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22 June, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Alexandria - Part 2

Capital of ancient Ptolemaic kingdom

By Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman Niaz
Capital of ancient Ptolemaic kingdom

Our next destination was the Roman Amphitheatre of Alexandria. Located at Kom El Dekka, it was discovered by mere coincidence in 1960 through excavation. The amphitheatre was constructed in the 4th Century. The semi-circular shaped theatre was used for several purposes during Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras until the 7th century. It was used as an odeum where musical performances were held during the Roman period. During the Byzantine era, it was used as a conference venue where important meetings, public assemblies and official summits used to take place. The amphitheatre was most likely neglected during the early Islamic period and onwards.

The Roman Amphitheatre could host around 600 spectators. The sitting area has a diameter of about 33 metres and it consists of 13 rows of seats made of white marble. We came to know that the five compartments constructed on top of the audience section were kept reserved for the elite during performances.

The amphitheatre was covered with a dome, supported by large columns of granite, to protect the audience from sun and rain. Moreover, the dome could amplify sounds during performances. The structure was severely damaged by an earthquake. We saw ruins of large mud brick structures to the north of the theatre. We also visited a Roman villa located on the eastern side.  

We then enjoyed our lunch with local seafood at a nearby restaurant. The sea fish grill was delicious. There, we found some people enjoying squid and octopus barbeque.

Next, we visited the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The library was inaugurated in 2002 near the site where archaeologists believe an ancient library stood. That famous library flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and was probably constructed around the 3rd Century BC. Most of the books there were papyrus scrolls. The ancient library was probably destroyed by fire or earthquake.

I was astounded by the architectural splendour of the new library. The north part of the Bibliotheca is partly submerged in a pool of water. The main reading room stands beneath a high glass-panelled roof, tilted out towards the sea like a sundial. Alphabets from different languages are carved on the outside granite walls. I felt enchanted seeing Bengali letters engraved there.

We were surprised to learn that the library has shelf space for 8 million books. The Bibliotheca has books in Arabic, English and French languages. It is now the largest depository of French books in the Arab world. Once inside, we saw the complex houses a conference centre, four museums, four art galleries, a planetarium and a manuscript restoration laboratory, as well as study halls.

The last place we visited was Pompey's Pillar. The column was built during the Roman era. How it was erected is still a mystery. Some other places of tourist interest in Alexandria are the National Museum, the Royal Jewellery Museum and the Obelisk.

Now, Alexandria is a main tourist spot due to its lovely beaches and glorious ancient history. This place witnessed various civilisations, great leaders and scholars. I was thrilled to be in such a historic city. The memories are engraved on my mind. No person visiting the city can avoid the magnetism of its natural beauty and historic sites. 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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