Pyramids, shmyramids! While Alexandria is often overlooked in favour of the geometric shapes found at its braggart sister, Cairo, there’s certainly no shortage of historical swagger in this city. Built by Alexander the Great, the backdrop to Anthony and Cleopatra’s love affair and the birthplace of some of history’s greatest minds, Alexandria has more than a few wonders of its own.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria (built between 280 and 247BCE) was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is still possible to dive the Eastern Harbourto see the ruins, while theCatacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa made a revamped Seven Wonders list in the Middle Ages. Today, Alexandria’s tantalisingly Parisienne food scene, modern architectural marvels and air of historical gravitas lets you know you’re walking in the footsteps of giants make it nothing if not wonderful.
Alexandria’s Top 10
10. Alexandria National Museum Located in a restored palace, over 1,800 artefacts tell the story of more than 2,000 years of history.
5. Alexandria Aquarium Ancient as it may be, not all the attractions are dead in Alexandria. Check out species from the Red Sea and River Nile.
9. Bibliotheca Alexandrina A tribute to the ancient Library of Alexandria and an architectural gem in itself.
4. Fish Market From live fish back to dead ones – but these are deliciously dead.
8. Culturama We’re dubious about any activity that combines the word ‘culture’ with the word ‘rama’ outside India, but see for yourself.
3. Hammam Azouz Scrub off the desert heat in this 19th century bathhouse. Bliss.
7. Cecil Hotel Built in 1929, this 4-star hotel has hosted many a big name –including Winston Churchill, Al Capone and the British Secret Service headquarters.
2. Chatby Necropolis The dead centre of town (pardon the pun) and the oldest necropolis in Alexandria. Rumour has it Alexander the Great may have been interred here.
6. Mamoura Beach Kick back in style on the breathtaking beach and sizzle in the North African sun.
1. Qaitbay Fort Built on the site of the legendary lighthouse, the views over the city are breathtaking.
Alexandria, Egypt, History
- Pompey’s Pillar – One of the world’s largest monoliths from the Roman period.
- Kom el Shoqafa – The catacombs of Alexandria are a collection of tombs from the Roman period.
- Temple of Serapeum – The structures from the temple still standing today are a single pillar and the remains of several sphinxes.
- The Roman Amphitheatre – Thirteen white terraces remain from this former entertainment centre from the Roman era.
- Necropolis of Anfushi – Five preserved tombs dating back more than 2,000 years ago.
Alexandria, Egypt, Art & Culture
- Alexandria Aquarium –This aquarium was built in 1930 and is home to both saltwater and freshwater creatures.
- Bibliotheca Alexandrina – Founded in 2003, this library is located on the shores of the Mediterranean.
- Graeco-Roman Museum – The collection in this museum was gathered over the course of centuries.
- The Cavafy Museum – Dedicated to the work of C.P. Cavafy, a Greek poet born in Alexandria.
- The Royal Jewellery Museum – An art and history museum that preserves the jewellery of the Muhammad Ali dynasty.
Alexandria, Egypt, Shopping
- City Centre Mall – On Cairo Desert Road, this mall is home to Carrefour, a famous French supermarket.
- Green Plaza Shopping Mall – This mall is popular with locals and children because it has a movie theatre and a bowling alley.
- Ramle Train Station – Sells great postcards with pictures of Egyptian landmarks.
- Kushari Bondok – This restaurant serves a classic Egyptian dish, kushari, which is made of lentils, macaroni, rice and tomato sauce.
- International Language Bookstore – This small bookstore has a wide selection of English-language books.
Alexandria, Egypt, Gay & Lesbian
- Al Togaria – A street along near the French consulate that is perfect for cruising.
- Miami Beach – A beach where the rougher trade likes to hang out.
- Ramle Train Station – The coffeehouses near this station are great spots to meet students.
- Cairo Bus Station Café – This locale is popular among many gay students.
- Amoun Hotel – The disco at this hotel is gay-friendly.
Alexandria, Egypt, Outdoor
- Montazah Palace Gardens – Enjoy a walk in the royal gardens of Egypt’s last monarch, King Faruk.
- Stanley Bridge – This bridge attracts people of all ages and features many food vendors.
- Mamoura Beach – Walk on this Mediterranean beach to feel the soft sand of Egypt between your toes.
- The Corniche – This walkway stretches along the harbour for 3km and provides a glorious view of the Mediterranean.
- Deir Anba Bishoi – Explore the ruins of an ancient Christian monastery on the outskirts of the city.
Alexandria, Egypt, Sport
- Alexandria Stadium – This multipurpose stadium hosted the 2006 African Cup.
- Union Alexandria Sporting Club – One of Egypt’s biggest professional football teams.
- Egyptian Olympic Athletes Club – This club is known for its track and field activities, while many of its club members have won several gold medals.
- Egyptian Army Stadium – It is Africa’s second-largest stadium and can hold up to 86,000 fans.
- Smouha Sporting Club – An Egyptian football team plays in this stadium.
Held in the first week of January, Coptic Christmas is a chance for Egyptian Christians to celebrate and break their 43-day (!) fast. Bring on the turkey…
Get your popcorn ready for the Alexandria Film Festival in September.
Run like an Egyptian at the Alexandria International Marathon in November.
When To Go
About 200 years before the birth of Christ would be an ideal time to visit, but for all those without a time-travelling DeLorean, the months between October and March are pleasant.
Egyptian summers are arid, hot and inescapable. Unless you’re a lizard or were born on the surface of the sun, you may want to steer clear from June to August.
Alexandria receives the highest rainfall in Egypt, so while you won’t need a scarf, you may well need an umbrella.
Driving in Alexandria will end one of two ways. Either you’ll run someone over or you’ll sink into insanity from sheer frustration. Neither is recommended.
Exploring by foot is a great way to see the city and its sites.
Taxis are inexpensive, providing you agree on a price before you leave.
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