Rosetta: The Egyptian City Known Around the World

Updated On: May 06, 2024 by   Dina EssawyDina Essawy

If you’re interested in Egyptian or world history, you’ve probably heard of the world-renowned Rosetta Stone. This large piece of stone helped archaeologists worldwide decipher the ancient Egyptian language (hieroglyphics). The stone was named after the city where it was discovered. So, the stone and the town went down in history as one of the most significant discoveries known to man.

But what do we know about the famous city of Rosetta (or Rasheed as it is called in Arabic)?

Location

Rosetta is an important port city in the Nile Delta, 65 km east of Alexandria, in Egypt’s Beheira governorate. Its strategic location has made it the target of many invaders throughout its history. Rosetta has the second-largest collection of Islamic antiquities after Cairo, Egypt’s capital.

A Rosetta by any other Name

In Arabic, Rashid means “guide,” while the Western name Rosetta means “little rose.” The French used Rosetta during Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt.

History of Rosetta City

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

Known as the city of one million palm trees, Rosetta is also the city of heroes. Its people have stood up and fought foreign invaders for centuries, constantly emerging victorious. Due to their bravery, the people of Rosetta delayed the British invasion of Egypt for about 70 years.

Rosetta was founded in the 9th century, and its fame seemed to grow with Alexandria‘s decline following the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. However, Alexandria came back to the fore once again after that. During the 19th century, it was a famous British tourist destination known for its charming Ottoman mansions.

In the 850s, the Abbassid caliph ordered a fort to be built on the site of the Ptolemaic city, and the medieval town grew around this fort. During the Seventh Crusade, Louis IX of France briefly occupied the town in 1249. When the Mamelukes were in power, they transformed the city into an important commercial centre.

Rosetta witnessed the defeat of the British Fraser campaign on 19 September 1807. British troops, comprising 2500 men, were dispatched to take over the city. However, a deputy of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, Umar Makram, managed to rally the locals and deploy troops from Cairo to fight them off. They fought for fifteen days until the British forces lost over 900 men. The remaining men were held as prisoners of war.

What to do in Rosetta?

Walking around Rosetta City will ensure you encounter many historical locations with an exciting background story.

El-Amsely House

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

The house was built by Othman Agha Al Tobgy, a general in the Ottoman army stationed in Rosetta, in 1808. It was then taken over by Ahmed El-Amsely, who came from Amasya in Turkey. The House overlooks two streets and has two main doors. The North-facing entrance comprises a wooden door with the Quran inscription, “Verily, we have granted thee a manifest victory.”

The house’s architectural design is quite unique, but it is also very indicative of the house designs used at the time. The outside comprises black and red bricks, commonly used at the time. The ceilings inside the house are all wooden ornamented ceilings. The house’s walls are thick, designed to keep the heat out, while the windows allow clean air.

Walking through the rooms, you’ll find exceptionally well-preserved wood panels in the reception room. In the Music Room, where the owners enjoyed their entertainment, you’ll find a spacious balcony-like compartment above where women lounged to enjoy the show.

The Rosetta Museum

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)
Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

 The Museum has a main entrance on the ground floor, leading to a commemorative area. In the middle is a replica of the Rosetta Stone, surrounded by a model of Qaitbay Citadel and a bust of Francois Champollion. Each room features displays of soldier outfits from the Ottoman era.

Weaponry dates back to the 18th and 9th centuries. Oil paintings are also found in the rooms from 1959, depicting the harrowing events that the city went through.

Along with Statues and several vital documents from the era, including a replica of the marriage certificate between General Menou and the Egyptian woman from Rashid named Zobeida El Bawab, who was renowned for her beauty and was 30 years younger than her husband.

The museum’s second floor contains the main living rooms and a salon dating back to the Mohammad Ali era. The third floor is the haramlek, known as the women’s room.

Fort of Qaitbay

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)
Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

The Fort was built during the Ottoman Era of 1470 by the Mamluk Sultan Qait Bey, who also built the Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria. Over the years, the fort was used to fend off numerous attacks on the city through the waterways. Y

ou can still see remnants of the weapons used to attack invading ships. The stones that make up the fort’s walls were originally part of a nearby ancient Egyptian temple, so the fort’s walls now contain ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The Fort of Qaitbay holds excellent significance in Egyptian history as it was where the Rosetta Stone was first discovered. A soldier who was part of the French expedition, Lieutenant Pierre-François Bouchard, found a slab of black basalt in August 1799 as they were moving building materials to construct the Fort of Qaitbay in the city.

He immediately felt that it was a significant discovery as the writing on the stone comprised three different languages, two of which had yet to be deciphered. He informed General Jacques-François Menou, the expedition’s leader, of the discovery, and they transported it to Cairo for inspection.

Rosetta Stone

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

The stone currently resides in the Museum of Natural History in London, where it was taken during the British invasion of Egypt. When the French made a deal with the British, they would leave behind all the artefacts they discovered during the French Expedition. However, many replicas can be found around the city, such as the one at the Qaitbay Fort and another at the Rosetta Museum.

The Rosetta Stone was created in 196 B.C. and was only deciphered in 1822 A.D. It had inscribed three types of ancient languages: hieroglyphics, demotic (the language used by the public), and ancient Greek.

Only twenty years later, Champollion could decipher the writings on the stone by comparing the ancient Greek to the other two languages. Thus, it gives us the guidelines of the ancient hieroglyphics and opens the door for archaeologists all over the globe to read the sacred ancient language and understand the life and civilization of the ancient Egyptians.

Now, what did the writing that unveiled an entire civilization say?

It was written by the priests of the Temple of Memphis, praising the pharaoh Ptolemy for his philanthropy and significant benefactors of the Temple.

Take a Trip in the Nile to Abu Mandur Mosque

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

Another excursion idea in Rosetta city is to take a scenic boat trip on the Nile. Along the way, you can spot many historical landmarks and enjoy beautiful scenery.

You can take a boat to the eighteenth-century Mosque of Abu Mandur, which contains the tomb of a well-known saint in the area. The area used to be an ancient Egyptian port that fell into disuse after the construction of Alexandria. Instead of driving there, you can hire a boat to reach the mosque along the Rashid Corniche. Why not take the more scenic route?

Abu Shaheen Mill

Belfast Street Art: A Tour Around the Cathedral Quarter (and Beyond)

Located next to El-Amasely House, the House of Abu Shaheen has a reconstructed mill on the ground floor. The Mill is the oldest in Egypt, dating back 200 years, and has enormous wooden beams and planks. An animal pushed the gears and teeth of the Mill in a circle. A courtyard lies right next to it, where horses were stationed, and the roof of the stables is supported by granite columns with Graeco-Roman inscriptions on them.

It is one of the city’s most important landmarks. If you’re ever in Rosetta, visit Abu Shaheen House and its wondrous mill.

Preserving Heritage

As custodians of Rosetta’s rich heritage, local authorities and preservationists are committed to safeguarding the city’s historic treasures for future generations. Conservation efforts have focused on restoring historic buildings, revitalizing public spaces, and promoting sustainable tourism practices that respect the city’s cultural and environmental integrity.

Education also plays a vital role in preserving Rosetta’s heritage, with initiatives to raise awareness of the city’s significance among residents and visitors alike. Schools and community centres offer educational programs that explore Rosetta’s history, archaeology, and cultural heritage, instilling a sense of pride and stewardship among the next generation.

Conclusion

Rosetta’s timeless charm lies in its ability to bridge the gap between past and present, offering a window into Egypt’s rich cultural tapestry. From the iconic Rosetta Stone to its vibrant cultural scene and picturesque landscapes, the city continues to captivate the imagination of travellers and scholars alike. As Rosetta embraces the future while honouring its storied past, it remains a testament to the enduring legacy of human ingenuity and resilience.

If you’re looking for other amazing cities to visit in Egypt, have a look at our ultimate guide to plan a great vacation in the land of the pharaohs, whether you want to take a trip by the sea or the Nile, or you’re looking for a chance to visit one of the oldest civilisations known to man.

Other great blogs for you to check out:

Montaza Palace and its Spacious Gardens|King Tutankhamun: Behold the Treasures of the Most Well-known Egyptian King| Famous Haunted Houses in Egypt|

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