With a population of just over 4 million, Alexandria, "the shining Pearl of the Mediterranean" is the second largest city in Egypt and its largest seaport. It was constructed in the 4th century BC, under the tutelage of Alexander the Great – its namesake and founder – to serve as the seat of Greek rule in the Eastern world. According to myth, Homer, the great poet of the ancient world appeared to Alexander in a dream and told him of the city he would build, “an island set in ocean deep… lies off far Egypt’s rich and fertile land, and the name of the island called Pharos”.

Alexander would not live to see his finished monument himself, as he travelled further east on his journey of conquest and discovery never to return, but Homer’s prophecy was to come true. Indeed, from its inception, Alexandria rose to quickly become the most important city of the Hellenistic world after Rome, both in terms of size and wealth. It was host to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. During the supremacy of the Byzantine Empire, Alexandria served as a centre of such importance to rival even the imperial throne of Constantinople. Although Egypt’s mediaeval Islamic rulers founded Cairo as the capital city of Egypt, Alexandria remained an important intellectual and cultural centre despite its decline in political importance.

Today, Alexandria has retained much of its ancient charm. It is a middle ground between the Mediterranean world of the ancient Greeks, and Islamic culture of the Middle East that came to dominate Egypt in latter centuries. This synthesis of East and West serves to mark Alexandria out as a truly unique city with an atmosphere like no other.


Alexandria has been the setting for events revolving around some of the most important figures in history. From Alexander and the Ptolemaic dynasty, to Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, then later Augustus, the city has an extremely rich heritage. To this day, monuments to a distant and ancient time still stand to be admired. Pompeii’s Pillar was built 1800 years ago in honour of the Emperor Diocletian, the first ruler of the Byzantine Empire after its formal split with Rome.

Similarly, for those historically minded, the limestone Tombs of Al-Anfushi date back to 250 B.C. and are decorated in exquisite engravings of ancient Egyptian Gods and the rituals of daily life. For a city with such a strong cultural history, it is no surprise that Alexandria also has a fine selection of museums.The most notable among the many on offer is the Graeco-Roman Museum, housed in a historical building that is host to an impressive collection of remnants from the Roman Age. Qaitbay’s Citadel, built in 1477 is another site of great significance. The fortress was the home of the sultan Qaitbay, who became Egypt’s greatest ever patron of the arts.

Modern Alexandria also contains many marvels of more recent times. The [ Bibliotheca Alexandrina] is a massive and world famous library and research centre. It was constructed on the site of the former Library of Alexandria which was, under the Ptolemaics, the largest library in the world. It was destroyed in c. 400 A.D. The city also has an impressive array of palaces, which were occupied by the former Egyptian royal family. Montaza Palace and Ras Al-Teen Palace are examples of some of the most impressive architecture in the country. Built in 1892 by Abbas Hilmi Pasha, the last khevive (lord) of Egypt, Montaza Palace is a sight to behold on the water’s edge.


There are many shopping malls in Alexandria. Zahran Mall is excellent and has a good selection of cinemas, which show a good selection of films. Mina Mall and Deeb Mall are also worth a mention. 2006 has also seen the opening of San Stefano a Grand Plaza, with an excellent selection of shops. For those hoping for a more traditional experience, the city also has many markets in the traditional Islamic style, and trinket stores tucked away in the dusty back alleys. There are many street vendors, although they can sometimes be slightly intimidating. If you are up for a good bargain, there is no one better to haggle with though! The city also has a particularly good range of bookshops, some of which specialise in international books and magazines in a variety of languages.

Nightlife And Eating Out

Alexandria has a decent selection of nightclubs that serve alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic beverages. With live music, famous singers, oriental dancers and world famous show stars, the San Giovanni Night Club and adjoining San Giovanni King’s Bar in the [ San Giovanni Hotel] is one of the best places to go for a good time. Similarly the Qatr El-Nada Garden which overlooks the sea serves a variety of breezy cocktails, and stays open until 3.00am. Most hotels in Alexandria have good night time entertainments, and a selection of lounges and bars. Spitfire Bar and Havana Bar are also both excellent watering holes.

There are also a wide variety of restaurants catering to local and international styles. One of the most famous is called Elite, and it was the favourite hangout of some of Alexandria’s most notable inhabitants, such as D. H. Lawrence, Laurence Durrell and Edith Piaf. Café Trianon is another excellent choice, although a little on the pricey side – the poshest café in Alexandria is famed for apparently the best om ali (bread and butter pudding) in Egypt!

Tourist Information

Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA)Ramleh Station, Saad Zaghlul StreetAlexandria

  • Tel: +203 807 985
Marine Passenger Station, Alexandria PortAlexandria
  • Tel: +203 803 494
  • []


Most travellers fly into Cairo International Airport ([ CAI]), which is well served by [ Egyptair] as well as [ British Airways], [ Air France] and most major airliners. From Cairo there are cheap and frequent flights to Alexandria Airport (ALY) 8km/5 miles to the south east of Alexandria, and Borg el Arab Airport (HBE) which is 60km/38 miles south west.British Airways fly to Borg el Arab from London Heathrow on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday, with flights arriving at around 20:20. They fly there on other days as well stopping at Beirut along the way.