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8 June, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Alexandria- Part 1

Capital of ancient Ptolemaic kingdom

By Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman Niaz
Capital of ancient Ptolemaic kingdom

Alexandria, located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north, is the second-largest city in Egypt. It is an important industrial and economic centre now. The city was founded in 332 BC by the 25-year-old Alexander lll of Macedon, who is popularly known as Alexander the Great. It became an important centre of Hellenistic civilisation and remained the capital of Egypt during Ptolemaic (Greek), Roman and Byzantine rule for almost 1,000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641 AD. Later, the city was conquered and ruled by the Ottoman Turks until 1798. It became the centre of commerce for Europeans, Arabs and Indians. The city and its museum attracted many greatest scholars and it became an intellectual and cultural centre of the ancient world for some time. Incidentally, much of the ancient royal and civic quarters of Alexandria were destroyed by a massive earthquake in 365 AD.

Visiting such a historic city was always a dream of mine. It became reality during my Egypt tour in November 2010. On a sunny morning, I, along with four of my friends, started from Cairo, the Egyptian capital. We were accompanied by a young tour guide. We followed the Cairo–Alexandria desert road. The 220-km highway has four lanes in both directions, as well as twin service roads on either side. To cross the highway,  vehicles need to use the service road and a crossover bridge.

The city is connected to the rest of the world by Alexandria International and Borg El Arab airports. The tramway network of the city was built in 1860 and it is the oldest in Africa. The port of Alexandria plays an important role in sea trade. The city's climate is influenced by the Mediterranean, causing variable rainy winters. January and February are the coolest months.

Our first was to Montaza Palace.  It is a favoured tourist spot on account of its sizeable gardens and palace. It is located on the eastern edge of the city, overlooking a beach. The palace has long open arcades facing the sea along each floor. This palace with the royal garden is used as an official presidential residence. It was very difficult for us to evade the attraction of the clear bluish water of the sea. Due to its calmness, the beach there is famous for fishing. We enjoyed the fresh sea breeze while walking along the beach for a while.

Then we started for our next destination, Qaitbay Fort. On the way, we crossed beautiful Stanley Bridge. The 400-metre bridge has four towers. It is the first bridge of the country constructed over the sea.

The Citadel of Qaitbay is situated on the eastern side of the northern tip of Pharos Island. Established in 1477 by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay, it used to be a defensive fortress on the coast in the 15th century. The fort was built on the exact site of the famous lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest. We were informed that the lighthouse construction was completed during the rule of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The light was produced by a furnace at the top and the 453-feet (138 metres) high tower was built mostly with solid blocks of limestone. The lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century. After the Great Pyramid of Giza, it was the second longest surviving ancient wonder. n

The writer is a civil engineer and a

serving military officer.

Photos: Courtesy.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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