Founded and named after Alexander the Great, Egypt’s largest seaport has a mind-blowing history. Alexandria was one of the most powerful ancient cities in the world and home of the famous Queen Cleopatra.
This cosmopolitan metropolis is sacred ground and rich with legends that are iconic today. The city has survived many blows, from hostile takeovers to natural catastrophes, and it has developed into a fusion of its ancient past and modern present.
Whether you’re a history buff or not, this remarkable city will give you an experience like no other.
To say that Alexandria has an abundance of ruins is an understatement, however many of them are underwater, have been destroyed or have been built over by the modern-day city. The Great Library was considered the most impressive in the world in ancient times but now it has been remodelled into the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina. This brilliant, innovative building is considered the most groundbreaking cultural landmark in the country and is a must-see.
If you want to take in some of the remaining antiquity out in the streets, Pompey’s Pillar is one of the most famous ancient Roman monuments still standing in Alexandria. The Romans certainly left their mark in the city, including the huge ancient Roman burial site called the Catacombs of Kom ash-Suqqafa. Tours of the catacombs, their relics and their sarcophagi are available.
Eat and Drink
Due to its location and foreign influences, Alexandria boasts a wealth of international cuisines in city restaurants, including Greek and Italian as well as French and American, to name a few.
Traditional Alexandrian staples include fresh fish, particularly eel (a local favourite), bread and beans. Alexandria has a reputation for the best seafood restaurants in the country. Alexandrians also enjoy kebabs and koftas, derived from Turkish, Greek and Arabic influences.
Egyptians love their strong black coffee, called ahwa. Coffee shops are communal meeting places where locals enjoy their hit of caffeine with honey-syrup soaked sweets such as baklava, followed by a smoke of the fragrant tobacco pipe called shisha.
Alexandrians are also known for their ice-cream, which has a particular consistency they claim can be found nowhere else in Egypt.
Where to Stay
The city’s high-end accommodation is primarily located by the water, further away from Alexandria’s main historical area. East Alexandria boasts a number of exclusive resorts and is a popular accommodation area for wealthy Egyptians and foreigners. West Alexandria is also a popular resort destination but usually more affordable than East Alexandria.
Downtown Alexandria is the heart of the city. If you stay here you will be within walking distance of main attractions, but the hustle and bustle may be too much for some. Stanley Beach is a popular base for tourists as it combines beachside location with a vibrant ambience.
Though there are malls in the city, such as the chic and popular San Stefano Mall with its international labels, food court and cinemas, but tourists can engage in a truly local shopping experience by wandering day and night through the city’s souk district. As well as an abundance of fresh food, you will find spice vendors, herbalists, trinkets and souvenirs.
Alexandria Like a Local
In the evenings, Alexandria’s teenagers tend to flock to the waterfront at the Qaitbay Fort where vendors sell a variety of knick-knacks. This is where the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the wonders of the ancient world, once stood. Visit this idyllic place for a stunning ocean view, particularly at sunset.