I started my exploration of Egypt in Alexandria, home of Hellenism, Cleopatra, and Constantine Cavafy. Alexander the Great's city has changed a lot in the last 2300 years, however its cosmopolitan
feel still lingers in the air.
The first sight that I visited was the Kom el-Shuqafa Catacombs, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. The catacombs can be reached by descending a circular staircase down to multiple subterranean levels, where Egyptian, Greek, and Roman culture converge.
Above is a photograph of one of the tombs that is contained within the catacomb. It features prominent Egyptian iconography with a distinct Roman style and execution. The depictions within this catacomb highlight the cosmopolitan nature of Alexandria during the Hellenistic and Roman period. I also entered the tombs of Caracalla, named after the Roman Emperor who persecuted the Christians buried within the tomb.
After the catacomb, I proceeded to Pompey's Pillar, or as the locals call in Amud el-Sawari. Don't be fooled as I was, this pillar is not actually in honor of Pompey (who was stabbed and then beheaded off the coast of Alexandria by imperial officials). Instead the column was erected in the third century A.D. by the Emperor Diocletian in honor of an Egyptian rebellion that he quelled.
Pompey's Column, flanked by two sphinxes, is one of the largest free standing monoliths created in the ancient world.
Perhaps the most exciting site that I saw while in Alexandra was the Citadel of Qaitbay, which stands guard on Alexandria's Mediterranean coast. Alone, the citadel is a beautiful and impressive piece of Ottoman architecture, enough to make any empire think twice about attacking the city. It is surrounded by the rolling sea and locals enjoying the weather and fishing off the pier. It is the base of this citadel that really caught my interest. This fifteenth century citadel was build on the foundation of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. While the lighthouse has long been destroyed, this citadel is the only glimpse we have of the architectural marvel that was the Lighthouse of Alexandria. (This counts as seeing a wonder of the ancient world right?)
|Citadel of Qaitbay|