Egypt / Cities and Towns /
Shorbani and Terbana mosques across the bay.
The new library of Alexandria.
An institution of Alexandria, an early 20th century coffee shop.
Saad Zaghloul square is perhaps the nicest of Alexandria.
Fort Qait Bey, on the location of the former lighthouse.
City and port in northern Egypt with about 4.0 million inhabitants (2005 estimate), situated on the Mediterranean Sea, 2 kilometres from the inland Lake Mariout, near the outlets of the Salam canal, which receives its water from the Rosetta river (coming from the Nile).
The city is a commercial and economic centre, and about 80% of all of Egypt's imports and exports go through its harbours. Alexandria is also a very important tourist resort, with a 20 km long waterfront, serving the rich and the middle class of Cairo where the summer heat can make life in the capital unbearable.
Ancient Alexandria's heydays stretch over a period of about 1,000 years, while the period of decline of its importance covers centuries. During the city's three earliest centuries, it was perhaps the leading cultural centre of the world, housing people of different religions and philosophical orientations. Alexandria was famous for the extensive library, which in the 3rd century BCE was said to contain 500,000 volumes. Additionally, Alexandria was renowned for the lighthouse of Pharos, listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World in antiquity.
A third landmark of Alexandria, the Mouseion, was a centre of research, with laboratories and observatories. Alexandria was the very first centre for Biblical studies, and it was here that the Old Testament assembled in a form very similar to its present one.
Even earlier than this, Alexandria was the seat of the formation of the important cult of Serapis, a synthesis of Greek and Egyptian mythology. Other sciences were practiced in Alexandria as well, and scholars like Euclid and Erasthosthenes worked here.
With its architecture at that time, Alexandria could easily compete with Rome and Athens.
Alexandria was also an important trading post between Europe and Asia, because it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
332 BCE: Founded by the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, near the fishing village Rhakotis. This act was directed both by political and commercial interests, since the location offered a natural harbour. The harbour facilities were enhanced through the construction of a 1.6 km pier out to the island of Pharos. On Pharos, a lighthouse was erected, which soon came to be considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
323 BCE: Alexander the Great is buried in Alexandria.
305 BCE: Alexandria is made the capital of the kingdom of the Ptolomies.
3rd century BCE: The library of Alexandria is reported to consist of 500,000 volumes.
31 BCE: Ptolemaic forces are beaten by the Romans, and Alexandria falls under Roman control.
116 CE: A revolt among local Jews leads to an annihilation of the Jewish community, and heavy destruction of the city.
215: An ordering to massacre the male population of Alexandria is given by the Roman emperor, Caracalla.
284: Strong persecution of the Christians, and thousands are killed. According to the history of the Coptic church, 144,000 were killed.
4th century: Alexandria is weakened by insurrection, civil war, famine and disease.
391: The Coptic Patriarch instigates violent actions upon the pagan communities in Alexandria, and the temple and library of Serapis are sacked. Among those killed is the famous female scholar Hypatia.
638: Alexandria is besieged and destroyed by Muslim troops, and then abandoned.
646: Alexandria is once again put under Muslim attack, and heavily destroyed. After conquering the city, the Muslims give little attention to Alexandria, and the real decline of the city begins.
968: With the establishment of Cairo as capital and cultural centre, Alexandria loses forever its position as the most important city of Egypt.
15th century: With the opening of the direct sea route from Europe to Asia, around Africa, Alexandria's central position as an important seaport for trade between Europe and Asia is strongly weakened.
1798: The French general Napoleon takes control of Alexandria. At this time, Alexandria is only a small fishing town of about 5,000 inhabitants. With Napoleon, much of Alexandria's old strategic importance is briefly resurrected.
1801: Napoleon's troops lose control over Alexandria.
1820: The Mahmudiyya Canal, which links Alexandria to the Nile, is opened. With this, Alexandria's economy is revived, and its population experiences a strong increase in the decades that follow. The canal also serves to irrigate the surrounding land, breaking ground for better agriculture. There is also a strong immigration from Europe, which paints the city with an international character and ambience.
1869: The opening of the Suez Canal adds more to the importance of Alexandria, as this leads to an heavy increase in marine traffic in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
1957: All French and British citizens are expelled in reaction to the acts of Western powers during the Suez-Sinai War of 1956. This war also initiates the large exodus of Jews. Following this, there are also strong actions to reclaim the Egyptian image of the city, and this changes its face forever.
The tradition of moving the seat of the government, from Cairo to Alexandria for the summer months, ends.