Founded by Alexander the Great and later turned into the seat of the Queen Cleopatra, Alexandria was the home for the Royal Library with its 400,000 scrolls and legendary Pharos Lighthouse – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Once the cultural and intellectual center it lost its primary significance, and by the XVIII century became a major center of the international shipping industry and trading. Modern Alexandria is the largest Egyptian seaport and the second biggest city in the country with some features preserved from the Greco-Roman era.

History

In 332 BC the troops of Alexander III of Macedon winning a several glorious victories entered Egypt, where the famous Emperor was received as a liberator. On the way to the Temple of the Oracle of Amun located in Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert he stopped in a small port town of Rhakotis (Ra-Katit), where decided to build a great city of Alexandria, which was intended to be the new Hellenistic center in Egypt. Alexander designed the plan for the city and put his chief architect Dinocrates in charge of the construction.
 
The city was planned in squares with two main streets and five districts – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon – named after the first five letters of Greek Alphabet. Alpha was meant to be the royal district with palaces, temples, libraries, gardens and museums; Greek aristocrats lived in Beta district, commoners – in Gamma district; national minorities such as Syrians, Persians and Jews were placed in Delta and native Egyptians in Epsilon. In a couple of months Alexander the Great departed Egypt, leaving here his governor Cleomenes, who continued constructing and expending the city. Alexander himself never returned to his city. It is believed that the general Ptolemy brought the body of the Emperor, who died at the age of 32 in Babylon, to Alexandria; for some centuries his tomb was popular with travelers, Roman general Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) among them. However, later the burial was lost and never rediscovered again.
 
By the middle of the III century BC Alexandria was the biggest city in the world, it remained the second most important city after Rome for some centuries more. In 80 BC it fell under the Roman jurisdiction, in 47 BC it was besieged by the Ptolemies and in 30 BC captured by Octavian, future founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor Augustus (63 BC-14 AD).
 
Alexandria was destroyed and rebuilt several times – in 115 during the second Jewish–Roman war known as Kitos War the city was greatly damaged, later it was restored by Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138), though in 365 it was hit by devastating tsunami and once again experienced massive destruction.
 
Alexandria was invaded by the Sassanid Empire in 619, ten years later Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (575-641) gained back the power for another 12 years. In 641 the 14-month-battle ended with Byzantine defeat, Arabs under the General Amr ibn al-As (585-664) captured Alexandria.

 
In 1517, after the Battle of Ridaniya, Ottoman Empire seized control of the city; in 1798 the troops of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) assaulted Alexandria, which remained under their control until 1801, when British army won over the French. Some ten years later Ottoman commander Muhammad Ali of Egypt (1769-1849) began rebuilding the city; however, in 1882 it was bombarded and occupied by British marine forces.
 
In 1954 in order to prevent British army withdrawal from the Suez Canal the chief of Israeli Military Intelligence Binyamin Gibli (1919-2008) initiated Operation Susannah, which meant carrying out some terroristic attacks in Alexandria, though the attempt bombed resulting in huge political scandal in Israel. The same year Muslim Brotherhood unsuccessfully attempted assassinating the then Deputy Prime Minister of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) in Alexandria.
 
Today the Pearl of the Mediterranean is rather the cultural than political or economic center of Egypt. It attracts visitors from all over the world with its atmosphere more than sights, though

Geography


Alexandria is located in northern part of Egypt at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, between latitudes 31°12'N and longitudes 29°55'E, about 183 kilometers northwest of Cairo.
 
The city, divided into six districts, covers an area of about 2,679 square kilometers with its urban development spreading towards the east; the coastline of Alexandria extends on no less than 70 kilometers, from the north-western side of the Nile Delta to Mariout Lake in the east. The coast is dotted with beautiful bays and harbors.

Climate

Köppen-Geiger classification (BWh), Alexandria has a hot desert climate, influenced by the Mediterranean Sea. It is characterized by cool rainy winters and moderately hot summers. The best time to visit Alexandria is the spring (March-June) or the autumn (September-November). The hottest month is August, the coldest – January.
 
The temperature in winter can vary from 20°C (68°F) to 10°C (50°F); average high in spring is 23°C (73°F), average low – 14°C (57°F). Summer average maximum temperature goes up to 31°C (88°F), average minimum is 21°C (69°F); autumn average high is 25°C (77°F), average low – 10°C (50°F).
 
As a rule, evenings in Alexandria are cooler than daytime. Humidity is high throughout the year; total annual rainfall is around 200 mm (7.9 inches).

Economy

Alexandria is one of the most important financial, trade and industrial centers of Egypt. Many worldwide known banks have their branches in the city; as well there is a stock market there.

The main sources for filling the local budget are oil-refining, textile, paper, metallurgical, food, pharmaceutical, tanning, woodworking, tobacco, metal-working, shipbuilding and petrochemical industries. There are factories producing household appliances, construction materials, tyres, chemical fertilizers, ammunition…
 
Tourism is yet another source of income; the city annually hosts more than 2.5 million foreign tourists.

 

Population

According to 2008 data, the population of the city reaches 4,187,509 people. The biggest district is Montaza with 1,190,287 dwellers; eastern district of Shark houses 985,786 inhabitants; Amriya has 845,845; there are 520,450 people living in Wassat district; 86,374 – in Agami; 145,558 – in Gomrok and 113,209 – in Borg El Arab.
 
Once multinational Alexandria now has less than 2 percent of non-Arabs, mainly Copts and Greeks, though there are small numbers of Palestinians, Libyans, Sudanese, Russians, Armenians, Italians, British and French living in the city.

Festivals

The buzzing life of Alexandria does not really depend on the season – this is a city of innumerable annual Islamic and Coptic holidays, festivals and events as well as art shows, live music concerts, theatre performances.
 
Every year in March the city hosts “International Book Fair”; there are two important events held in July – Theatre Festival and Arabic Music Festival. In September the city welcomes cinemagoers for Alexandria International Festival of Cinema; mid-October is the time for the World Festival of Alexandrias – various events which take place in all the cities around the world named Alexandria. The annual International Puppet Festival gathers famous artists who present their shows and participate in different workshops; once in four years you can attend Alexandria International Biennale of Arts.

Getting There

The main advantage of Alexandria is its perfect location, easy to reach from any destination by any means of transportation.
 
The fastest and the most comfortable way is, of course, by plane. Since December 2011 Alexandria's main airport is Borg el Arab Airport serves people coming from Middle East, North Africa, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon.