Mediterranean City

Dialogue among Cultures

21 February to 3 March 2005

Participating Cities
Public policy Forum»
First Day
Second Day»
Panel 2
Panel 3
Panel 4
Closing Plenary
Beautiful Book

Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria (pop. 4,850,000), known as "The Pearl of the Mediterranean," is Egypt 's main port. It lies northwest of the Nile delta and stretches along a narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mariut (Mareotis). It is linked to Cairo by two major highways and a railroad line. Its beaches, with their white sands and magnificent scenery, stretch for 140 km along the Mediterranean Sea, from Abu Qir in the east to Al-Alamein and Sidi Abdul Rahman in the west. The second largest city in Egypt , Alexandria has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern. Although it is only 225 km from Cairo , its ambience and cultural heritage set it apart in many ways from the rest of the country.


Alexandria , founded in 332 BCE by Alexander the Great, was (304-30 BCE) the capital of the Ptolemies. The city, the site of the great ancient library, and the center of culture and learning in the ancient world, took over the trade of Tyre (sacked by Alexander the Great), outgrew Carthage by 250 BCE, and became the largest city in the Mediterranean basin. Julius Caesar temporarily occupied (47 BCE) the city while pursuing Pompey, and Octavian (later Augustus) entered it (30 BC) after the suicide of Antony and Cleopatra. Alexandria formally became part of the Roman Empire in 30 BCE. It was the greatest of the Roman provincial capitals, with a population of about 300,000 free persons and numerous slaves.

The library was gradually destroyed from the time of Caesar's invasion, and suffered especially in 391 CE, when Theodosius I had pagan temples and other structures razed. When the Muslim Arabs took Alexandria in 642, its prosperity had withered, largely because of a decline in shipping, but the city still had about 300,000 inhabitants. The Arabs moved the capital of Egypt to Cairo in 969 and Alexandria 's decline continued, accelerating in the 14th century, when the canal to the Nile silted up.

During his Egyptian campaign, Napoleon I took the city in 1798, but it fell to the British in 1801. At that time Alexandria 's population was only about 4,000. The city gradually regained importance after 1819, when the Mahmudiyah Canal to the Nile was completed by Muhammad Ali, who developed Alexandria as a deepwater port and a naval station. During the 19th century, many foreigners settled in Alexandria , and in 1907 they made up about 25 percent of the population. In 1882, during a nationalist uprising in Egypt spearheaded by Arabi Pasha, there were antiforeign riots in Alexandria , which was subsequently bombarded by the British. During World War II, as the chief Allied naval base in the E Mediterranean, Alexandria was bombed by the Germans. In a 1944 meeting in Alexandria , plans for the Arab League were drawn up. The city's foreign population declined during the 20th century, particularly after the 1952 Egyptian revolution.

Alexandria Points of Interest

The Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria houses a vast collection of Coptic, Roman, and Greek art. The striking Bibliotheca Alexandrina contains library, museum, planetarium, and conference facilities.

Much of ancient Alexandria is covered by modern buildings or is underwater; only a few landmarks are readily accessible, including ruins of the emporium and the Serapeum and a granite shaft (88 ft/27 m high) called Pompey's Pillar. Nothing remains of the lighthouse on the Pharos (3 rd century BCE), which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World , and the site of the royal palace lies under the older (east) harbor.


Bibliotheca Alexandrina - P.O. Box 138 - El Shatby, Alexandria 21526, Egypt
Phone: +(203) 4839999 General E-mail: