Things to Do in Alexandria
Famously one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the world’s first ever lighthouse, constructed in the 3rd century BC by Ptolemy I. An incredible architectural achievement of its time, the lighthouse took over two decades to complete and, at 450 feet (137 meters) tall, ranked among the world’s tallest structures for centuries after. It stood as a commanding force in Alexandria’s harbor for hundreds of years before being destroyed by a series of earthquakes that sent huge stones into the bay.
Today, almost nothing remains of the former world wonder, although the seaside Citadel of Qaitbay was built in its place using lighthouse ruins in 1480. The well-preserved medieval fortress offers visitors great views of Alexandria’s skyline and out to sea, plus the knowledge of its location’s historical significance.
Built by Khedive Abbas II in 1900, the grand Moorish-style palace of Montazah is one of Alexandria’s most striking landmarks and the vast estate stretches along the seafront north of the city. The palace remains a summer residence of the Egyptian royal family and is off-limits to the public, but visitors can still walk the grounds and experience the adjoining Salamlek annex, which has now been transformed into a luxury hotel.
For most visitors, the highlight is the lavish Montazah Palace Gardens, a pocket of greenery fringed by sandy beaches and romantic promenades. As well as strolling the palm-lined walkways and picnicking on the lawns, visitors can explore several greenhouses, home to an impressive variety of tropical plants.
With three floors of exhibitions and around 1,800 artifacts on display, the Alexandria National Museum offers a fascinating introduction to the city’s rich history. Housed in the impressively restored Al-Saad Bassili Pasha Palace, the museum’s exhibitions offer a chronological journey through history, with artifacts from Egypt’s four ages: Ancient, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic.
Highlights include a sphinx found at Aboukir, a large collection of antique coins, a dazzling array of royal jewels and portraits of Menkaure, Ikhnaton and Hatshepsut. There’s also a section devoted to artifacts found underwater along Alexandria’s coast, including statues of Venus and the head of Alexander the Great.
El Alamein, situated on the Mediterranean coast around four hours north of Cairo, is the site of where two battles were fought during World War II. The War Cemetery in the town houses the graves of allied soldiers who died during this time, particularly in the Battle of El Alamein of 1942. The cemetery contains over 7000 commonwealth burials from the war, of which 815 are unidentified. There are also more than a hundred war graves belonging to men of other nationalities.
The El Alamein War Cemetery also has an informative museum nearby, which covers the entire story of World War II in this part of the world, as seen from a number of perspectives. The museum serves as a memorial for the battles fought and displays a number of items from the war, including weapons, vehicles, uniforms, and war records.
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