alexandria. During the middle ages, it was deemed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The mounds of shards was an entitled name to the site because that region was full of scattered objects and jars that were made of clay. On the other hand, that was not what that area was all about; it consists of a chain of tombs, objects, and statues which is said to have been inspired by a Hellenistic and Roman dominance. Those catacombs are made up of three different levels; however, only two of them are still accessible, for the third level is said to be completely soaked in the water.
Pompey Pillar is a triumphal or a victory column- an erected monument which the main purpose is to keep the memory of a battle that was won alive- it is deemed to be the largest Roman memorial column to ever be constructed outside the borders of Rome. It is as well another maker for the history of Alexandria; the elusive city. It is listed as one of the ancient Roman monoliths and known to be the largest of all of them as well. The pillar has always been one of Alexandria’s main highlights that attract tourists.
Some traveler gave the column that name, believing that the establishment of the pillar was in the memory of the murder of Pompey- a Roman general whom the brother of Cleopatra had killed. On the other hand, another story was revealed about the column after the discovery of the inscription that is written on its base. Ruins were covering the engraved caption was covered, but it was cleared out. The caption reads that AD 291 was the time of its construction. It was a supporting statue of Emperor Diocletian.
Temple of Taposiris Magna
The Temple of Taposiris Magna is another interesting part of the history of Alexandria; it is located in Abusir, which is located on the western outskirts of Alexandria within the borders of a city known as Borg Al Arab. The temple was built in the memory of Osiris and it was built during the Ptolemy reign. Unfortunately, the temple is not there anymore; however, the outer walls and the pillars are still there, remaining as evidence that demonstrates the existence of that temple. Archaeologists and experts believed that the temple’s main purpose was to worship the kind of animals that were deemed to be sacred; the theory was proven to be true as an animal cemetery was discovered near the temple.
Religious Landmarks that Shaped the History of Alexandria
The history of Alexandria is known to hold several cultures and ethnicities; above and beyond, it has always been home to different religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Alexandria was one of the first embracement for the community of Jews; it held the largest Jews community around the world during the old times. Alexandria holds different places of worships dedicated to each religion of all the three of them.
Alexandria contains a handful of mosques that some of them date back to the 13th century and all of them are highly related to the history of Alexandria. These mosques include El-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque; this mosque was the one that was built back in the 13th century and it contains the tomb of the Sufi saint whose name the mosque was called after. It is located in a neighborhood in Alexandria known as Bahary. Other mosques that can be found in Alexandria are Ali Ibn Abi Talib mosque, which is located in Somoha, and Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque.
The history of Alexandria as well clamps a pool of churches together, scattered around different neighborhoods around the city. These churches include Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; it is an Egypt-based church and it belonged to the oriental orthodox family. Definitely, the Greek had lived in Alexandria for a long time, so no wonder they built a church in memory of the community they had established within that glorious city. The church is known as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. Alexandria holds a wide range of other churches, including the Latin Catholic Church of Saint Catherine, Saint Mark Cathedral, Saint Anthony Church, Church of the Dormition, Prophet Elijah Church, The Saint Mark Church, Saint Nicholas Church, and a lot more.
For a very long time, Egypt, Alexandria in particular, served as a great attraction for the Jews. They even had their own community and had a long history in Egypt, playing the greatest role in the history of Alexandria. They build places for worships; however, their number kept on significantly dropping. By that time, people claimed there was a linkage between the Jews and the Zionists. The Jews came in contact with great oppression, so most of them have fled away to other places other than Egypt, including Brazil, France, and Israel.
As a consequence, very little was left of them and the most important synagogue that still survives in Alexandria is the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue. This synagogue serves a very few number of Jews that still exist in Egypt. It is located on a street called Nabi Daniel and it was built back in 1354. The synagogue was subjected to severe destruction during the French invasion; however, Muhammed Ali Pasha had rebuilt it in 1850.
Tourist Attractions in Alexandria
Aside from the religious landmarks and historical sites of Alexandria, there are other factors that helped in building up the history of Alexandria. In fact, Alexandria is also blessed with more than a few sites that work as major tourist attractions, including a great library, a citadel as well as several museums.
The Citadel of Qaitbay made an appearance during the 15th century. Qaitbay Citadel exists on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and its main purpose was defending the city. So, the fortress had a great role in the history of Alexandria. It was built in 1477 AD by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qaitbay. Throughout the history of wars, the Citadel of Qaitbay has always been one of the strongest defensive fortresses in Egypt as well as the whole coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Citadel went several renovations during the reign of Muhammed Ali Pasha and it went further renovations during the 80’s.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina means the library of Alexandria. It is a vast library that holds a great number of books in different languages, including English, Arabic, and French; some of them tell tales about Alexandria’s history and a lot more hold different genres. The library plays a great role in the history of Alexandria, for it has been around since its first establishment during the ancient times; in the 3rd century BC during the Ptolemaic Reign. Ptolemy I Soter, who was deemed to be the successor of Alexander the Great, was the initiator of the library’s construction. The Library was burnt down and suffered a great destruction; however, it was reconstructed in 2002.
The Museums of Alexandria
Museums are great shapers of culture and history; thus, a great part of the history of Alexandria can be divulged within the walls of its remarkable museums. The most significant museums in Alexandria are the Alexandria National Museum, Royal Jewelry Museum, and the Graeco-Roman Museum.
The Alexandria National Museum
The Alexandria National Museum is one of the newest museums that were ever constructed in the history of Alexandria. It was established by Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, in 2003. It is located on a street known as Tariq Al-Horreya Street. The building was formerly used as a house for the embassy of the United States.
The museum holds a remarkable collection of artifacts. They reveal a lot about Egypt’s history, in general, and Alexandria’s history, in particular.
The Royal Jewelry Museum
This museum is another one of the few that were established in the modern times. Its construction took place back in 1986. The museum was not open to the public until 2010. It had undergone more than a few restorations and developments. Zizinia, one of Alexandria’s well-known neighborhoods, is the location of the splendid museum. Apparently, the name of the museum tells a lot about what it may have held; pieces of jewelry. The Royal Jewelry Museum unravel the tales of Alexandria’s history. It houses major pieces that date back to the reign of Muhammed Ali Pasha.
The Greco-Roman Museum
Certainly, the Romans and the Greek shaped a great portion of the history of Alexandria. They left room for the anticipation that there must be a building that houses most of their tales and history. And that is why the Greco-Roman Museum is there; it holds pieces that date back to the 3rd century, which was known as the Greco-Roman era.
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Definitely, that is not where the history of Alexandria stops. It is a long timeline full of interesting tales and stories that took place in that splendid city.
If you enjoyed reading about the historical sites of Alexandria, you may as well like to check out Belfast City Hall.