Borrowing its name from Alexander the Great, the city of Alexandria has seen days of unmatched glory reflected in its architecture including its stunning palaces, its reservoir of ancient knowledge and its rich customs and traditions. Though, many of these ancient marvels are now in ruins, there are plenty of new structures that have been resurrected from the remains of the old, and many others that have weathered the test of times.
If you are looking to explore Alexandria, a quaint city that will take you back in time, here are the top five places that you must visit:
One of the greatest libraries in the world, Alexandria’s Bibliotheca has an impressive selection of ancient scriptures as well as modern day literature of Egypt. A major cultural venue in Egypt and built as an attempt to recreate the Great Library that Alexandria once had, the Bibliotheca can accommodate as many as eight million books and 2500 readers at one time. Shaped in the form of a gigantic disc, the outer granite structure of the building has pictograms, hieroglyphs and symbols from more than 120 different human scripts. Four museums, a planetarium, a conference centre also add to the library’s grandeur.
A palace built by Khedive Abbas Hilmy as his summer retreat, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the 19th century Montazah Palace is surrounded by lush gardens that are its prime attraction. The garden premises have a sandy cove as also a semi-private beach and a Victorian style bridge that add to its beauty. Designed with the fusion of Moorish and Florentine architecture, the garden has several restaurants and a luxury hotel that was once a royal residence. As the palace is off limits now, tourists admire its spectacular beauty from the gardens.
Built in the honour of the Roman Emperor, Diocletian; Pompey’s Pillar is a Roman triumphal column that was constructed in the 4th century. One of the largest monolithic columns to be ever created, Pompey’s Pillar is the only remaining part of the larger temple complex which is believed to be constructed with marbles and decorated with precious metals. The pillar complex still has some of the tunnels that were part of the temple that stood here before, and tourists are free to explore these tunnels.
Queen Cleopatra was a mystery for as long as she lived and some believe that her sunken underwater palace carries an extension of her personality, one that requires diving into the depths to reveal truth. History says that a 1400-year old earthquake pushed Cleopatra’s Palace into the sea along with Alexandria’s old lighthouse, once a wonder of the ancient world. Tourists are ever since offered scuba diving tours to see the remains of palace and the antiques that it went under with.
Souk El Attarine
A labyrinth of narrow alleyways lined with merchant shops selling artefacts, clothing, food among other things; Souk El Attarine takes you back in time with its old-world charm. It is here that you can find everything from Egyptian sheeshas to belly dancing costumes, spices and antiques. But the souk remains largely popular for its perfume and beauty products. Those who fancy it, there are shops selling jasmine, rose water, amber as well as henna. One can also find popular attractions such as Al-Zaytuna Mosque, Khaldounia and Madrasa Al Asfouriya here.