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19 June 2008


Building Alexandria

By Hoda Nassef

The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria, known as "The Pearl of the Mediterranean", has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern; its ambience and cultural heritage distance it from the rest of the country although it is actually only 225 km. from Cairo.

Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Greco-Roman Egypt, its status as a beacon of culture symbolized by Pharaohs, the legendary lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Alexandria was also the centre of learning in the ancient world. But ancient Alexandria declined, and when Napoleon landed, he found a sparsely populated fishing village.

From the 19th century Alexandria took a new role, as a focus for Egypt's commercial and maritime expansion. This Alexandria has been immortalized by writers such as E. M. Forster and Kefafy. Generations of immigrants from Greece, Italy and the Levant settled here and made the city synonymous with commerce, cosmopolitanism and bohemian culture.
Alexandria is a city to explore at random. It's as important to enjoy the atmosphere as it is to see the sights.

Old Alexandria

Dino-crates built the Hepatisation, the causeway between Pharos and the mainland. This divided the harbours into the Western and Eastern. The Eastern harbour was really where the old harbour from the Middle Ages was located.

Of modern Alexandria, the oldest section is along the causeway which links what was once Pharos island with the mainland and includes the districts of Gumrok (‘customs’; the oldest dating to about the 16th century and known as the customs district) Anfushi, and Ras-el-Tin The latter two districts date to about the period of Mohammed Ali (1805-49). Collectively, these districts are known to westerners as the Turkish Quarter. They have had a number of ups and downs over the years, particularly due to the plague during the 17th century. The area forms somewhat of a T-shape, dividing the Eastern Harbour from the Western Harbour.

This section of Alexandria is known to us more from books then what we may actually see in the area. Where the Pharos Lighthouse once stood, is now occupied by the Fort of Quit Bay, out on the area that circles up around the top of Eastern Harbour forming the eastern section of the top of the T. Heading south from the Fort of Quit Bay, we come to the stunning Abu El-Abbas Mosque. West of this is the Anfushi Tombs, some of the oldest in Alexandria and well worth a visit.

Central Alexandria

The Underwater Discoveries

Relatively new discoveries in the Eastern Harbour involve two different sites. Around Fort Quit Bay the site has unearthed hundreds of objects, including what experts believe are the remains of the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the ancient wonders of the world.

In the southeast part of the harbour archaeologists have apparently found the Royal Quarters, including granite columns and fabulous statues, including one of Isis and a sphinx with a head thought to be that of Cleopatra's father. There may vary well be an underwater exhibit in the future!
Heading towards the mainland past the Abu El-Abbes Mosque and connecting with Sharia Faransa Street leads to the Suq district. Just before entering the district one finds the interesting little Tirana Mosque In the Suq district, one finds Alexandria's only surviving ‘wakalas’, which is a part of the El-Chorbagui Mosque complex founded in 1757. This was also the area where Alexandria's Jewish community lived, but most have now migrated to Israel. Different areas have specialized in different goods and one may find all manner of products from jewellery to Medicinal plants (Suq El-Magharba) to Bedouin clothing (Suq El-Libya).

Continuing down Faransa one passes Midan Tahrir and the street turns into Salah Salem, and finally connects with Al-Horreya. However, Midan Tahrir, popularly called Manshiya, has considerable history. The areas were once home to Diplomats and known as Place Des Consuls, but after the statue of Mohammed Ali was placed here in 1873 the name was changed to Midan Mohammed Ali. In 1882, it was bombarded by the British and all but destroyed. The Alexandria Stock Exchange was once located here, and it was from the midan (square) that Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal.

The street named Al-Horreya ('tariq' - route - Abdel-Nasser) which transverses the area from east to west was in ancient times the Canopic Way with the Gate of the Sun at the eastern end and the Gate of the Moon at the western end. At that time, there were probably columns lining the road. The main north to South Street, now Sharia (street) El-Nebi (prophet) Daniel, ran from the East Harbour all the way to Lake Harbour on Lake Mariott.

Just south of the intersection of Al-Horreya and el-Nebi Daniel was the site traditionally thought to be the burial place of Alexander the Great, but that has not been located, and may in fact be beneath the Mosque of Nebi Daniel, or in a nearby Greek Necropolis. The famous Alexandria Library was probably nearby. However, the only real antiquities site that can be viewed in the area is Kom el-Dikka; a small Roman theatre that has been excavated. Nearby is also a bath house of the era. To the east is the Antiques District where dealers sell antiquities, books, old weapons and furniture. Here is also the Attarine Mosque, which was once a church dedicated to Euthanasia.

Further south along the tramway is Pompey's pillar and nearby the Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa.

Wandering along el-Nebo Daniel are several other attractions, including the French Cultural Centre, and nearby the Eliahud Hanabi Synagague, which is the only active synagogue in Alexandria and houses the combined treasures of the seven former Alexandrian synagogues.
Back to the north on el-Nebi Daniel, next to the harbour where Ramla station is now located at Midan Saad Zaghloul was the location of the Cesareum. This was a magnificent temple begun by Cleopatra for her lover Antony and subsequently completed by their enemy Octavian, though none of this remains in situ. Nearby is the well known Cecil Hotel, built in 1930, Sommerset Maugham stayed here, as did Winston Churchill, and the British Secret Service one maintained a suite for their operations.

Midan Saad Zaghloul is the entertainment heart and nerve centre of Alexandria. Here, as terminals and train stations provide a backdrop for cinemas, restaurants and night spots. It was the setting of Lawrence Darrell’s Alexandria Quartet and the famous Alexandria coffee houses. The square is dominated by an impressive monument dedicated to Saad Zaghloul, a former national leader.

The Greek Quarter and Rosetta District

Back on Al-Horreya heading east, as we pass the Greco-Roman Museum (a notable museum well worth a visit) we move into the Greek Quarter of Alexandria, one of the most beautiful residential districts. The wonderful old villas include the massive Miclavez building, which is opposite the Town Hall and nearby the Adda Complex built in 1929. This is where the wealthy Greeks lived at the turn of the century, and the streets are still named after the Ptolemaic, Pharaonic, Abbasid and Fatimid rulers. Further east is the Greek Orthodox patriarchate and the Church of St. Saba.

Further east, Al-Horreya opens into a beautiful green area known as the Shallalat (waterfalls) Gardens, which was once the fortification of Bab Rosetta. But in 1905, Alexandria created a garden area here with waterfalls and the only Alexandria cistern which can be viewed. This cistern is an example of those which once dotted Alexandria providing fresh water to her inhabitants.

The Corniche

The Corniche is doted with Casinos built on stilts and rows of beach huts. The avenue here did not always exist, for until the 20th century, the areas remained fortified by a five mile long wall with towers which had protected the city since the 13th Century. In the early 1900s, a strip of land with a width of about 100 years was reclaimed from the sea, and the area became popular with beach goers. That is no longer the case, but it remains a lively area of Alexandria.

On the western end of the Corniche near Silsila (Chain) where the New Alexandria Library is being constructed is the Shatby Tombs which are said to be the oldest in Alexandria. Nearer the San Stefano area across the tram tracks is also the Royal Jewellery Museum.

El-Mahmoudia Canal

A walk along the Mahmudiya Canal brings one face to face with the working class and industrial districts of Alexandria, and is pleasant along the old paved road bordered by the canal and sycamore trees. South of the Greek district along the canal is the Antoniadis Gardens, which seep with history. Here, the poet Callimatius lived and taught, and in 640 AD, Pompilius prevented the King of Syria from capturing Alexandria. But less then a year later, Amr Ibn el-Aas camped here, before taking the city. The well known Water Traffic Circle is also in the area.
Here one finds the Zoological Gardens, the small Museum of Natural History and the Fine Arts Museum in the Moharrem Bey area, and a Rose Garden. The beautiful public gardens extend into the surrounding area where the Antoniadis Palace is located, and there is even a nearby Roman tomb.

El-Montazah & Montazah Gardens

This area along the coast about 15 miles east of Alexandria's old district along the Corniche is where many of the modern Alexandrian hotels are located, as well as one of the elegant heritage hotels. Khedive Abbas II built the Salamlik as a residence. Here also is the magnificent Montazah Palace.

Nostalgia of the Past

Il y avait une fois un pays bien-aimé,
There was once a city well-loved;
Au ciel bleu d’azur et au sable doré.
With an azure bleu sky and golden sand.
Nous marchions les pieds nus tout le long du rivage,
We walked bare-footed throughout the long beach,
Le soleil sur la peau et le vent au visage.
The sun on our skins and the wind on our faces.
Nous plongions notre corps dans la mer cristalline,
We plunged our bodies into the crystalline sea,
Et le soir nous dansions au son des mandolines...
And at night we danced at the sound of mandolins…
Ce fut un temps jadis, quand nous avions vingt ans,
It was a jaded time, when we were twenty,
Nous étions jeunes et beaux comme un jour de printemps...
We were young and beautiful like a spring day…
Terre de notre enfance, terre où nous sommes nés,
Soil of our childhood, soil of our birth,
D’où un cruel destin nous a déracinés,
From where we were snatched by a cruel destiny,
Nous étions tous unis, on nous a divisés,
Where once we were united, they have separated us,
Et par le monde entier nous sommes parsemés.
And throughout the whole world we were dispersed.
Les jours se sont enfuis et nous cherchons en vain
The days are far apart and we search in vain
Ces moments si précieux d’un passé si lointain...
For those precious moments of a past so far away…
Malgré l’envol du temps et les ans écoulés
Despite the flying of time and trickling away of years
Alexandrie toujours, sera dans nos pensées!
Alexandria will be forever in our thoughts!

Poème: Viviane Borg-Fleri
Poem by Viviane Borg-Fleri

Translation by Hoda Nassef



*Amir Fouad St, Mihatit Al-Raml, Tel (03) 391 7972; 392 7693
*Cairo Seas Tel (03) 543 3350
*Carrefour Beginning of Alexandria-Cairo Desert Road, Tel (03) 397 01565
*Cineplex Green Plaza, Smouha, Tel (03) 532 5745/6
*Al-Deeb Mall Horriya Road, Rushdi, Tel (03) 541 1597/8
*Family San Stefano Opposite Gianaclis tram station, Tel (03) 585 5088
*Ferial Saad Zagloul St, Mihatit Al-Raml, Tel (03) 486 9364
*Metro Safiya Zaghlul St, Mihatit Al-Raml, (03) 487 0432
*Rio 37 Horriya Road, Mihatit Al-Raml, Tel (03) 392 9036
*Royal Next to Sayed Darwish Theatre, Fouad St, Tel (03) 485 5725/7
*San Stefano Tel (03) 469 0056
*Smouha Off Dawaran Zahran, Smouha, Tel (03) 424 5898/9
*Zahran Zahran Mall, Off Dawaran Zahran, Smouha, Tel (03) 424 0844/66

Clubs in Alexandria

* Alexandria British Community Group (ABCG)
• American Women of Alexandria
• Archaeological Society of Alexandria
• Centro de Portugal
• Delta Hash House Harriers
• Friends of the Environment
• German Women of Alexandria
• International Ladies' Club of Alexandria (ILCA)
• Les Amis de la Musique et des Arts
• Old Victorians
• Rotary Club
• Tourist Friends Association
• Women's International Arts and Craft Group of Alexandria

The Alexandria Sporting Club

Built in 1898 and used during the British occupation, the Alexandria Sporting Club is one of the oldest sporting clubs in Egypt. In 1952, it was taken over by the state, converted into a national club (like the El-Gezira Club in Zamalek) and was managed by the Chairman of the Club, Mahmoud Hamdy. Today, the golf course stands on 97 feddans, 97 percent of which constitutes the total club area. It is a flat course with tricky bunkers and can be played by beginners as well as experts. The club also features four restaurants, the Club House Restaurant being the most luxurious, and the Happy Land restaurant serving the children's playground. It also offers party catering.

Members pay 5 LE for 18 holes, while temporary members pay 10 LE to play. Visitors must be accompanied by a member and pay 50 LE.

About the course: 18 holes, Par 70, 5,960 yards, rating 69, two tees

Who Can Play: Annual memberships, daily golf, tourist groups welcome
Golf Services: Pro Shop, caddies, trolleys, club rental
Learning to Play: Golf pro, lessons
About the Clubhouse: Restaurant
Other Facilities: The course is part of the Alexandria Sporting Club, which has two swimming pools, horseracing, croquet, tennis, squash, basketball, football, board games, and many other facilities.

The Alexandria Sporting Club - Telephone +203 543-3627/8/9
Exhibitions & Other Venues:


*Alexandria Creativity Centre 1 Al-Horriya St, Tel (03) 495 6633/9155
*Alexandria Fine Arts Museum 1 Menacha St, Moharam Bey, Tel (03) 393 6616
*Alexandria Atelier 6 Victor Basil St, Azarita, Tel (03)486 0526
*Bibliotheca Alexandrina Galleries Al-Corniche and Port-Said St, Al-Shatbi, Tel (03) 483 999. Daily 11am-9pm. For information visit
*Mahmoud Said Museum 6 Mohamed Pasha Said, Gianaklese, Tel (03) 582 1688. Daily 10am-6pm, closed Mondays
*Smouha Club Somouha, opposite Green Plaza, beginning of Agricultural Road to Cairo, Tel (02) 303 3535, 010 664 0632

Listing for some 4 & 5-Star Hotels, Alexandria:

• Agami Palace Hotel
• Aida Beach Hotel
• Ailema Hotel
• Alexandria Hotel
• Crillon Hotel
• Delta Hotel
• El-Salamlek Palace Hotel
• Helnan Palestine Hotel
• Hilton Borg El-Arab Resort
• Mercure Alexandria Romance
• Paradise Inn Beach Resort
• Paradise Inn Metropole Hotel
• Paradise Inn Windsor Palace Hotel
• Plaza Hotel
• Renaissance Alexandria
• San Giovanni Hotel
(*) San Stefano Plaza
• Sheraton Montazah Hotel
• Sofitel Cecil Alexandria
• Union Hotel

Listing for some 3-Star Hotels, Alexandria:

• Amoun Hotel
• Beauville Hotel
• Cleapatra Hotel
• Corail Hotel
• Costa Bianca Hotel
• Darwish Hotel
• El Haram Hotel
• El Madina El Monawara Hotel
• Holiday Hotel
• Hyde Park House
• Jeddah Hotel
• Kaoud Sporting Hotel
• King Mariout Motel
• Landmark Hotel
• Le Roy Hotel
• Lolowa Hotel
• Marhaba Hotel
• Mecca Hotel
• Misr Hotel
• Nobel Hotel
• Petit Coin Hotel
• Piccadilly Hotel
• Ramsis Hotel
• Regency Hotel
• Sea Star Hotel
• Semiramis Hotel
• Summer Moon Hotel
(*) San Stefano Plaza
• Sheraton Montazah Hotel

(*) San Stefano Plaza “Jotun Egypt has secured the third "Four Season Hotel" – San Stefano in Alexandria”…

Jotun has already painted Four season Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh & Four Season Hotel – Nile Plaza. “San Stefano.” Grand Plaza This awe-inspiring project includes every conceivable modern privilege: from a five star Four Seasons Hotel and shopping mall, luxury residential units and commercial facilities. San Stefano set on 31000 sq. meters of prime real estate land and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with a 170-meter frontage alongside the beach.

On 15 Jan 2004, Jotun Egypt signed the contract of San Stefano Four Season Hotel. Depa Egypt branch of Depa Holding Co. won the Four Season contract and Jotun paints was the partner in this prestigious project, based on the pervious successful projects (Sheraton Montazah, Hilton Luxor, Holiday Inn at Sharm El-Sheikh, JW Marriott mirage city Cairo Golden Pyramids Entertainment City in Cairo).

“Our business philosophy is based on providing our clients with the highest standards of workmanship, using quality materials, with tight schedules and targeted budget management” Says the GM of Depa Egypt. Three decades of prestigious hotel interior contracts for renowned hotel groups worldwide has made DEPA a leading international company.

Jotun has already painted Four season Hotel in Sharm El Sheikh & Four Season Hotel – Nile Plaza. “San Stefano.” Grand Plaza This awe-inspiring project includes every conceivable modern privilege: from a five star Four Seasons Hotel and shopping mall, luxury residential units and commercial facilities. San Stefano set on 31000 sq. meters of prime real estate land and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with a 170-meter frontage alongside the beach. The residential part consists of 900 apartments varying in design and size. The residences range from 131 m2 to 1271 m2.

As for the shopping mall – it consists of four-levels, which occupy the basement upper story and the first three floors of the tower. Stores display a selection of the finest brand names in the world. There are ten different movie theatres.

The hotel consists of 127 rooms and suites overlooking the Mediterranean and 120 residential suites. The hotel guests are welcome to enjoy a private beach, cabins there and the yacht marina and beach restaurant.

Jotun Egypt is looking forward to accomplish this splendid achievement, wining the supply contract for the residential & the shopping mall. Securing prestigious project such as San Stefano Grand Plaza which will exceed by all means our customer satisfaction …. The ultimate goal of Jotun Egypt

The owner: San Stefano Grand Plaza
The construction manager: Laing Int.
The engineer representative: Dar el-Handasah

Listing for Alexandria Cultural Centres:

• American Cultural Center (Amideast)
• British Council: 11 Mahmoud Abul-Ela St, Kafr Abdou, Roushdi, Tel (03) 545 6512
• Conservatoire de Musique d'Alexandrie
• Egyptian Cultural Centers Anfoushi Cultural Center
• French Cultural Center: 30 Nabi Daniel St, Tel (03) 391 8952/392 0804. Closed Friday and Saturday
• Goethe Institute: 10 Batalsa St, Azarita, Tel (03) 487 9870/484 1037
• Horreya Cultural Palace
• Italian Cultural Institute: Italian Consulate, Saad Zaghloul Square, Tel (03) 487 4924
• L'Atelier
• Museum of Fine Arts
• Pharoah's Hall
• Russian Cultural Center
• Sayed Darwish Theater
• Shatby Cultural Center for Artistic and Literary Appreciation
• Spanish Cultural Center (Cervantes Institute): 101 Horreya St, Tel (03) 392 0214/495 2094, open 5-8pm
• The Foundation of Hellenic Culture (Greek)

Listing for some Restaurants, Alexandria:

• Al-Farida Restaurant (Italian and International)
• Al-Farouk Restaurant (French)
• Dynasty Restaurant (Chinese) (at the Renaissance Hotel)
• Price Cafe (snacks and deserts)
• San Giovanni Coffee Shop (La Sirene) Eastern and Western
• San Giovanni Restaurant (Eastern and Western )
• Shells Restaurant (Seafood & Italian)at the Hilton Borg El Arab Resort

Tourism Offices in Alex., Egypt:
Ramleh Station; Saad Zaghloul St. 03 807985
Nozha; Nozha Airport 03 4202021
Marine Passenger; Station Alex. Port 03 803494
Misr Station - - - 03 4925985


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