|Nickname(s): Pearl of the Mediterranean|
|- Governor||Adel Labib|
|- Total||1,034.4 sq mi (2,679 km2)|
|CAPMS 2006 Census|
|Time zone||EST (UTC+2)|
|- Summer (DST)||+3 (UTC)|
Alexandria (Arabic: الإسكندرية al-Iskandariyya; Coptic: Ⲣⲁⲕⲟⲧⲉ Rakotə; Greek: Ἀλεξάνδρεια; Egyptian Arabic: اسكندريه Iskandariyya), with a population of 4.1 million, is the second-largest city in Egypt, and is the country's largest seaport, serving about 80% of Egypt's imports and exports. Alexandria is also an important tourist resort. Alexandria extends about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in north-central Egypt. It is home to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the new Library), It is an important industrial centre because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez, another city in Egypt.
In ancient times, Alexandria was one of the most famous cities in the world. It was founded around a small pharaonic town c. 331 BC by Alexander the Great. It remained Egypt's capital for nearly a thousand years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641 when a new capital was founded at Fustat (Fustat was later absorbed into Cairo). Alexandria was known because of its lighthouse (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its library (the largest library in the ancient world); and the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Ongoing maritime archaeology in the harbour of Alexandria, which began in 1994, is revealing details of Alexandria both before the arrival of Alexander, when a city named Rhacotis existed there, and during the Ptolemaic dynasty.
From the late 19th century, it became a major centre of the international shipping industry and one the most important trading centres in the world, both because it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and the lucrative trade in Egyptian cotton.
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in April 331 BC as Ἀλεξάνδρεια (Alexándreia). Alexander's chief architect for the project was Dinocrates. Alexandria was intended to supersede Naucratis as a Hellenistic centre in Egypt, and to be the link between Greece and the rich Nile Valley. An Egyptian city, Rhakotis, already existed on the shore, and later gave its name to Alexandria in the Egyptian language (Egypt. Ra'qedyet). It continued to exist as the Egyptian quarter of the city. A few months after the foundation, Alexander left Egypt for the East and never returned to his city. After Alexander departed, his viceroy, Cleomenes, continued the expansion. Following a struggle with the other successors of Alexander, his general Ptolemy succeeded in bringing Alexander's body to Alexandria.
Although Cleomenes was mainly in charge of seeing to Alexandria's continuous development, the Heptastadion and the mainland quarters seem to have been primarily Ptolemaic work. Inheriting the trade of ruined Tyre and becoming the centre of the new commerce between Europe and the Arabian and Indian East, the city grew in less than a generation to be larger than Carthage. In a century, Alexandria had become the largest city in the world and for some centuries more, was second only to Rome. It became the main Greek city of Egypt, with an extraordinary mix of Greeks from many cities and backgrounds.
Alexandria was not only a centre of Hellenism but was also home to the largest Jewish community in the world. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was produced there. The early Ptolemies kept it in order and fostered the development of its museum into the leading Hellenistic centre of learning (Library of Alexandria) but were careful to maintain the distinction of its population's three largest ethnicities: Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian. From this division arose much of the later turbulence, which began to manifest itself under Ptolemy Philopater who reigned from 221–204 BC. The reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon from 144–116 BC was marked by purges and civil warfare.
The city passed formally under Roman jurisdiction in 80 BC, according to the will of Ptolemy Alexander but only after it had been under Roman influence for more than a hundred years. It was captured by Julius Caesar in 47 BC during a Roman intervention in the domestic civil war between king Ptolemy XIII and his advisors, and usurper queen Cleopatra VII. It was finally captured by Octavian, future emperor Augustus on 1 August 30 BC, with the name of the month later being changed to august to commemorate his victory.
In AD 115, vast parts of Alexandria were destroyed during the Greek-Jewish civil wars, which gave Hadrian and his architect, Decriannus, an opportunity to rebuild it. In 215 the emperor Caracalla visited the city and, because of some insulting satires that the inhabitants had directed at him, abruptly commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms. On 21 July 365, Alexandria was devastated by a tsunami (365 Crete earthquake), an event two hundred years later still annually commemorated as "day of horror". In the late 4th century, persecution of pagans by newly Christian Romans had reached new levels of intensity. In 391, the Patriarch Theophilus destroyed all pagan temples in Alexandria under orders from Emperor Theodosius I. The Brucheum and Jewish quarters were desolate in the 5th century. On the mainland, life seemed to have centered in the vicinity of the Serapeum and Caesareum, both which became Christian churches. The Pharos and Heptastadium quarters, however, remained populous and were left intact.
In 619, Alexandria fell to the Sassanid Persians. Although the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recovered it in 629, in 641 the Arabs under the general Amr ibn al-As captured it after a siege that lasted fourteen months.
Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798. French troops stormed the city on 2 July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of a British expedition in 1801. The British won a considerable victory over the French at the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801, following which they besieged the city, which fell to them on 2 September 1801. Mohammed Ali, the Ottoman Governor of Egypt, began rebuilding the city around 1810, and by 1850, Alexandria had returned to something akin to its former glory. In July 1882, the city came under bombardment from British naval forces and was occupied. In July 1954, the city was a target of an Israeli bombing campaign that later became known as the Lavon Affair. Only a few months later, Alexandria's Mansheyya Square was the site of a failed assassination attempt on Gamal Abdel Nasser.
The most important battles and sieges of Alexandria include:
Alexandria has an arid climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), but the prevailing north wind, blowing across the Mediterranean, gives the city a different climate from the desert hinterland. The city's climate shows Mediterranean (Csa) characteristics, namely mild, variably rainy winters and hot, dry summers which, at times, can be very humid; January and February are the coolest months with daily maximum temperatures typically ranging from 12 to 18 °C (54 to 64 °F). Alexandria experiences violent storms, rain and sometimes hail during the cooler months. July and August are the hottest and most humid months of the year with an average daily maximum temperature of 30 °C (86 °F).
|Average high °C (°F)||18.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||13.8
|Average low °C (°F)||9.1
|Precipitation mm (inches)||55.2
|Avg. precipitation days||11.0||8.9||6.0||1.9||1.0||0.04||0.04||0.04||0.2||2.9||5.4||9.5||46.92|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN) 27-09-2009|
Greek Alexandria was divided into three regions:
Two main streets, lined with colonnades and said to have been each about 60 metres (200 ft) wide, intersected in the centre of the city, close to the point where the Sema (or Soma) of Alexander (his Mausoleum) rose. This point is very near the present mosque of Nebi Daniel; and the line of the great East–West "Canopic" street, only slightly diverged from that of the modern Boulevard de Rosette (now Sharia Fouad). Traces of its pavement and canal have been found near the Rosetta Gate, but remnants of streets and canals were exposed in 1899 by German excavators outside the east fortifications, which lie well within the area of the ancient city.
Alexandria consisted originally of little more than the island of Pharos, which was joined to the mainland by a mole nearly a mile long (1260 m) and called the Heptastadion ("seven stadia" — a stadium was a Greek unit of length measuring approximately 180 m). The end of this abutted on the land at the head of the present Grand Square, where the "Moon Gate" rose. All that now lies between that point and the modern "Ras al-Tiin" quarter is built on the silt which gradually widened and obliterated this mole. The "Ras al-Tiin" quarter represents all that is left of the island of Pharos, the site of the actual lighthouse having been weathered away by the sea. On the east of the mole was the Great Harbour, now an open bay; on the west lay the port of Eunostos, with its inner basin Kibotos, now vastly enlarged to form the modern harbour.
In Strabo's time, (latter half of 1st century BC) the principal buildings were as follows, enumerated as they were to be seen from a ship entering the Great Harbour.
The names of a few other public buildings on the mainland are known, but there is little information as to their actual position. None, however, are as famous as the building that stood on the eastern point of Pharos island. There, the The Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, reputed to be 138 metres (450 ft) high, was sited. The first Ptolemy began the project, and the second Ptolemy completed it, at a total cost of 800 talents. It took 12 years to complete and served as a prototype for all later lighthouses in the world. The light was produced by a furnace at the top and the tower was built mostly with solid blocks of limestone. The Pharos lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century, making it the second longest surviving ancient wonder next to the Great Pyramid of Giza. A temple of Hephaestus also stood on Pharos at the head of the mole.
In the first century, the population of Alexandria contained over 180,000 adult male citizens (from a papyrus dated 32 CE), in addition to a large number of freedmen, women, children, and slaves. Estimates of the total population range from 500,000 to over 1,000,000, making it one of the largest cities ever built before the Industrial Revolution and the largest pre-industrial city that was not an imperial capital.
Very little of the ancient city has survived into the present day. Much of the royal and civic quarters sank beneath the harbour due to earthquake subsidence, and the rest has been built over in modern times.
"Pompey's Pillar" is one of the best-known ancient monuments still standing in Alexandria today. It is located on Alexandria's ancient acropolis — a modest hill located adjacent to the city's Arab cemetery — and was originally part of a temple colonnade. Including its pedestal, it is 30 m (99 ft) high; the shaft is of polished red granite, 2.7 meters in diameter at the base, tapering to 2.4 meters at the top. The shaft is 88 feet high made out of a single piece of granite. This would be 132 cubic meters or approximately 396 tons. Pompey's Pillar may have been erected using the same methods that were used to erect the ancient obelisks. The Romans had cranes but they weren't strong enough to lift something this heavy. Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehrner conducted several obelisk erecting experiments including a successful attempt to erect a 25 ton obelisk in 1999. This followed two experiments to erect smaller obelisks and two failed attempts to erect a 25 ton obelisk. The structure was plundered and demolished in the 4th century when a bishop decreed that Paganism must be eradicated. "Pompey's Pillar" is a misnomer, as it has nothing to do with Pompey, having been erected in 293 for Diocletian, possibly in memory of the rebellion of Domitius Domitianus. Beneath the acropolis itself are the subterranean remains of the Serapeum, where the mysteries of the god Serapis were enacted, and whose carved wall niches are believed to have provided overflow storage space for the ancient Library.
Alexandria's catacombs, known as Kom al-Shoqafa, are a short distance southwest of the pillar, consist of a multi-level labyrinth, reached via a large spiral staircase, and featuring dozens of chambers adorned with sculpted pillars, statues, and other syncretic Romano-Egyptian religious symbols, burial niches and sarcophagi, as well as a large Roman-style banquet room, where memorial meals were conducted by relatives of the deceased. The catacombs were long forgotten by the citizens until they were discovered by accident in the 1800s.
The most extensive ancient excavation currently being conducted in Alexandria is known as Kom al-Dikka, and it has revealed the ancient city's well-preserved theatre, and the remains of its Roman-era baths.
Persistent efforts have been made to explore the antiquities of Alexandria. Encouragement and help have been given by the local Archaeological Society, and by many individuals, notably Greeks proud of a city which is one of the glories of their national history.
The past and present directors of the museum have been enabled from time to time to carry out systematic excavations whenever opportunity is offered; D. G. Hogarth made tentative researches on behalf of the Egypt Exploration Fund and the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies in 1895; and a German expedition worked for two years (1898–1899). But two difficulties face the would-be excavator in Alexandria: lack of space for excavation and the underwater location of some areas of interest.
Since the great and growing modern city stands immediately over the ancient one, it is almost impossible to find any considerable space in which to dig, except at enormous cost. Also, the general subsidence of the coast has submerged the lower-lying parts of the ancient town under water. This underwater section, containing many of the most interesting sections of the Hellenistic city, including the palace quarter, is still being extensively investigated by the French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team. It raised a noted head of Caesarion. These are being opened up to tourists, to some controversy. The spaces that are most open are the low grounds to northeast and southwest, where it is practically impossible to get below the Roman strata.
The most important results were those achieved by Dr. G. Botti, late director of the museum, in the neighbourhood of “Pompey's Pillar”, where there is a good deal of open ground. Here substructures of a large building or group of buildings have been exposed, which are perhaps part of the Serapeum. Nearby, immense catacombs and columbaria have been opened which may have been appendages of the temple. These contain one very remarkable vault with curious painted reliefs, now artificially lit and open to visitors.
The objects found in these researches are in the museum, the most notable being a great basalt bull, probably once an object of cult in the Serapeum. Other catacombs and tombs have been opened in Kom al-Shoqqafa (Roman) and Ras al-Tiin (painted).
The German excavation team found remains of a Ptolemaic colonnade and streets in the north-east of the city, but little else. Hogarth explored part of an immense brick structure under the mound of Kom al-Dikka, which may have been part of the Paneum, the Mausolea, or a Roman fortress.
The making of the new foreshore led to the dredging up of remains of the Patriarchal Church; and the foundations of modern buildings are seldom laid without some objects of antiquity being discovered. The wealth underground is doubtlessly immense; but despite all efforts, there is not much for antiquarians to see in Alexandria outside the museum and the neighbourhood of “Pompey's Pillar”. The native tomb-robbers, well-sinkers, dredgers, and the like, however, come upon valuable objects from time to time, most of which find their way into private collections.
Modern Alexandria is divided into six districts:
There are also two cities under the jurisdiction of the Alexandria governorate forming metropolitan Alexandria:
Agami, Amreya, Anfoushi, Assafra, Attarine, Azarita (aka Mazarita; originally Lazarette), Bab Sidra, Bahari, Bacchus, Bolkly (Bokla), Burg el-Arab, Camp Shezar, Cleopatra, Dekheila, Downtown, Eastern Harbour, Fleming, Gabbari (aka: Qabbari, Qubbary, Kabbary), Gianaclis, Glym (short for Glymenopoulos), Gumrok (aka al-Gomrok), Hadara, Ibrahimeya, King Mariout, Kafr Abdu, Karmous, also known as Karmouz, Kom el-Dik (aka Kom el-Dekka), Labban, Laurent, Louran, Maamoura Beach, Maamoura, Mafrouza, Mandara, Manshiyya, Mex, Miami, Montaza, Muharram Bey, Mustafa Kamel, Ramleh (aka el-Raml), Ras el-Tin, Rushdy, Saba Pasha , San Stefano, Shatby, Schutz, Sidi Bishr, Sidi Gaber, Smouha, Sporting, Stanley, Syouf, Tharwat, Victoria, Wardeyan, Western Harbour and Zizinia.
Misr Train Station
Abu El Abbas Masjid (Mosque)
El Sawari Column
After Rome, Alexandria was considered the major seat of Christianity in the world. The Pope of Alexandria was the second among equals, second only to the bishop of Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire until 430. The Church of Alexandria had jurisdiction over the entire continent of Africa. After the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., the Church of Alexandria was split between the Miaphysites and the Melkites. The Miaphysites went on to constitute what is known today as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Melkites went on the constitute what is known today as the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria. In the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries converted some of the adherents of the Orthodox churches to their respective faiths.
Today, the patriarchal seat of the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church is Saint Mark Cathedral in Ramleh. The most important Coptic Orthodox churches in Alexandria include Pope Cyril I Church in Cleopatra, Saint Georges Church in Sporting, Saint Mark & Pope Peter I Church in Sidi Bishr, Saint Mary Church in Assafra, Saint Mary Church in Gianaclis, Saint Mina Church in Fleming, Saint Mina Church in Mandara, and Saint Tekle Haymanot Church in Ibrahimeya.
The most important Greek Orthodox churches in Alexandria are Saint Anargyri Church, Church of the Annunciation, Saint Anthony Church, Archangels Gabriel & Michael Church, Saint Catherine Church, Cathedral of the Dormition in Mansheya, Church of the Dormition, Prophet Elijah Church, Saint Georges Church, Church of the Immaculate Conception in Ibrahemeya, Saint Joseph Church in Fleming, Saint Joseph of Arimathea Church, Saint Mark & Saint Nectarios Chapel in Ramleh, Saint Nicholas Church, Saint Paraskevi Church, Saint Sava Cathedral in Ramleh, and Saint Theodore Chapel. In communion with the Greek Orthodox Church is the Russian Orthodox church of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Alexandria, which serves the Russian speaking community in the city.
Most of the citizens of Alexandria adhere to the religion of Islam. The most famous mosque in Alexandria is Abu el-Abbas el-Mursi Mosque in Anfoushi. Other notable mosques in the city include Ali ibn Abi Talib mosque in Somouha, Bilal mosque, El-Gamee el-Bahari in Mandara, Hatem mosque in Somouha, Hoda el-Islam mosque in Sidi Bishr, El-Mowasah mosque in Hadara, Sharq el-Madina mosque in Miami, El-Shohadaa mosque in Mostafa Kamel, Qaed Ibrahim mosque, Yehia mosque in Zizinya, Sidi Gaber mosque in Sidi Gaber, and Sultan mosque.
Alexandria's once very flourishing Jewish community is now almost extinct after the Arab nationalist movement spurred most to leave for Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. The most important synagogue in Alexandria is the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue.
Alexandria comprises a number of higher education institutions. Alexandria University is a public university that follows the Egyptian system of higher education. Many of its faculties are internationally renowned, most importantly its faculty of engineering. In addition, the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport is a semi-private educational institution that offers courses for both high school and undergraduate level students. Université Senghor is a private French university that focuses on the teaching of humanities, politics and international relations, and which mainly targets students from the African continent. Other institutions of higher education in Alexandria include Alexandria Institute of Technology (AIT) and Pharos University in Alexandria.
Alexandria has a very long history of foreign educational institutions. The first foreign schools date to the early 19th century, when French missionaries began establishing French charitable schools to educate the Egyptians. Today, the most important French schools in Alexandria run by Catholic missionaries include Collège de la Mère de Dieu, Collège Notre Dame de Sion, Collège Saint Marc, Ecoles des Soeurs Franciscaines (4 different schools), Ecole Gérard, Ecole Saint Gabriel, Ecole Saint-Vincent de Paul, Ecole Sainte Catherine, and Institution Sainte Jeanne-Antide. As a reaction to the establishment of French religious institutions, a secular (laic) mission established Lycée el-Horreya, which initially followed a French system of education, but is currently a public school run by the Egyptian government. The only school in Alexandria that completely follows the French educational system is Ecole Champollion. It is usually frequented by the children of French expatriates and diplomats in Alexandria.
English schools in Alexandria are fewer in number and more recently established, in comparison with the French schools. The most important English language schools in the city include Alexandria American School, British School of Alexandria, Egyptian American School, Modern American School, Sacred Heart Girls' School (SHS), Schutz American School, Victoria College,
El Manar Language School for Girls (M.E.G.S) previously called (Scottish School for Girls),Kaumeya Language School (KLS), El Nasr Boys' School (EBS), and El Nasr Girls' College (EGC). Most of these schools have been nationalized during the era of Nasser, and are currently Egyptian public schools run by the Egyptian ministry of education.
The only German school in Alexandria is the Deutsche Schule der Borromärinnen (DSB of Saint Charles Borromé).
N.B: The most notable public schools in Alexandria include Gamal Abdel Nasser High School and EL Manar English language School for girls.
Alexandria is served by the nearby Alexandria International Airport, located 7 km to the southeast. Another airport serves Alexandria named Borg al Arab Airport located about 25 km away from city centre.
From March 2010, Alexandria International Airport will close to commercial operations with all airlines operating out of Borg al Arab Airport where a brand new terminal was completed in February 2010.
Railway stations include:
An extensive tramway network was built in 1860 and is the oldest in Africa.
The port is divided into:
The Royal Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was once the largest library in the world. It is generally thought to have been founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, during the reign of Ptolemy II of Egypt. It was likely created after his father had built what would become the first part of the Library complex, the temple of the Muses — the Museion, Greek Μουσείον (from which the modern English word museum is derived).
It has been reasonably established that the Library, or parts of the collection, were destroyed by fire on a number of occasions (library fires were common and replacement of handwritten manuscripts was very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming). To this day the details of the destruction (or destructions) remain a lively source of controversy. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in 2003 near the site of the old Library.
The museum is housed in the old Al-Saad Bassili Pasha Palace, who was one of the wealthiest wood merchants in Alexandria. Construction on the site was first undertaken in 1926.
The main sport that interests Alexandrians is football, as is the case in the rest of Egypt and Africa. Alexandria Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Alexandria, Egypt. It is currently used mostly for football matches, and was used for the 2006 African Cup of Nations. The stadium is the oldest stadium in Egypt and Africa, being built in 1929. The stadium holds 20,000 people. Alexandria was one of three cities that participated in hosting the African Cup of Nations in January 2006, which Egypt won. Sea sports such as surfing, jet-skiing and water polo are practised on a lower scale.
Alexandria has four stadiums:
There is also the Alexandria weekly cycling carnival, Organized by Cycle Egypt group, which is held every Friday, Cycling amateurs gather every Friday morning to cycle through El Courniche from El Montazah to El Qalaa.
Alexandria is a main summer resort in the Middle East, visited by people from all other cities to enjoy the sun and the sea. Beaches become full of umbrellas and families and the city is usually crowded in summer. There are both public beaches (which anyone can use for free, and are usually crowded) and private beaches (which can be used upon paying a small fee). There are also private beaches that are dedicated only to the guests of some hotels.
Alexandria is twinned with:
|Capital of Egypt
331 BC - 641 AD
Alexandria (الإسكندرية al-Iskanderiyya) is Egypt's second largest city (3.5 million people), its largest seaport and the country's window onto the Mediterranean Sea. It's a faded shade of its former glorious cosmopolitan self, but still worth a visit for its many cultural attractions and still-palpable glimpses of its past.
Few cities of the world have a history as rich as that of Alexandria; few cities have witnessed so many historic events and legends. Founded by Alexander the Great (Iskander al-Akbar) in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Graco-Roman Egypt; its status as a beacon of culture is symbolized by Pharos, the legendry lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos) was built in the third century BC by Ptolemy I on the island of Pharos. The height of the lighthouse was between 115 and 150 meters, so it was among the highest structures in the world, second only to the Great Pyramids. The lighthouse was built on 3 floors: a square bottom with a central heart, a section octagonal average and above an upper section. And on the top there was a mirror that reflected sunlight during the day and used fire for the night. But it was damaged by 2 earthquakes in 1303 and 1323.
The Library of Alexandria was the largest library of the ancient world and the place where great philosophers and scientists of that age came to seek knowledge. Alexandria also hosted, at the time, the largest Jewish community in the world, and the Septuagint, the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was written in the city.
In all, Alexandria was one of the greatest cities in the Hellenic world, second only to Rome in size and wealth, and while it changed hands from Rome to Byzantine and finally Persia, the city stayed the capital of Egypt for a millennium.
Alas, the city's reign came to an end when the Arabs conquered Egypt in 641 and decided to found a new capital to the south in Cairo. (Scholars still debate if this was when the Library was finally destroyed; it is known that the Library was, at the very least, sacked and badly damaged by the Romans themselves in 48 BC, c. 270, and once more in 391.)
Alexandria survived as a trading port; Marco Polo described it around 1300 as one of the world's two busiest ports, along with Quanzhou. However, its strategic location meant that every army on its way to Egypt passed through: Napoleon's troops stormed the city in 1798, but the British conquered it in the Siege of Alexandria in 1801. The Egyptians under Mohammed Ali took control of the city and rebuilt it, but the Orabi Rebellion in 1881 and massacres of Europeans in the city led the British to strike back and hammer the rebels with the three-day Bombardment of Alexandria, reducing much of the city center to rubble.
Once again, Alexandria rose from the ashes. Its cosmopolitan and decadent lifestyle before and during World War II gave birth to its greatest poet, Constantine P. Cavafy, and was chronicled in Laurence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and a series of works by E. M. Forster including Alexandria: A History and Guide (1922), described by some as the best travel guide ever written.
Yet this world, too, took a shattering blow in the 1950s when Egypt's new fiercely nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized vast swathes of the economy and forbade foreigners from owning or running companies, effectively forcing tens of thousands of foreigners out of the country, including virtually all of Alexandria's once 150,000-strong Greek community.
Today's Alexandria is a dusty seaside Egyptian town with an over-inflated population of 5 million, yet its status as Egypt's leading port keeps business humming, and tourists still flock to the beaches in the summertime. And while much of the city is badly in need of a lick of paint, history both ancient and modern is everywhere if you peer closely enough: the French-style parks and the occasional French street sign survive as a legacy of Napoleon, one of Alexandria's many conquerors, and the few remaining Greek restaurants and cafés still dominate the cultural scene.
Alexandria has a Mediterranean climate, with warm humid summers and mild rainy winters. The daytime can be humid in summer, with summer temperatures averaging 31°C (88°F), but evenings are usually cooler and breezy, especially by the Corniche. Winters can get cold, with daytime highs down sometimes to 12°C (53°F), with ocassional rain and sometimes hail. Humidity is high throughout the year. The best time to visit Alexandria is in spring (March-June) and and autumn (September-November), since it's at its busiest in summer, when Egyptians flock down to escape the searing heat of Cairo.
Alexandria's primary promenade is the seaside Corniche. At the western tip lies the fort of Qait Bey, built near the presumed site of the former Lighthouse (Pharos in Greek), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, while the eastern shore sprawls for miles on end with the slums and tenements of modern Alex.
Alexandria is easily reached by plane, train or bus.
Alexandria has two airports in the immediate vicinity and is also within striking distance of Cairo.
Alexandria's main airport is El Nouzha Airport (IATA: ALY), which has a limited selection of domestic flights and fairly extensive services to cities around the Middle East. The only connection to Europe, though, is from Athens on Olympic Airlines . The airport lies 8 km (5 mi) to the south-east of the city. A taxi will take you about 20 minutes and should cost no more than 15 LE.
The city's second airport is Borg el Arab Airport (IATA: HBE), served by Lufthansa from Frankfurt, Emirates from Dubai and (soon) Turkish Airlines from Istanbul. It's rather less conveniently located some 25 km (16 mi) to the south-west of Alexandria, which means a one-hour journey by taxi (50 LE or less).
Most travellers, however, will come via Cairo, the country's capital, which is much better connected. Super-Jet and Western Delta operate direct buses from the airport to the Sidi-Gabr bus terminal every 30-60 minutes between 4 AM and 7:30 PM (25-31 LE).
From Cairo, frequent trains from Ramses Station are probably the best way to get to Alexandria. Trains run at least once every hour from 6 AM to 10 PM, but try to choose either an express or the pride of Egyptian Railways, the French-built Turbo, which takes only 2 hours 10 minutes for the journey. 1st/2nd class tickets LE 46/29 one-way.
For the return journey, trains depart from Misr Station, a 10-minute stroll south of the Corniche along Nabi Daniel St, as well as the Sidi Gaber Station.
There are two options when traveling from Cairo to Alexandria by car. Using either route, the journey usually takes around 3 hours, depending on speed and surrounding traffic.
The usual cautions for driving in Egypt apply; see Egypt for details.
Several bus companies offer a bus service into Alexandria at a very low price range: 20-35 LE. Buses are air conditioned and come complete with a hostess trolley service. Companies include Golden Arrow, West Delta, Super Jet, Pullman and El Gouna. Operating times vary from one company to another, but there are trips between Cairo and Alexandria virtually every hour from early morning till midnight.
Note that while the buses themselves are perfectly comfortable, the duration of your journey from Cairo to Alexandria (and vice versa) will depend on your pick-up/drop-off point. Most buses start out from the Almaza Bus Station in Heliopolis and stop by Midan Tahrir and Giza before finally setting out to Alexandria; if you join from Heliopolis expect a 4-5 hour trip rather than the average 2-3.
There are a number of bus pick-up/drop-off points inside Alexandria. These are usually either at Maw'if Gadid Station (except El Gouna, which uses Sidi Gaber station) which is a bit far from the city of Alexandria so it shouldn't cost more than a 10 LE cab ride, 15 LE max. Don't take a taxi with anyone that approaches you right outside of the bus. Walk outside the station and catch a taxi there if you must. There is also a bus from Maw'if Gadid to Sidi Gabr, and from Sidi Gabr most parts of the city are accessible by minibus or tram if you are looking to save money. The bus fare will run you 50 piasters.
There are no scheduled ferry services to Alexandria, although cruise ships do stop by occasionally.
Alexandria is quite a long city; you can get pretty much anywhere by using the local transportation available along the Corniche.
Alexandria's yellow and black taxis are a good way to travel in the city, and a cheap one as well. Be careful though: taxis will uniformly refuse to use meters (the rates haven't been adjusted in years) and drivers love to take advantage of non-Alexandrians, so it's best to agree on the fare before you get in. No taxi ride between any two points in the city should cost more than 25LE.
To get into a taxi, wave at the driver and yell the name of your destination. If the driver agrees they would park at the side of the road as soon as possible. Some taxis will stop to pick you up even if they already have a passenger, but such offers are best refused.
Fast Call taxis can be booked by phone at 19559 or 0800-999-9999 (toll free). These are pricier but generally much better than ordinary black and and bright blue cabs.
Alexandria has a creaky, slow but very cheap tram system that dates back to 1860 and looks the part — it's the oldest one still running in Africa. The route map is remarkably confusing and changes on a regular basis, but one factor stays constant: the network is split into the interurban Ramleh Lines (Tram el-Raml), which use blue-and-cream trams and run across the city a few blocks back from the sea towards the eastern suburbs, and the City Lines (Tram el-Madina), which use bright yellow trams and run west and south of central Alex. The two meet at Raml Station (محطة الرمل Mahattat el-Raml), right at the heart of Alex. For both lines, the flat fare is a whopping 25 piasters (~US$0.05), and tickets can be bought on board. Note that the first car (out of three) in the blue trams is reserved for women only.
Probably the most useful service for tourists is yellow tram #25, which runs from Raml Station to Ras el-Tin and Fort Qait Bey. You can also hop on any blue tram west from Sidr Gabr bus/railway station to get to Raml, but not all eastbound trams stop there.
There are a variety of local bus services which have improved significantly in the past few years, but they are rather confusing for those who haven't lived in Alexandria for a while. Apart from city buses, you will also find "mini-buses", which work on hop-and-go basis. They are easily recognizable 14-person buses, which will stop when you wave and stop where you need to get off. The drivers rarely speak English, so make sure you know the Arabic name of your destination or that you already know where to stop. The routes are usually along the main streets and cost between LE 0.50-1.50.
Alexandria has a tiny industrial section, mainly centered around the natural gas industry. A few expatriates work in this section. This section is increasing now as many new factories are built in Borg el Arab.
Other than that, there are some but not many international schools that employ expatriate teachers. Generally they pay less than the much more lucrative educational section in Cairo.
Alexandria has got quite a large number of language schools. You can find girls-only, boys-only and mixed schools. Also international certificates -like the IGCSE or the American SAT I and SAT II- could be completed in most of these schools. Moreover, study is available in English, French and also German.
Many places seem to follow set shopping hours. Winter: Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat 9AM-10PM, Mon and Thurs 9AM-11AM. During Ramadan, hours vary, with shops often closing on Sunday. Summer: Tues, Wed, Fri-Sun 9AM-12:30PM and 4-12:30 PM.
Alexandria is famous for having the best seafood restaurants in the country. A few other Alexandrian specialties worth looking out for:
If you want to eat cheaply in Alexandria, try the places where the locals eat.
Mid-priced by Egyptian standards, Western fast-food chains like Pizza Hut, McDonalds and KFC can all be found in the city's larger malls, but there are more interesting options as well.
Many of Alexandria's high-end restaurants are located in its hotels.
50 years ago a maze of bars and nightclubs filled the city, but visitors to today's Alexandria often complain that it can be hard to find a decent watering hole. Frequent travellers recommend a number of reliable establishments:
Hotels and most tourist restaurants throughout Alexandria and most of Egypt are home to bars and discos; and to buy your own booze drop by Drinkie's, a famous liquor store ideally located on the Corniche strip and home to every local drink and Heineken.
In addition to local options, there's a Starbucks in San Stefano Grand Plaza and a Costa Coffee near Stanley Bridge.
The humble ahwa, serving up coffee, tea and shisha (water pipe) is an Egyptian tradition and there are plenty to be found in Alexandria as well. Try a puff, play a little backgammon or dominoes, and watch the world pass by. These are largely a male domain though, and women will rarely been seen in them.
Alexandria has a good selection of hotels in all price brackets.
For longer stays of a month or more, why not try renting in Alex? Apartments are are easy to come by, in a range of prices (180 - 1000+ LE per week) and states of repair! Landlords/ladies tend to live in the same blocks and will be willing to haggle the rates. Needless to say, it's definitely worth visiting an apartment before placing any money down, preferably in late afternoon so you see how well the lighting works and the worst of any insect problems. (Keep in mind, though, that it's highly unlikely to find any accommodation near the coast that's completely 'roach-free'!)
Most of Alexandria's top-end hotels are located along the shore to the east, a fair distance away from the old city core.
Although crime is rarely violent, beware of pickpockets and don't flash your valuables or wear a bum bag/fanny pack. Street kids, taxi drivers, and others may harass tourists. They will usually desist after a stern "La!" or two. Or you can say "la shukran!" (no thanks) or "emshi" (go!).
Alexandria is a conservative city, so women should cover their shoulders, midriffs, cleavage and legs. Even still, women can expect to be heckled or harassed in the street, especially if walking alone. The best response is to ignore the offender and pretend you don't hear anything. Cover your head when entering places of worship.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!|
|From The Gentleman's Magazine/Volume 253, August 1882, pp. 145-165|
WE were nearing the ancient land of Misraim and the far-famed city of Alexander the Great. On the horizon flashed one fiery spark—
The morning star had not yet paled before the dawn, and no prosaic reality was visible to dull our early illusions. A vision rose before me of an old picture-book, over which we pored in our childhood, showing a mighty tower 1,000 cubits high, built in divers stories like some huge telescope, with an outer winding stair by which beasts of burden could ascend to the very top, bearing fuel for the beacon fires which blazed in a vast lantern, with reflecting mirrors so arranged that the light was visible for a hundred miles. These mirrors acted a double part, as they reflected the ships approaching Egypt while at so great a distance as to be still imperceptible to the eye.
It was all built of the finest stone, with pillars and galleries and ornaments beautifully wrought in marble, on which (you remember the old story) the architect Sostratus engraved his own name in durable characters, and then, overlaying these with cement, thereon left a frail memorial of the fame of Ptolemy, his master.
The lighthouse, surrounded by a strong sea wall, was built on the Isle of Pharos, whence it derived the name which it has transmitted to a thousand descendants. It formed the natural breakwater of that great harbour which the wise Alexander considered might acquire such vast social importance as the outlet of commerce between the eastern and western worlds.
So here he himself planned the city, designing it in the form of a Macedonian cloak, which, however, should cover eighty furlongs (in other words, it was fifteen miles in circumference); and his soldiers strewed meal to mark the line where its walls were to rise. Then, at his bidding, temples, obelisks, palaces, theatres, gymnasiums were built—(the old story said 400 temples, 4,000 palaces, 4,000 public baths, and 12,000 shops for the sale of vegetables only). There was one broad main street with a vista of shipping at either end—for it extended in a direct line from the Lake Mareotis to the Mediterranean—and another broad street intersected this at right angles; and both these great streets were adorued with stately colonnades, running the whole length of. the city.
In short, the glory of Tyre was here reproduced; and Heliopolis was no longer to be the chief seat of science. During the 300 years that the Ptolemies held sway, all sages were drawn to Alexandria by the encouragement given to learning of all kinds: arts and sciences, poets and philosophers here found a welcome, such names as that of Euclid being of the number; and though the Egyptians were conciliated by the building of magnificent temples, the restoration of their ancient monuments, and of many of their old forms of worship, the more graceful manners and customs of Greece were generally adopted; and the highest favour the Govermnent awarded was to admit any person to the rank of Macedonian citizenship. To such an extent was this carried that whenever the inhabitants met in public assembly they were addressed as "Ye men of Macedonia."
It was not only to the faith of the Egyptians that the Ptolemies showed such toleration. Alexander himself had shown the utmost favour to the Jews, and had induced a vast number of them to become citizens of Alexandria by granting them equal privileges with the Macedonians. The first Ptolemy is said to have imported a hundred thousand more as captives, many of whom he raised to high offices of trust. About a hundred years later, however—that is to say, about two centuries before Christ—the high priest at Jerusalem excited the wrath of Ptolemy Philopater (who had offered large sacrifices and given valuable gifts to the Temple) by refusing to let him enter the Holy of Holies, whereupon the vengeful king returned to Alexandria, determined to destroy all the Jews in the city. He caused multitudes of them to assemble in the arena, where they were delivered up to wild beasts. The legend goes on to tell that the discriminating lions refused to touch the Jews, but made large havoc of the Greeks.
Meanwhile the learning both of Jews and Pagans continued to flow to Alexandria. It was by command of Philadelphus that the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, and that those seven hundred thousand precious volumes were stored up in the great library.
So it was a great, busy, learned city—the emporium of mind and matter for the eastern and western worlds, the combined Liverpool and Oxford of heathendom. This state of things continued till the Christian Church established itself here, and strove to carry matters with a high hand; then followed shameful riots in the name of religion—the Christian monks versus the Pagans. At length the Arabs, under Omar, captured and plundered the enfeebled city (((sc|a.d.}} 638), and ere it could in any measure recover itself a second capture by the Turks in (((sc|a.d.}} 868 completed its destruction. So now we find only a modern semi-European town, with hardly a trace of all the former splendour; and the wail of Ichabod! Ichabod ! may well find echo amidst the mounds of rubble and ruin which surround the modern city in every direction.
Of the mighty Pharos, some ruins remained in the twelfth century; but of the spot where Alexander was buried by his favourite general (Ptolemy) there is no trace; and of the precious library not one leaf remains.
The more valuable works on mechanics, astronomy, medicine, and all other branches of science and literature were stored in the museum, which was accidentally destroyed during the war with Julius Cæsar, when Egypt became a Roman province.
The remaining volumes, numbering 700,000, were kept in the Temple of Serapis, and consisted chiefly of theological controversies; they were destroyed by the conquering Saracens, (((sc|a.d.}} 640, the bigoted Caliph Omar declaring that the Koran was all-sufficient reading. Consequently they were used as fuel for the 4,000 baths, and are said to have sufficed for that purpose for several months. I suppose papyrus must have predominated over vellum, for I do not think the old MSS. in most charter-rooms would make a blaze in a hurry! For twenty years after this cruel burning the empty book-shelves remained in the great library, to mock the grief of all wise and learned men.
And of the great Temple of Serapis, and its 400 pillars, what trace remains? One solitary column, now known as Pompey's Pillar—a monolith of red granite, sixty-eight feet high, with base and capital about thirty feet more; and as it stands on rising ground near the sea, it still acts as a landmark to sailors as they approach the low, flat shore, where long rows of windmills are grinding away, as if they could not work hard enough.
Through the purply haze, that lends a dreamy beauty of its own to the dull, barren coast, we discern those ever-turning sails, mingling with a forest of masts, telling how the ships of many lands are once more crowding the Alexandrian harbour. These all merge into our dream-world, and we picture to ourselves how, in days of old, this same harbour was crowded with gay galleys, freighted with women from all parts of the known world—chiefly from the Grecian Isles and from Syracuse (distant about a thousand miles)—who here assembled to celebrate the great Festival of Adonis and Astarte, whose statues they carried through the city in joyous procession, strewing flowers and perfumes by the way.
Another memory, of more modern days, and of dearer interest to "a Britisher," comes over us as we near the shore—the memory of Nelson's great victory, when, in Aboukir Bay, he found the whole French fleet awaiting Napoleon's return from the battle of the Pyramids, and manned by well-nigh 10,000 men. When morning dawned, two frigates were all that remained to enable the mighty conqueror to return to "la belle France."
Conceive the horrors of that night, when the huge old Orient, with her 120 guns, caught fire, and in the darkness of midnight came the roar which deadened the din of battle, and the fearful glare which lighted up the whole bay. Then sudden silence fell on both fleets, and not a gun was fired, while all watched for that awful explosion which they knew must come—when "burning ropes and flaming timbers flew high in mid-air, and shattered bodies and torn and blackened limbs of many a gallant mariner fell on the decks of the neighbouring vessels or into the seething waves." Among those victims were the gallant Casa Bianca and his brave boy.
As we draw near the quay, we note a summary method of dealing with an extortionate dragoman, who, determined to cling to his victims to the last, has ventured to step on board the boat which is to carry them back to their ship. One strong back-hander, dealt without the slightest apparent effort, and he is submerged. In a moment he rises to the surface, and is restored to dry land by amused spectators; when he stands quivering with impotent rage, his splendid Eastern eyes flashing fire, and with hands and arms gesticulating, and action all over, he pours forth a stream of imprecations on the laughing young Englishmen, whose boat meanwhile has pushed off, and placed them beyond reach of his wrath and his knife. Not of his memory, however, should they ever return to his neighbourhood; and that "La vengeance se mange bien froide" is a proverb which doubtless has its counterpart in Eastern tongues.
The confusion on landing is amazing, the noisy crowd consisting of representatives of every nation—black, white, brown, yellow—shouting and quarrelling, all contending for us and our luggage. At last we are safely deposited in an African hotel, and gain our first experience of cold, barn-like rooms—for so they seem to the outward-bound. On our return from India we think it so generous of an hotel-keeper to provide us with bedding and sheets and towels, that we feel these same rooms to be luxurious quarters.
There are no bells, but attentive Italian or German waiters are on the alert; and are extra attentive if addressed as if they were human beings. I confess I felt touched and gratified when, twelve months later, we occupied these same rooms, and the only cheery soul that wished us a happy new year was one of these same men, whose face gleamed with kindly recognition on our arrival.
We were in the Hôtel d'Europe, which has the advantage of capital balconies overlooking the Grand Square, and the tank where all manner of picturesque life congregates: groups of stately Bedouins, who rest here awhile, while their camels stand swaying from side to side, impatient to return to the desert; half-naked Arabs and hard-working Fellahs, with their brown felt caps; splendid Armenians; overgrown Negroes, whose skin, black and glossy as the raven's wing, contrasts with their white robes, as their scarlet fez does with their woolly head; women, stately from long habit of carrying their graceful double-handled water-jug poised on the head; ladies waddling along, veiled by their great black silk cloaks, so that they look like walking sacks; snarling dogs, and splendid dignified donkeys with scarlet leather saddles; and donkey-boys, shouting a chorus of African and European small-talk, marvellously jumbled into one strange patois. There is no conceivable tint that human skin can assume that is not here represented—from the clearest creamy roses, fresh from Britain, to the yellows and browns and jet black of all other nations. And as to eyes—their variety is a study in itself. Such orbs! Eyes of every shade, from light hazel to black—eyes gentle; eyes sad; eyes laughing; eyes wild; wicked eyes; loving eyes; dreamy eyes. One fair British damsel, after gazing for some time in open-mouthed admiration at a group of magnificent Moors, confided to me that in her wildest moments she had never dreamt of such eyes, but that now she could sympathise with Desdemona!
All day long, if you choose, you can sit and watch this ever-varying kaleidoscope, with every shade and variety of eastern and western life—white men in dark clothes, dark men in bright clothes; Jews (of whom multitudes have found their way back to the old house of bondage), Turks, Greeks, infidels, and heretics; Copts, Nubians (in full dress of fresh oil), Albanians (in rich and striking attire), Americans, Europeans of all nations, Englishmen of every type, from the representative of the stately old school, down to the veriest riff-raff of Cockneyism, who think it necessary at once to adopt the orthodox scarlet fez, the wearisome fez, which you here see worn indiscriminately by representatives of all nations. All these combine to make a balcony in an Alexandrian street as striking a post of observation as you can possibly find in any land.
Concerning the fleshpots of Egypt, I cannot say that either the German and Italian hotel-keepers, or their chefs, have done much to improve the viands. Day after day we rang the changes on divers messes boiled or roast, but always the same hard, black, uncertain material which Thackeray long ago declared could only be the flesh of ancient donkeys. So we were driven to such an unwarrantable consumption of dates and plantains, that we have hardly been able to face them ever since.
At the table d'hôte the streams of outward-and-homeward-bound meet for the first time. And a sadly diverse set they are—the former with their store of English health and spirits, with life all before them; the latter having had their tussle with climate and crowded offices, and all life's realities; Eastern potentates, perhaps rulers and judges of provinces as big as Great Britain, now returning contentedly to the position of average Englishmen (because England is home), when, like dear old Colonel Newcome, they may chance to find that the welcome home, of which they have dreamed through long, weary years, may be that invitation to dine a fortnight hence!
You can tell by a glance at a man's hat to which set he belongs, for young England's first investment on landing is a puggaree, white or with coloured stripe, which he wears round his hat during the voyage, after which it is never seen again, being a plaything which is quickly replaced by the genuine article, a thick, white linen helmet for the military, or a huge hat of white pith for other mortals: a sort of great mushroom to which the human body acts as a stalk. The effect of a very large fungus of this species on a small man is always suggestive of Punch's vulgar little boy, "Oh! it's no use pretending you're not there, 'cos I see your legs dangling!"
The "gamin" is much the same in most countries, and some of these young Arabs understand "a sell" as well as any well-educated young Briton—as well, for instance, as the sharp lad who gave such clear evidence in a Glasgow police-court, that the benevolent judge determined to try and rescue him from evil company. A question as to his home was, however, sufficient to rouse the suspicions of the street Arab, who felt he must at any price put his lordship off the scent by an indirect answer. "Ye ken the Gallowgate? D'ye ken Fule's Close? D'ye ken the pump at the end o' it? Well, ye may jist gang and pump yon, for ye'll no pump me!"
A gentleman of our party was terribly worried by the eternal prayer for backsheesh. At last he halted, and, holding out his hand to one of the little dark-eyed suppliants, mimicked his petition. In a moment the little chap unfastened his girdle, produced a dirty little leather bag containing two or three minute coins, one of which he gravely bestowed on our friend! I need scarcely say that no almsgiving ever brought in more rapid returns.
Of course we very quickly found our way to the bazaars, "to mingle with the strange and turbaned crowd," those marvellous throngs of picturesque life; new forms, animate and inanimate; new sounds, new human beings, new animals, mingled beauty and dirt, of which no description can convey the slightest idea—nothing but actual sight. The fruit market, full of things as yet unknown and untasted—the market for such game as is brought from Lake Mareotis, and treasures of every description brought here from every corner of the eastern world by those long strings of patient, heavy-laden camels: crockery, saddlery, gold and silver embroidery, the scarlet fez, the yellow slippers (with turn-up toes, for the exclusive use of the faithful), firearms, glittering swords and daggers, gorgeous raiment of needlework, from the coarsest stuff to the rarest brocades, of material and colour alike rich and harmonious; jewelled pipes, spices, carved wood and ivory, sweetmeats, rich stuffs woven by patient hands, playthings—many stalls together dealing in the same article. For just as in London you expect to find bankers in Lombard Street, silkweavers in Spitalfields, coachbuilders in Long Acre, watchmakers in Clerkenwell, and so forth, so in the East each trade has its own bazaar—the silkweavers, the coppersmiths, the saddlers, letter-writers, the dealers in Moorish, Turkish, Persian, or Algerian stuffs, each cluster together in their own quarter.
But the chief charm of these bazaars lies in the throng of human beings of all sorts and kinds; the almost bewildering medley of voices talking "every man his own tongue wherein he was born"; the perpetual motion, the intensity of colours, the vivid sunlight, the cool, deep shadows.
It is curious to stand beside the dealer in firearms and watch the simple process of manufacture. The workman, sitting on his counter, holds a long wire between his toes, and, slowly winding it round the tin barrel, produces a lethal weapon which would astonish Purdie or Lancaster. It is a fowling-piece which a British sportsman would regard with awe if required to fire it; nevertheless, it proves fatal to a vast number of snipe and quails, and rarely leads to any accident.
Those yellow slippers, too, are worthy of notice. The orthodox bright yellow dye with which the leather is stained is obtained from the rinds of pomegranates. Every blue-robed woman whom you meet probably carries on her head a great flat basket of fruits and vegetables, her little marketing for the day; or else on her shoulder sits a quaint eastern baby, and a group of bigger children clustered round her—little creatures whose large, calm eyes would be so beautiful were it not for flies and filth; but, alas! as some one suggested, "What is beauty without soap?" (and, indeed, soap seems a thing unknown in Egypt, or at least wonderfully precious, judging from the prices charged for washing!) As to these poor dark-eyed little ones, their mothers keep them filthy on purpose, lest any one passing should admire them, and so excite the envy of evil spirits.
Moreover, they believe it strengthens the sight to paint the eyelids of even the youngest baby with khol, a mixture of soot and antimony, which is carefully applied with a silver bodkin. This certainly makes the eye look immensely large, but painfully unnatural. Then, the amount of ophthalmia is something frightful. It is due chiefly to the intense dryness of the atmosphere and the subtle, impalpable dust which for ever floats in the air above the crowded city. Exceeding dirt also does its part; while the swarms of flies which cluster on the sores, and there revel undisturbed, are a sight to fill you with disgust. Of course they carry infection to the next eye on which they settle, and so the loathsome disease spreads, and that with such frightful rapidity that sometimes the whole eye is reduced to a mere opaque pulp within twenty-four hours, even when the sufferer is otherwise in perfect health. The consequent amount of blindness is startling; and I believe the computation is that one man in six has lost the sight of either one or both eyes.
Even where actual blindness does not exist, the powers of vision are singularly defective, and when it became necessary for the railway, in selecting its servants, to test their sight, it was found that a very small minority of the candidates could distinguish a red signal from a green one at a distance of a hundred yards. I believe this is partly the reason that so large a proportion of the company's servants are Europeans.
It is said that in the time of Mahomet Ali many children were artificially made blind of one eye to exempt them from the conscription; indeed, grown-up men voluntarily blinded themselves to avoid the hated service, forgetting that the wilful destruction of one eye might always involve the loss of both. A gentleman who was travelling in Egypt at that time told me that of his eight boatmen two had lost one eye, a third was nearly blind of both, four had purposely knocked out three upper teeth on the right side, to avoid biting cartridges, while the eighth had chopped off the trigger finger from the right hand. He adds, that in a whole day he had failed to notice one peasant working in the fields who was what he termed a sound man, that is, one who had not subjected himself to some such voluntary nmtilation to escape conscription. Mahomet Ali, however, hit on the expedient of raising a one-eyed regiment, so as to utilise as many as possible of these refractory subjects.
The ravages of ophthalmia tell cruelly on the beauty of the Egyptian women. Too often the dark blue veil, which just reveals one dreamy brown eye, conceals a hideous chasm in the place where its fellow should be.
How little Moore can have suspected so prosaic a cause when he describes
The said mask, or rather veil, is the inevitable yashmak—a mantle veiling the whole head and figure, and fastened across the nose by a brass ornament, so as just to leave an opening for the eyes (or eye, as the case may be). With the poor, this veil is invariably of a deep blue, dyed with indigo; but richer folk wear black silk, and their attendants white linen, and when the wind blows back this covering it reveals indoor raiment of vivid colours, beautifully embroidered.
To an unaccustomed eye, a ramble through the city offers a constant succession of pictures, and we peered and peeped down curious courts and alleys, noting where here and there a quaintly carved stone, the broken shaft of a column, or richly wrought old capital, built roughly into the wall, told of the ruins of the grand old city; till a courteous stranger warned us that we were approaching the poultry market, where the very dust was literally hopping and crawling. Evidently, the old Egyptian plagues had not all been repealed! By the way, it is said that the plague of lice of which we read probably referred rather to swarms of dust ticks, which at all times abound in Egypt, and which, fastening themselves on some victim, fatten at his expense, and in a few hours distend from the size of a grain of sand to that of a pea.
Not being anxious to experimentalise in this matter, we turned away and entered a large Roman Catholic Church, whose perfect stillness and deep gloom were in pleasant contrast with the hot glare and incessant noise and motion outside. There we rested, rejoicing in the solemn silence. After a while, we discerned a small group emerge from the darkness, and a young couple were married by an old priest; an attendant lighting his book with one feeble little taper. It was a very dreary ceremonial.
One of the first things that attracted our attention in one of the quiet side streets was a lugubrious procession, followed by a great company of blue-robed women uttering a cry, which I can only describe as "clucking," it was so exactly the note of a joyous hen announcing newly laid eggs. The similarity was so extraordinary, that we went close up to them to make sure that it was really not some curious procession of poultry; when we perceived that it was a funeral, the uncoffined corpse, wrapped in white linen, and laid on a bier, being carried head foremost, and preceded by a long string of men with dishevelled beards, who were chanting a solemn dirge. These almost without exception were blind of one or both eyes, a fact for which we could only account by imagining they might be the Muezzins hired as mourners; blind men being always preferred to fill that sacred office, inasmuch as their morning and evening ascents of the minarets to call the faithful to worship would give too good occasion for prying into their neighbours' domestic life in the courtyard or on the fiat roof.
The women are also hired to howl and make lamentation, and throw dust on their heads. At the funeral of a rich man from sixty to a hundred of these hired mourners are present, wailing and beating their breasts. In cases of real grief it is customary for women of whatever rank to sit unveiled in the dust. The dead is laid in the grave with the face turned to Mecca, and the survivors offer up prayers for the forgiveness and peace of the departed. The lament and wailing are renewed every Thursday and Friday following, until forty days are fulfilled; the tomb being strewn with green leaves, and alms given to the poor.
At the funerals of the wealthy, raw meat is often given to the needy. Sometimes a small herd of buffaloes are slain, and before they are half skinned the mob generally contrive to rush in and tear or cut off lumps of flesh, every man for himself hacking the carcase to pieces; when satisfied with their booty, they retire, probably covered with blood. A more revolting scramble could hardly be imagined. Yet I well remember a similar scene in one of the principal towns in the South of England on the night of a Royal marriage, when an ox roasted whole was to have been distributed to the poor. The roughs, however, took the division into their own hands, and, tearing the prize limb from limb, scrambled and fought over the half-raw meat till not one fragment remained for those to whom it had been promised.
Among the first traces of the olden days which we searched out were the Catacombs, which lie about two miles from the city on the edge of the Libyan Desert, and which run underground in every direction from near Pompey's Pillar, and all along the ridge of low shore where the busy windmills at first caught our attention. They are strangely little known, even to the natives, and travellers are by no means sure of finding the right entrance. Even the coachmen from the principal hotels are more than likely to waste your afternoon in driving you about over sands and ruins and execrable masses of disintegrated rock, mis-called roads; and after all may be compelled to acknowledge that they do not know where to go next. Indeed, the ancient entrance is unknown. One great chamber, however, has been forced open and made into a stable for Egyptian cavalry. From this, other chambers open; one of these is about thirty feet in diameter, and all round the walls are niches for bodies, in which skulls and mouldering bones still lie. All along the sea coast are caves or chambers scooped out, which probably led into some of the longer passages.
One of these especially attracted our interest, having something the form of a chapel; and remembering how the early Christians were driven to take refuge in these catacombs, we felt that the ground was hallowed—that Apollos, the fellow-worker of St. Paul (whose birthplace was in this city), or perhaps St. Mark himself, had here ministered to their persecuted brethren.
Then a gruesome thought chased away these hallowed memories as we recollected the horrible trade which modern Egyptians have here carried on with their ancestral dust.
You may remember how disgusted we all were when, among the vast supplies of bones brought to certain mills from Russian slaughter-houses, it was reported that human bones collected from Crimean battle-fields were freely mixed with those of cattle, and were all ground up together to enrich British soil.
Still more hideous was the recent digging up of that vast human quarry which lay at the back of our National Gallery; those horrible pits wherein all the dead of London, victims of the Great Plague, were cast wholesale; thence, after only two centuries (and while many of the bones yet retained some semblance of human form), to be dug up and spread over Kensington Gardens as a pleasant fertilising agent to enrich roses and lilies. Thus speedily do all things find their uses.
Doubtless the fields around Paris will for many a year be all the greener by reason of the blood of her murdered sons poured out like water upon every side. Within three short weeks of those dread days the decree was issued that all those ghastly cemeteries, where hundreds of corpses had been piled in "gruesome" heaps, should be covered with fresh soil, and sown with quick-growing grasses, mustard, and tall sunflowers; such crops as might yield both forage and fuel. It may be that joyous children, toddling knee-deep mid those rich grasses, may deem it no rare thing to find a whitening skull upturned by the plough, may even carry it home as some choice plaything.
But it is strange indeed to find a nation such as Egypt once was—the greatest and most civilised of all people—now so literally proving herself (as Ezekiel foretold she would become) "the basest of the nations"; that, not content with converting the bones of thousands and tens of thousands of her ancestors into charcoal, to be used in refining sugar for their degenerate descendants and their foreign taskmasters, she must needs actually make merchandise of her dead. These precious mummies, which in the days of her glory were accounted worthy of such exceeding honour that they were considered the very best security on which to lend money (inasmuch as the Egyptian who had been driven to pawn his deceased father or mother would sooner die than fail to redeem his pledge), now in the hour of Egypt's degradation are valued at so much per ton, and sold to strangers and aliens as a suitable manure for foreign soil.
As you journey towards Memphis you might very recently have chanced to meet long strings of camels, heavily laden with human bone dust from the tombs. Here too, from these old Alexandrian catacombs to the merchant vessels in the harbour, barges laden with brown dust ply to and fro; their cargo is carried on board in baskets, and thrown into the hold, and the vessels deliver their choice goods in British ports at 6l. 10s. per ton, to be mixed with the guano of Peru, and sold at a considerable profit. Several eye-witnesses have told us how they visited the ancient sepulchres while this work was going on, and saw pieces of human bone, small earthenware lamps, and tear-glasses among the dishonoured dust of these myriad Egyptians, who were to be carried over the seas to fertilise English fields. We turned away from Alexandrian catacombs marvelling how many generations may elapse before the coming race deals thus with England's dead.
The bones of bygone generations of old Egyptians are not the only relics with which this present age has dealt ruthlessly. A gentleman told me that a few years ago he had ridden about seven miles into the plain to the east of Alexandria, a spot rarely visited, where to his amazement he found ruins of buildings, pillars, and sepulchres carved in the rock, which he could only compare to those of Arabia Petrea. While he stood there some workmen were employed in dragging forth a sarcophagus carved with intricate figures—a treasure for any museum. Its destination, however, was to be cast into a lime kiln, as being the easiest way to obtain lime for building some modern mosque!
Leaving the Catacombs, we next turned to Pompey's Pillar, which received in its old age a Roman dedication. It was originally the great central pillar of the Serapium—the gorgeous temple of Serapis—second only in its magnificence to the Capitol of Rome. This lofty column stood alone in the centre of a great roofless court, surrounded with pillars and porticoes, all of which it overtopped, so as to be seen by the sailors when far out at sea. Four hundred of the surrounding pillars were still standing in the days of Saladin (so say various Arabian writers), but these were eventually cast into the sea, and now there remains only this mighty column, which the Arabs still call the Pillar of the Colonnades: it stands alone, almost the only specimen of Greek art that could, in size and strength, vie with the old Egyptian work.
As we stood amid the desolate mounds of sand and ruin, we tried to picture to ourselves the once magnificent temple, glittering with all the gorgeous ceremonial of Egyptian worship. It was built entirely of marble, the inner walls being faced with gold. Moreover, it was filled with statues plated with gold, and with votive offerings of solid gold. When the Christians gained the ascendency in the city, the Emperors for many years spared this and other rich temples of their heathen subjects, but at length there came a bishop of Alexandria, so avaricious that he determined to appropriate all this treasnre. So he laid siege to the building and pillaged the temple, storing the gold and precious stones in the cellars of his palace, till he could therewith decorate some costly church with offerings that had cost him nothing, save his good name. For the people no longer called him Theophilus—"Lover of God"—but Lithomanus, "one with a mania for stones," and Chrysolater, "the worshipper of gold."
His nephew, Cyril (the most bigoted, fiery, and intolerant bishop who ever made the standard of the cross hateful in the sight of the heathen), chose this place for his headquarters, and the Temple of Serapis became the Temple of Christ; and its courts gave shelter to those hordes of cruel and ignorant monks who proved their own faith chiefly by such acts of violence as the wholesale plundering of the wealthy Jews, or the barbarous murder of that beautiful heathen maiden Hypatia, who by her subtle teaching of philosophy, no less than by her loveliness, held captive the men of Alexandria, and strove to uphold the falling credit of the gods whom she herself worshipped. Such were the scenes of riot and bloodshed which disgraced the Christian cause in these later days.
But from an earlier century there rose to our memory a far different vision—of the days when the name of the Nazarene was a byeword of contempt, and when the great ones of the earth thronged these courts to do homage to them that were no gods.
At a Christian altar in the city St. Mark was ministering, when an infuriated body of heathen burst into the church, and, dragging him forth, hurried him along to this Great Temple, offering him pardon and safety if he would burn but one little handful of incense to the gods. Steadfast in his faith, he faced that raging sea of idolaters, and calmly met the terrible fate before him. Finding they could nowise shake the loyalty of that solitary, brave Christian, they dragged him to the Bucelus, a precipice by the sea, where stood the State prison. There they left him for-the night, and his peaceful slumbers were gladdened by a glorious vision of the appearance of One who told him that his name was written in the Book of Life. When morning broke his tormentors returned, and dragged him to and fro about the city until he died. Then loving hands rescued that honoured clay, and, burning the body, sent the ashes to be treasured up at Venice.
There are other saintly names intimately associated with this city. St. Anthony, we know, came forth from his cell in Upper Egypt, and travelled to Alexandria to cheer and encourage his brethren in the mines and caves; accompanying the martyrs to their dungeons, and standing fearlessly by them, even in their last dread hour, clad in his white monastic robe, as one nowise shrinking from the crown of martyrdom. This, however, was not in store for him; so when the persecution abated, he returned to his cell, which he had made on a mountain difficult of access, hoping thereby to get beyond reach of the multitudinous visitors, who broke in upon his peaceful solitude. Nevertheless, he tilled a garden in the desert, that he might have refreshment to offer to such as persisted in following him.
In later years he returned to Alexandria, to confound the teaching of the Arians. Even the pagans flocked to hear a man so holy, so learned, and withal so meek and humble. They found him sociable and courteous; and he altogether won their hearts by his gentleness and simple charity to all men. They marvelled how one so wise could choose to live alone in the desert, apart from men and books; but he taught them that he never was alone, and that, as for books, Nature was the great volume which to him supplied the place of all others. So he abode awhile in the city, comforting the sad, and teaching all, and then returned to the desert to dwell, sometimes in his cell, sometimes in his monastery, whence he wrote letters of loving counsel to the Emperor Constantine and his sons, and where finally he died unmolested.
Another of the names best known to us, in the great host of Alexandria's saints and martyrs, is that of St. Catherine. Here it was that the cruel wheel for once refused its office, and flew in pieces so soon as the intended victim was bound to it, striking several of her persecutors with such force that they died. Finally she was beheaded, but ere she died she prayed that her body might not be left in the hands of pagans, and in answer to her prayer the angels came, and, snatching it away from these furious heathen, they carried it to Mount Sinai and there buried it, on the spot where the convent dedicated to St. Catherine now stands.
So great was the multitude of pilgrims who flocked to this holy shrine, that a special order of knighthood was instituted for their protection from the marauding Arabs. These were the Knights of St. Catherine of Mount Sinai. They wore a white habit, whereon was embroidered a half-wheel armed with spikes, and traversed by a sword stained with blood, the instruments of her martyrdom.
Here too it was that St. Jerome came to study under the learned Didymus, who, although blind from his infancy (by reason of ophthalmia, such as is but too common among the Alexandrian infants of the present day), nevertheless, with the assistance of hired readers and copiers, made himself master of every conceivable branch of science, geometry, astronomy, and philosophy, so that he was esteemed a prodigy, and, being also a man of exceeding holiness, was appointed by St. Athanasius to the charge of the great school of Alexandria.
To facilitate his study of the Holy Scriptures, he-got the letters of the alphabet cut in wood, and learned to distinguish them by the touch. So it seems that raised books for the blind are no modern invention, any more than boxes of alphabets, inasmuch as we find one of these saintly fathers counselling a young matron on the education of her family, and recommending that they should in early years be accustomed to play with such boxes of letters carved in wood or ivory.
Yet another name familiar in our ears is that of St. Athanasius, who for forty-six years held high and honourable office as Primate of Alexandria during the troublous times of the Arian heresy. Again and again he was driven from his bishopric, and forced to find refuge in the caves and dens in the desert, though happily the last years of the good old man were years of peace, and he was suffered to end his days calmly, surrounded by his beloved flock. We, who associate his name solely with a dogmatic creed of much later date, rarely picture to ourselves his life of energy, zeal, and devotion; the incessant battle of his life as a Christian general, and the daily hardships which he was called to endure for the faith.
Foremost among his foes was that George of Cappadocia who headed the Arians, and who, from time to time, superseded Athanasius in the Archbishopric. This is that St. George whom Gibbon has thought fit to identify with England's patron saint, though by his showing one little worthy of such honour.
He declares him to have been employed on the commissariat, to provide the army with bacon, an item which he contrived to turn into a mine of wealth for his own pocket. Afterwards he became a zealous convert to Arianism, and was raised by Constantius to the Archepiscopate, when he distinguished himself by the appalling cruelty with which he persecuted the Athanasians—confiscating their goods, branding and torturing some, putting multitudes to death, pillaging houses, burning churches, or profaning them, even polluting and ransacking the cemeteries. Women were forcibly baptized, and such as refused to communicate with him were seized and scourged, while the consecrated elements were forced into their mouths. Such as still retained their constancy of purpose were stripped of their garments and beaten on the face so that none could recognise them, while the men were scourged to death. Thus this loving shepherd of the Alexandrian flock pretended to seek the peace of the Church, and to teach lessons of charity and love.
Not content, however, with persecuting the Arians, he recruited his coffers by plundering the heathen temples, and taxing Christians and Pagans alike, till his oppression became unendurable and the people expelled him from the city. Once more reinstated by Constantius, he held his ground till the accession of Julian, when his day of retribution came. Dragged to prison by his foes, in company with two of his adherents, he there lay twenty-four days, after which the people would wait no longer for their revenge, but, bursting open the prison doors, they murdered the Archbishop and his companions, carried their bodies triumphantly through the city, and threw them into the sea.
Of course such a death, at the hands of the heathen, was speedily described as martyrdom, and canonisation soon followed. Some there were who still doubted the sanctity of "the ex-contractor of Cappadocia," but the Arians stuck by their saint, and in after ages others besides Gibbon have confused his name with that of the real St. George, also born in Cappadocia, who, sixty years previously, had given his life for the faith, being the first martyr in the persecution under Diocletian.
He was a military Tribune, though only twenty years of age; when, being present at a Council assembled by the Emperor to consult how best to crush the Christians, he spoke up for them like a man, and so betrayed his own faith. Then all looked in amazement on the grand beauty of that young face. Nevertheless he was subjected to grievous tortures, in all of which he was miraculously preserved, and such signs and wonders followed, that many were conveirted to the faith, including Athanasius the sorcerer, who had prepared poisonous drinks for him.
Finally he was beheaded, but failed not to reappear from time to time for the encouragement of warriors; and when, during the Crusades, the saint actually appeared to Cœur de Lion, and fought for Godfrey de Bouillon, his fame became undying and romance and chivalry chose him as their patron.
His conflicts with spiritual enemies were very soon materialised into those wars with the Libian Dragon of which England has heard so much. The fable was of rapid growth, inasmuch as the Emperor Constantine had a painting of St. George and the Dragon on the porch of his palace at Constantinople, before St. George of Alexandria had ever been heard of. He had also built a church near the sea and called it by his name, this being the first church dedicated to St. George.
Leaving Pompey's Pillar, we next found ourselves in one of those shady, bowery shrubberies, which all over the East are called gardens, though shade, and nothing but shade, is their chief characteristic. A Turkish band was playing execrably, and we endured half an hour's anguish, after which the musicians happily departed, as it was Friday—the Mahommedan Sabbath—and the faithful were required elsewhere. I believe the Turks, like the Hindoos, pique themselves on their knowledge and love of music, and say it is the one thing of which the English are thoroughly ignorant!
Our drive next lay along the Mahmoudiah Canal, which connects Alexandria with the Rosetta branch of the Nile at Atfeh. It was cut, by command of Mehemet Ali, in the year 1819, the destruction of the old one, eighteen years previously, having ruined Alexandrian trade, by isolating the city from the grand old river. After the death of Sir Ralph Abercrombie, when the British were trying to dislodge the French troops from Alexandria, they cut great sluices through the banks of the canal near Damietta, intending thereby to cut off the garrison from communication with the rest of Egypt, as also to stop the supply of fresh water. In the rush which ensued, the waters of the Lake Aboukir were drained down to the ancient bed of the Lake Mareotis, producing a vast inundation to the east and south of the city—a new feature in the country, which the French soon turned to their own advantage, bringing a flotilla of gunboats to work on this newly created sea.
So the Pasha very wisely determined to make a new canal; but he showed neither wisdom nor mercy in the way he set about it. Vast multitudes of those poor hard-worked and much-oppressed Fellahs, about whom we have lately heard so much, were gathered together—250,000 men, women, and children, half naked, were forced to work in the burning sun, under command of brutal task-masters, who, as in the days of Pharaoh, did not hesitate freely to use their scourge of cords, to encourage the weary.
Not the men only, but women and little children, were lashed till they literally streamed with blood. No regular tools were provided; each brought his own poor basket of palm-leaves to carry away the sand and mud, which they scooped up with their hands. No wages were given, and only the most miserable food; so it was small wonder that, by the very lowest computation, 23,000 of these poor wretches perished from starvation, disease, and exhaustion. Their bodies, being shovelled in with the sand and mud, helped to raise the canal banks, making them at the same time into a horrible, ghastly cemetery. But the fifty miles of canal were completed in one year (some accounts say in six weeks!); and human life in Egypt is of small importance when balanced against a great man's will.
From first to last these Egyptian canals have weighed heavily on the labourers; for what with artificial lakes and rivers, means of locomotion or of irrigation, each successive generation seems to have devised for itself some new experiment in waterworks.
In the very first reign of which we have trustworthy historical records—namely, that of Menes, who lived about 500 years before Abraham—we find him undertaking, and successfully accomplishing, a trifling little alteration in the position of the Nile. He found that its natural course somewhat interfered with his plans for the beautiful new city of Memphis; so, without more ado, he resolved to turn the mighty river aside, and compel it to flow in a new bed to the eastward. This he accomplished by constructing a dyke, with mounds and embankments so strong, that the amazed stream found itself effectually bridled, and calmly flowed in its new channel.
The next great work of the sort was that vast artificial lake constructed in the reign of Mœceris, for purposes of irrigation—a lake 300 feet in depth, and measuring 450 miles in circumference—which, being fed by the mother Nile through countless artificial channels, became a huge store-house, wherein were treasured the waters of the annual overflow. These, being imprisoned by mighty locks and floodgates, were therein retained till the earth had drunk up the last drop of the Nile's great gift. Then, when the thirsty land once more gasped and craved for refreshment, these precious waters flowed forth, by a network of veins, and gave new life to the parched soil. It is supposed that to this great reservoir was partly due old Egypt's safety in those dread years of famine, when she alone had corn enough and to spare, both for herself and for the starving nations around.
We also hear of various attempts to. connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean—ancient versions of the great Suez Canal. The first who seems to have thought of this—or, at all events, to have attempted it—was Sesostris. His work was taken up by Pharaoh-Neco, who wasted 100,000 lives of his miserable people before he would give in, and who was at length forbidden by an oracle to continue the work, as it would open Egypt to the invasion of strangers.
It was doubtless to this great canal that Ezekiel, his contemporary, alludes in describing Pharaoh as the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his river, "which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself." And it was as the penalty of his pride in his own works that the sentence of the Most High went forth against him: "Behold, I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste" (or, as the margin gives it, "wastes of waste") "and desolate, from Migdol to Syene, even unto the border of Ethiopia." It shall be "a base kingdom, the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations." 
Again, in comparing Pharaoh's overweening greatness to that of a mighty cedar, overtopping the forest, like unto a shadowing shroud, Ezekiel says: "The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running about his plants, and sent out her little conduits unto all the trees of the field. Therefore his height was exalted . . . because of the multitude of the waters, when he sent them forth." "Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters. But because his heart was lifted up in his height, therefore it was appointed that the mighty tree should fall; and the great waters were stayed; and all the trees of the field, 'even all that drink water' fainted and became black because of the failing of the streams." This was the fate appointed for "Pharaoh and all his multitude." These words, of course, allude to his fresh-water canals and vast systems of irrigation; but in the following chapter another reference seems intended to the great connecting link between the seas, when Pharaoh is addressed, "A dragon in the seas, which camest forth with thy rivers, and troublest the waters with thy feet, and fouledst their rivers."
This vast work, which Pharaoh-Neco failed to complete, was carried on by Darius, who actually did connect the two seas, and no doubt there was as gay a gala day on that occasion as any that were witnessed in January 1870. This great canal was perfected by Ptolemy II.; nevertheless, for some reason unknown, it seems to have fallen into disrepair and disuse, and though still distinctly traceable in many places, it continued for many long ages to be considered only a monument of folly and presumption; and a treasure for antiquaries.
Now, part of that old canal is the very bed through which the new fresh water canal flows to Suez from Ismailia,. having been brought thither from Cairo, by M. de Lesseps, as a preliminary to beginning his mighty work; and in spite of unnumbered difficulties from every side and every source, he accomplished (without oppressing the people) that which all the wisdom of the Pharaohs failed to work out, and has given to the nations a new and wonderful river, a broad highway for the shipping and the traffic of all ends of the earth; a river ninety miles in length, averaging rather above three hundred feet in width, and twenty-six in depth. We trust that a better fate is reserved for these great waters than attended the works of the proud Pharaohs; and that the blessing of heaven may rest upon Egypt's new river—a blessing which not priests and people alone, but also the crowned heads of many nations, both Christian and Mahommedan, united so solemnly to implore, when, ere the great canal was opened for traffic, each nation present did in its own tongue and after its own manner most earnestly commend this (one of the mightiest works ever wrought by human hands) to the special care of the Almighty Ruler of the Floods.
Wondertul as were the means employed in overcoming the tremendous difficulties which at every turn of this vast work uplifted their hydra heads, nothing was more astonishing to the people of Egypt than the fact, that so far from having been as a new grindstone for the faces of the poor, it supplied toiling myriads with regular work at fair wages; a boon in itself inestimable, and one which shows M. de Lesseps' canal in very glowing colours, as compared with those of his predecessors. It is impossible to stand on the banks of the Mahmoudiah Canal, and look on its glassy waters, without a shuddering memory of the twenty-three thousand men, women, and little children (some say far more) who only sixty years ago perished in making it, welcoming the death that freed them from torture, and laying down their poor exhausted bodies, to find rest at last in those great mudbanks at which, in hunger and burning heat, they had toiled so wearily.
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There is more than one meaning of Alexandria discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.
the ancient metropolis of Lower Egypt, so called from its founder, Alexander the Great (about B.C. 333). It was for a long period the greatest of existing cities, for both Nineveh and Babylon had been destroyed, and Rome had not yet risen to greatness. It was the residence of the kings of Egypt for 200 years. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and only incidentally in the New. Apollos, eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures, was a native of this city (Acts 18:24). Many Jews from Alexandria were in Jerusalem, where they had a synagogue (Acts 6:9), at the time of Stephen's martyrdom. At one time it is said that as many as 10,000 Jews resided in this city. It possessed a famous library of 700,000 volumes, which was burned by the Saracens (A.D. 642). It was here that the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. This is called the Septuagint version, from the tradition that seventy learned men were engaged in executing it. It was, however, not all translated at one time. It was begun B.C. 280, and finished about B.C. 200 or 150. (See VERSION.)
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An important seaport of Egypt, on the left bank of the Nile. It was founded by Alexander the Great to replace the small borough called Racondah or Rakhotis, 331 B.C. The Ptolemies, Alexander's successors on the throne of Egypt, soon made it the intellectual and commercial metropolis of the world. Cæsar who visited it 46 B.C. left it to Queen Cleopatra, but when Octavius went there in 30 B.C. he transformed the Egyptian kingdom into a Roman province. Alexandria continued prosperous under the Roman rule but declined a little under that of Constantinople.
When, after the treaty of October, 642, the Byzantines abandoned it to Amru, the Arab invaders hastened its ruin owing to the conqueror's impatience to build a new town, Cairo, and to transfer to it the government of Egypt henceforth a Mussulman province. The ruin had been great under the Arabians, but it became worse under the Turkish rule when the victories of Selim had subjugated the valley of the Nile in 1517. Bonaparte on the 2d of July, 1798, did not find more than 7,000 inhabitants in the town. Since then, thanks to the efforts of Mehemet Ali and to the great political and commercial events of the nineteenth century, the city of Alexandria has become once more the first port of the Eastern Mediterranean with 235,000 inhabitants.
Christianity was brought to Alexandria by the Evangelist St. Mark. It was made illustrious by a lineage of learned doctors such as Pantænus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen; it has been governed by a series of great bishops amongst whom Athanasius and Cyril must be mentioned. Under Dioscurus, successor of Cyril, Eutychianism appeared and the native population saw in it an excellent means of freeing themselves from Byzantium. Their zeal for this heresy transformed the town into a battle-field where blood was shed more than once during the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries. At last the patriarchal church of St. Mark found itself divided into two communions; the native Copts bound to error, and the foreign Greeks faithful to orthodoxy. After the Arabian conquest, the Greek patriarchate remained vacant for many years; at the time of the Byzantine emperors and under the Ottoman sultan its holders were obliged to live habitually at Constantinople. On the other hand, the Copt patriarchate transferred itself to Cairo and saw most of its disciples become Mussulmans.
Alexandria, named after Alexander the Great, was founded in 331 BC. For nearly 300 years it was the capital of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. Some famous Greek scientists, such as Euclid of Alexandria lived there or studied there. It was home to the largest library in the ancient Western world, the Library of Alexandria. It was a wealthy city in its heyday, and remained the main way Egyptian grain went to Rome. Rome depended greatly on Egyptian grain. But after the Muslim conquest it was less important.
The Muslims conquered Egypt in 641 AD, but did not want to have their capital at Alexandria, because it was too far away from Arabia. So the Islamic invaders made a new capital on the east side of the Nile, and called it Fustat.
Alexandria nowadays has 3.8 million people. It is the main harbor of Egypt. It has two airports and three big stadia: Alexandria stadium, Harras el hadoud stadium and Borg el-arab stadium in the Borg el-arab industrial city.
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