Aegean Odyssey will call at Alexandria (Al-Iskandariyya in Arabic), Egypt, later this month and we’re incredibly excited to be taking our guests back to this ancient land. Egypt is a place filled with wonderful history, culture and intrigue, and it’s a destination that we fell in love with several years ago when Aegean Odyssey visited the port for the very first time. During our call, we will make visits to El Alamein and Wadi el Natrun, two massively important sites in Egyptian history.
Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt and one of the most vibrant. It’s often the gateway to Cairo – it takes less than 3 hours to get there on a good day – but the city itself is one filled with a rich and ancient history that we’re looking forward to uncovering. At one time, Alexandria was the second most powerful city of the ancient world, after Rome.
The city was founded in 332BC by Alexander the Great and it became an important centre of Hellenistic civilization. In fact, Alexandria remained the capital of Greek, Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1000 years, until the Muslim conquest of the country in AD 641. Alexander wanted Alexandria to be the link between Greece and the rich and thriving Nile valley.
Hellenistic Alexandria was best known for three things:
• The Lighthouse of Alexandria – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
• The Great Library – the largest in the ancient world
• The Necropolis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages
During our visit to Alexandria, you will have the chance to visit 2 historical sites: El Alamein and Wadi el Natrun. The Battle of El Alamein marked the culmination of the World War II North African campaign between the British Empire and the German-Italian army, which was commanded in the field by Erwin Rommel.
A forty-mile line was mined and fortified by Rommel and both flanks were sealed, by the Mediterranean in the north and the Qattara Depression in the south. For Bernard Montgomery, commanding the British forces, his job was to break down the line and destroy the Axis forces. The battle began on October 23, 1942 and after ten days of ferocious assault, it was an Allied victory. Rommel’s army did manage to escape annihilation.
Wadi el Natrun, in Christian literature, is usually known as Scetis and it’s one of the three early Christian monastic centres located in the Nile Delta. Today, it is best known for its ancient monasteries because they remain in use. The area is also famous because of the alkali lakes within the Natron Valley, these provided the Ancient Egyptians with the sodium bicarbonate that was used in the mummification process.
The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great, Paromeos Monastery, Monastery of Saint Pishoy and the Syrian Monastery are all located with Wadi el Natrun.
Of course, Alexandria itself has much to offer and if you’d prefer to explore in the city, there is an abundance of historical sites and treasures to uncover. Pompey’s Pillar is probably the most famous ancient monument still standing in Alexandria and it’s located in the ancient acropolis and was originally part of a temple colonnade. It is carved from a single piece of granite and is 99 f.t. tall.
Alexandria’s catacombs, known as Kom El Shoqafa (Mound of Shards), are a short distance southwest of the pillar and are also worth visiting. The multi-level catacombs feature dozens of chambers that are adorned with statues, Romano-Egyptian religious symbols and sarcophagi. Kom El Shoqafa was forgotten by the citizens until they were discovered, by accident, in 1900 when a donkey fell into the access shaft.
Join Aegean Odyssey and visit the land of the pharaohs this winter. We have several sailings taking in the magic and intrigue of this ancient land and we’d love to take you with us. All sailings featuring Egypt can be found on our website.