second largest city in Egypt

For other places with the same name, see Alexandria (disambiguation).

Alexandria (pronounced al-ig-ZAN-dree-uh ; Arabic: الإسكندرية ‎/ اسكندرية al-Iskandariyya / Eskendereyya ) is Egypt's second largest city (5.2 million people in 2018), its largest seaport, and the country's window onto the Mediterranean Sea. The city is a faded shadow of its former glorious cosmopolitan self, but still worth a visit for its many cultural attractions and still-palpable glimpses of its past.

UnderstandEdit

HistoryEdit

 
Corniche, the waterfront
 
The lighthouse may have looked like this

Few cities of the world have a history as rich as that of Alexandria; few cities have witnessed so many historic events and legends. Founded by Alexander the Great (Iskander al-Akbar) in 331 BCE, Alexandria became the capital of Greco-Roman Egypt; its status as a beacon of culture is symbolized by Pharos, the legendary lighthouse.

There had long been a fishing village here, called Rhakotis, but Alexander had greater plans for it. Its strategic value was obvious: it had a great natural harbour, a backing lagoon to prevent land attack, a fertile hinterland, and potential control of trade routes up the Nile and overland to the Red Sea and Arabia. But the approach to the harbour was tricky: the coastline and off-shore islands were low and without landmarks, so sailors could easily take the wrong channel and get wrecked on the shoals. To guide them in, Alexander's successors Ptolemy I & II built a lighthouse on the nearby island of Pharos. It stood just over 100 m tall, so only the Great Pyramids were taller. A bronze mirror atop it reflected sunlight by day, and by night the flames of oil-soaked sheep fleeces. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the name of the island "Pharos" came to apply to all subsequent lighthouses, and spawned modern words such as "phares" in French.

A jetty over 1 km long was built to connect Pharos to the mainland, dividing the bay into an eastern and western harbour. Silt and landfill built up along the jetty so it broadened into a peninsula, the present-day district of Anfushi. The lighthouse was badly damaged by earthquakes in 956, 1303 and 1323, then fell into disuse and disrepair. In 1480 Sultan Qaitbey used the ruined stone to build his fortress here. The rest of it was eaten by coastal erosion, and came to lie on the sea-bed. But a combination of ancient descriptions, modern marine archaeology and satellite imaging give us a detailed picture of it.

Alexandria under Ptolemy I & II prospered not just through trading, but as a knowledge economy. They set out to acquire and understand every manuscript they could. Arriving ships were searched, and any manuscripts seized and copied onto papyrus. In the great Library of Alexandria texts were translated, catalogued and studied. Scholars, philosophers and scientists flocked to work on these texts, and to create new material. Just one example of their creative output was the Septuagint, the first Greek translation of Hebrew holy texts that became the Christian Bible Old Testament.

Trade and knowledge made Alexandria cosmopolitan, with the largest Jewish populations and Hellenistic cultures anywhere. It retained its importance, and was capital of Egypt, while power was shifting elsewhere: the rise and decline of Rome, the rise of Byzantium, and growth of Persia. But the city suffered natural disasters (eg the tsunami of 365 CE) and a series of wars (particularly against Rome), and the library was destroyed. When the Arabs conquered Egypt in 641 CE they founded a new capital to the south in Fustat, now Cairo. Politically, economically and intellectually, Alexandria was no longer the place to be.

Alexandria survived as a trading port; Marco Polo described it around 1300 as one of the world's two busiest ports, along with Quanzhou. However, its strategic location meant that every army on its way to Egypt passed through: Napoleon's troops stormed the city in 1798, but the British conquered it in the Siege of Alexandria in 1801. The Egyptians under Mohammed Ali took control of the city and rebuilt it, but the Orabi Rebellion in 1881 and massacres of Europeans in the city led the British to strike back and hammer the rebels with the three-day Bombardment of Alexandria, reducing much of the city center to rubble.

Once again, Alexandria rose from the ashes. Its cosmopolitan and decadent lifestyle before and during World War II gave birth to its greatest poet, Constantine P. Cavafy, and was chronicled in Laurence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and a series of works by E.M. Forster including Alexandria: A History and Guide (1922), described by some as the best travel guide ever written.

Yet this world, too, took a shattering blow in the 1950s when Egypt's new fiercely nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized vast swathes of the economy and forbade foreigners from owning or running companies. This forced tens of thousands of foreigners out of the country, including virtually all of Alexandria's once 150,000-strong Greek community. Alexandria thus ceased to be a cosmopolitan city.

Today's Alexandria is a dusty seaside Egyptian town with miles of tatty low-rise and 'burbs holding its population of 5 million, yet its status as Egypt's leading port keeps business humming, and tourists still flock to the beaches in the summertime. And while much of the city is badly in need of major repair, its history is still evident: the French-style parks and the occasional French street sign survive as a legacy of Napoleon, and the few remaining Greek restaurants and cafés still do a good trade.

ClimateEdit

Alexandria
Climate chart (explanation)
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
53
 
 
18
9
 
 
 
29
 
 
19
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14
 
 
21
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3.6
 
 
24
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9.4
 
 
28
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32
 
 
24
14
 
 
 
53
 
 
20
11
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Source: World Meteorological Organization
Imperial conversion
JFMAMJJASOND
 
 
 
2.1
 
 
65
48
 
 
 
1.1
 
 
67
49
 
 
 
0.6
 
 
70
51
 
 
 
0.1
 
 
75
56
 
 
 
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80
62
 
 
 
0
 
 
83
69
 
 
 
0
 
 
85
73
 
 
 
0
 
 
87
74
 
 
 
0
 
 
85
70
 
 
 
0.4
 
 
82
64
 
 
 
1.2
 
 
75
58
 
 
 
2.1
 
 
68
51
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches
See also: Egypt#Climate

Alexandria has a hot desert climate (BWh), but highly influenced by sea breeze, with sunny hot humid summers and mild moderately wet winters. The daytime can be humid in summer, with summer temperatures averaging 31 °C (88 °F), but evenings are usually cooler and breezy, especially by the Corniche. Winters can get cold, with daytime highs down sometimes to 12 °C (53 °F), with occasional rain and sometimes hail. Humidity is high throughout the year. The best time to visit Alexandria is in spring (March–June) and autumn (September–November). It's at its busiest in summer, when Egyptians flock down to escape the searing heat of Cairo.

Alexandria mean sea temperature
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
18°C (64°F) 17°C (63°F) 17°C (63°F) 18°C (64°F) 20°C (68°F) 23°C (73°F) 25°C (77°F) 26°C (79°F) 26°C (79°F) 25°C (77°F) 22°C (72°F) 20°C (68°F)

OrientationEdit

Alexandria is a long thin city, pinched between the swampy delta and the sea. Its east-west artery, the Corniche, rolls on for about 30 km. However the advantage to the visitor is that all transport is funnelled along this corridor, so you shouldn't wait more than a minute for a taxi, buses or microbus going your way. The tram line runs parallel a block or two further inland.

At the western tip lies the Citadel of Qaitbey, built near (and from) the ruined ancient lighthouse or Pharos. The Corniche then sweeps around the eastern harbour, with Anfushi the tongue of land behind it, to the central hotel area around Saad Zaghloul; then passes the east end of the harbour at the jetty opposite the new library. Almost all the sights, and the bulk of the accommodation and restaurants, are along this congested 5-6 km strip or nearby. But on and on eastwards rolls the Corniche through rundown beachfront districts of Rushdy, San Stefano and Mandarah. The blingy hotels of Montazah are a bright spot then the tat, burbs and ribbon-development resume, out to Aboukir.

Tourist officesEdit

Get inEdit

 
Roman Theatre next to Misr railway station

By planeEdit

Alexandria has domestic flights daily from Cairo, Luxor, Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, with Egyptair the main operator. Saudia Airlines fly from Jeddah and the Gulf States, and Turkish Airlines fly from Istanbul. Flights from Italy by Wizz Air are suspended in 2021. And all of airlines of the country including: Air Cairo Air Arabia Nile Air FlyEgypt and Petroleum air services (PAS).

1 Borg el Arab Airport (HBE IATA). All flights into Alexandria use this airport 45 km southwest of downtown. It's small but modern, ample for the low passenger numbers it now handles. Cafe and clean toilets and that's about all. There is no public transport - a taxi downtown will take 60-90 min, and reckon at least LE250 as they've no competition.    

El Nouzha airport was nearer the city but closed in 2011, supposedly for rebuilding with Borg el Arab just a temporary arrangement. The work was abandoned and there are no plans to re-open El Nouzha.

Cairo (CAI IATA) is the main portal of entry into Egypt and you travel onwards overland. The Cairo-Alex flight only makes sense as a connection with another flight.

By trainEdit

Train is the best way to travel between central Cairo and Alexandria, with 30 services a day. Best of these are the "Specials", running non-stop and taking 2 hr 40 min; almost as good are the "Express" services taking around 3 hours. These trains are clean and comfortable, air-conditioned, and with snacks available. One-way AC1 tickets cost LE51 (Oct 2018). The fast trains are sometimes also called Spanish, French or Turbo because of their rolling stock. See "Egypt#get around by train" for how to buy tickets. Online, in advance, direct from the railway company ENR, is best.

Trains from Cairo all depart from Ramses Station. In Alexandria they arrive downtown at 2 Misr station  , where taxis and microbuses are waiting, or a 15-min stroll north along Nabi Daniel St brings you onto the Corniche. Nabi Daniel is a street market and closed to traffic, so taxis use the parallel Saad Zaghlool St.

But when your "non-stop" train arrives, and everyone piles out, ask around before following. You may have stopped 3 km east at 3 Sidi Gaber station   on Abu Qir St at the top of Mushir Ahmad Ismail St. Only get off here if you're heading for an eastern district such as San Stefano. Otherwise sit tight, and in a couple of minutes the train will rumble on and terminate at Misr Station.

Trains to Alexandria also run from Marsa Matruh and the delta towns. These are "ordinary" trains that can't be booked online, so buy your ticket at the station. Some trains run directly from Luxor via Cairo, but these too are slow "ordinary" trains, and you're better taking fast trains and changing in Cairo.

By busEdit

Several bus companies offer a bus service into Alexandria at a very low price range: LE20-35. Buses are air-conditioned and come complete with a hostess trolley service. Companies include Golden Arrow, West Delta, Super Jet, Pullman and El Gouna. Operating times vary from one company to another, but there are trips between Cairo and Alexandria virtually every hour from early morning until midnight.

While the buses are perfectly comfortable, the duration of your journey from Cairo to Alexandria (and vice versa) will depend on your pick-up/drop-off point. Most buses start out from the Almaza Bus Station in Heliopolis and stop by Midan Tahrir and Giza before finally setting out to Alexandria; if you join from Heliopolis expect a 4-5 hour trip rather than the average 2-3.

The main bus station is 4 Moharam Bek but there are a number of bus pick-up/drop-off points inside Alexandria. These are usually either at Gedid station (except El Gouna, which uses Sidi Gaber station) which is a bit far from the city of Alexandria so it shouldn't cost more than a LE10 cab ride, LE15 max. Don't take a taxi with anyone that approaches you right outside of the bus. Walk outside the station and catch a taxi there if you must. There is also a bus from Gedid to Sidi Gaber, and from Sidi Gaber most parts of the city are accessible by minibus or tram if you are looking to save money. The bus fare will run you half a pound.

By carEdit

 
Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new library

There are two roads between Cairo and Alexandria, both taking 3 hours. The usual cautions for driving in Egypt apply; see Egypt#By car.

  • Agriculture Road has a speed limit of 90 km/hr for private cars and has 4 lanes in each direction. This is the main road, so it can get a little crowded. It also gives access to Damnhour and Tanta.
  • Desert Road has a speed limit of 100 km/hr for private cars and has 4 lanes in each direction. True to the name, this crosses the desert and is less crowded and faster. There are cafes every few km.

By boatEdit

Alex remains a major sea port, but all international passenger services are axed because of this region's turmoil and loss of tourist traffic. It may still be possible to arrange freighter travel, but with so many migrants trying to reach Europe from the Middle East by sea in the 21st century, they will be very wary about taking you. So your best bet may be to call in a favour from a friend with a gin-palace private yacht.

The Med cruise liners seldom visit here nowadays. Nile cruises still call at Alexandria, Cairo and the ancient Egyptian sites up to Luxor and Aswan. But all of these are package tourist itineraries, and not available to book as point-to-point ferries.

Get aroundEdit

Alexandria is a long, long city but there's good transport along the Corniche. It also extends several km inland past the lagoons, but you've no reason to go that way.

By taxiEdit

 
Alexandria taxis

Alexandria's yellow and black taxis are a good way to travel in the city, and a cheap one as well. Be careful though: taxis will uniformly refuse to use meters (the rates haven't been adjusted in years) and drivers love to take advantage of non-Alexandrians (both foreign and Egyptian), so it's best to agree on the fare before you get in. No taxi ride between any two points in the city should cost more than LE25. If you are on a day trip to Alexandria, hire a taxi outside the railway station for the day and pay LE10-15 per place. For example, pay around LE50-60 if you plan to see 5 places in 3–4 hr, or LE80-100 if you plan to see 8-10 places in 5–6 hr.

To get into a taxi, wave at the driver and yell the name of your destination. If the driver agrees they would park at the side of the road as soon as possible. Some taxis will stop to pick you up even if they already have a passenger, but such offers are best refused. Furthermore, always check back once you get out of the taxi, there is no number to call if you lose anything of value, and nearly no chances of having it returned.

Fast Call taxis can be booked by phone at 19559 or 0800-999-9999 (toll free). These are pricier but generally much better than ordinary black and bright yellow cabs.

Careem and Uber operate in Alexandria. You will need a local number, as the driver will call you back for details of the pickup and drop off points.

By tramEdit

 
City Line yellow tram

Alexandria has a creaky, slow but very cheap tram system that dates back to 1860 and looks the part — it's the oldest one still running in Africa. The route map is remarkably confusing and changes on a regular basis, but one factor stays constant: the network is split into the interurban Ramleh Lines (Tram el-Raml), which use blue-and-cream trams and run across the city a few blocks back from the sea towards the eastern suburbs, and the City Lines (Tram el-Madina), which use bright yellow trams and run west and south of central Alex. The two meet at Raml Station (محطة الرمل Mahattat el-Raml), right at the heart of Alex. In general, the Ramleh Lines are relatively quick despite their age, as they have substantial stretches of dedicated and uninterrupted right-of-way; the City Lines, however, frequently get stuck in traffic.

For both lines, the flat fare is LE1, bought on board. Note that the first car (out of three) in the blue trams is reserved for women only. The lines run until 1AM, every 10-30 min or so.

Probably the most useful service for tourists is yellow tram #25, which runs from Raml Station to Ras el-Tin and Fort Qait Bey. You can also hop on any blue tram west from Sidr Gabr bus/railway station to get to Raml, but not all eastbound trams stop there.

By busEdit

There are a variety of local bus services which have improved significantly in the past few years, but they are rather confusing for those who haven't lived in Alexandria for a while. Apart from city buses, you will also find "mini-buses", which work on hop-and-go basis. They are easily recognizable 14-person buses, which will stop when you wave and stop where you need to get off. The drivers rarely speak English, so make sure you know the Arabic name of your destination or that you already know where to stop. The routes are usually along the main streets, with drivers following well-known routes. The routes are written in Arabic on the sides of the vehicle, but even if you speak Arabic this may not be helpful; the drivers sometimes change routes without changing their signage. However, if you remain in Alexandria for some time you may learn the somewhat elaborate system of hand signals the locals have devised to indicate the desired destination. A journey will generally cost between LE0.50-1.50.

SeeEdit

Historical monumentsEdit

 
Qaitbay's Citadel
  • 1 Citadel of Qaitbay, Ras el-Tin (yellow tram or microbus to Anfushi), +20 3-4809144. 9AM-4PM. Set on the tip of the Anfushi/Pharos promontory, looking back over the eastern harbour and downtown Corniche. It was built by Mameluke Sultan Abdul-Nasser Qa'it Bay in 1477 CE, by re-cycling the stone of the ruined lighthouse. It tried (with limited success) to defend the city against invaders, from crusaders to Napoleon, and was in military use as late as 1882, when the British bombarded it.
    There are two entrances and admissions. West, facing your approach along the Harbour mall, is the ground-floor Maritime Museum - this is of little interest. (Its collection continues in a building on the mall.) Come round to the south flank facing the Corniche for the main entrance into the Citadel. There's a fortified courtyard then a 4-storey bastion.
    Citadel LE60 regular & LE30 concessions; Maritime Museum LE10.    
  • 2 Mostafa Kamel Necropolis (Mustafa Kamel Cemetery/Tombs). The cemetery includes four tombs dating from the 2nd century BC, all of which are in excellent condition and beautifully decorated. The cemetery bears the name of Mostafa Kamel, one of 20th century Egyptian politics' greatest legends. It was he who pronounced the famous phrase: "If I were not born an Egyptian, I would like to be an Egyptian.". Adult LE40, conc LE20.  
 
Kom el-Shouqafa Catacombs
  • 3 Kom el-Shouqafa Catacombs, Carmouz district, south of Anfushi. These catacombs were probably carved out to be a single wealthy family's mausoleum, and later expanded to take other elite funerals, from the 2nd to 4th century CE. The name "Kom el-Shouqafa" means "mound of shards" as people brought offerings to the dead here in earthenware bowls, then smashed the empties before returning home. They are composed of a ground level construction that probably served as a funerary chapel, a deep spiral stairway and three underground levels (the lowest now flooded by groundwater) for the funeral rituals and entombment. The place was discovered in 1900 when the ground gave way under a donkey. Built as a separate (and older) catacomb, the Hall of Caracalla became linked when energetic tomb-robbers tunnelled through. It seems to have been a burial place for the Roman emperor's horses, as horse bones predominate. No, not the donkey's. The catacombs are interesting for their plan and for their decoration, as the last of the pharonic burials transitioned into Grecian and Roman styles. But if you've seen the richly decorated burial chambers around Luxor, this one will suffer by comparison. LE80, concessions LE40.    
  • 4 Pompey's Pillar, Karmouz. An ancient monument, this 25-meter-high granite column was constructed in honor of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 297. The confined area where the column stands also has other ruins and sculptures such as the Serapium oracle. Also beside this area is a very big shopping center for cloth and furniture called "El-Saa3a," where you can find many types of cloth or clothes. LE80, students LE40.    
  • 5 Kom el-Dikka (just north of railway station), +20 3-3902904. Daily. "Kom el-Dikka" means "pile of rubble" - so much for the grandeur of the Roman Empire. In Ptolemaic times this area was the Park of Pan, a pleasure garden surrounded by villas and baths. Highlights built in the 2nd century CE are the Villa of the Birds, with fine mosaics, and Egypt's only Roman amphitheatre. This has 13 semicircular tiers made of white and grey marble, with seats for up to 800 spectators, galleries and sections of mosaic-flooring. Excavations continue, and in 2010 a Ptolemaic temple was unearthed. You can see the amphitheatre well enough just by peering through the railings, but you'll have to pay to get inside to see the mosaics and other small artefacts. LE80, concessions LE40.    
 
El Montazah Palace.
  • 6 Montaza Palace, El Montazah, +20 3-5477153, +20 3-5473056. Built in 1892 by Abbas II of Egypt Abbas Hilmi Pasha, the last khedive (Ottoman viceroy) of Egypt. One of the palace buildings, the Haramlek, now contains a casino on the ground floor and a museum of royal relics on the upper levels, while the Salamlek has been converted into a luxury hotel (see Sleep). Parts of the extensive gardens (over 80 ha/200 acres) are open to the public. There is an entrance fee for the park. LE25.    
  • 7 Alexandria Naval Unknown Soldier Memorial (Ismail Monument), Mansheya. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honoring its military. Besides its meaning it is a picturesque neoclassical monument worth a photo during the day or when illuminated in the evening. The structure was originally built in 1927 to 1938 as a memorial to Khedive Ismail. After the revolution its dedication was changed.    
  • 8 Ras el-Tin Palace (Presidential Palace), Ras el-Tin (Just west of Anfushi on promontery). Admire the exterior but it's now part of a naval base and not open to visitors.    
  • 9 Taposiris Magna. Remains of a city established by Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus between 280 and 270 BCE, with two monuments that were partly restored in the 1930s. One is a tower that has been used in the reconstruction of the lighthouse of Alexandria and the other is the remains of a temple of Osiris that is also believed to be the last resting place of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.    

MuseumsEdit

  • 10 Alexandria National Museum, 110 Tariq el-Horreyya in Latin quarter (in Latin Quarter 10 mins walk east off Saad Zaghloul Street), +20 3-4835519, +20 3-4838035. Daily 9AM-4:30PM. Small but absorbing, well-presented museum with more than 1800 archaeological pieces. The basement is devoted to Prehistoric and Pharonic times, first floor to the Graeco-Roman period, second floor to the Coptic and Islamic era. Especially interesting are artefacts raised during underwater excavations: there's a sense of a new window opening on history. LE100, students LE50.    
  • 11 Graeco-Roman Museum, Latin quarter. Closed. A history museum with a vast collection mostly dating from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century CE, spanning the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Closed indefinitely; inquiries about its supposed "renovation" are met with shrugs and up-rolled eyes.    
  • 12 Museum of Fine Arts, Moharram Bey, +20 3-3936616. Mostly modern and Orientalist paintings    
  • 13 Royal Jewelry Museum, Zizenia district, +20 3-5828348. Royal jewelry from the Egyptian monarchy of 1805 to 1952 displayed in a the former palace of Princess Fatma Al-Zahra'.    
  • 14 Cavafy Museum. Museum in the house of the poet Cavafy (1863–1933) where he spent the last 25 years of his life.    
  • 15 Arabic Calligraphy Museum. The museum was inaugurated in 2015. On two levels with three rooms each the museum presents manuscripts, but also paintings, ceramics, sculptures and miniatures with calligraphic scripts.  

Religious sitesEdit

  • 16 El-Mursi Abul-Abbas Mosque, Anfoushi. Built in 1775 by Algerians, the mosque was built over the tomb of the famous 13th century sufi saint, Ahmed Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi. The walls of the mosque are dressed in artificial stone, while the minaret, on the south side, stands at 73 m.    
  • 17 Attarine Mosque. Built as a church dedicated to the Saint Athanasius in 370 AD and was converted into a mosque following the Muslim conquest of Egypt.    
  • 18 Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue (معبد إلياهو هانبي اليهودي). There has been a synagogue at this site since 1348, the current Neo-Gothic building has been standing since 1850.    

Modern AlexEdit

  • The Corniche stretches forever. The core is a 15 km promenade along the bay dotted with restaurants, markets and historic sights.
  • 19 Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Shatby / Silsia (Enter from Corniche or from small street behind), +20 3-4839999. Su-Th 10AM-7PM, F 2PM-7PM, Sa noon-4PM. A huge modern library and research centre constructed on the site of the ancient Library of Alexandria. Wonderful display of ancient texts of the Middle East. Includes four museum areas, exhibition space, and a planetarium. Regular tours in English and other languages. The Antiquities Museum (LE50 extra, buy tickets at the museum entrance) is particularly well worth visiting for its wide range of artefacts from the Pharonic to the Islamic period. LE70 (non-Egyptian adult), LE35 (concessions) - buy tickets from the office on Dr. Abd Al Hamid Dayed St. facing the university.    

DoEdit

 
Beach off the western end of the Corniche
  • Sunbathe at the Maa'moura Beach or Montazah Beach. During summer the beaches are packed with Egyptian tourists, parasols and plastic chairs and it will cost LE5 (2008) to get in. At this time the sand and water may have some throwaway plastic floating around. Some areas charge LE20 and it will get you more space.
  • 1 Montazah Royal Gardens. Though the gardens are a part of the more than three hundred and fifty acre grounds of the large royal home known as the Muntazah Palace, the Montazah Royal Gardens take up more than half of the property. Montazah Royal Gardens are situated along the shore as well, which means access to the lovely beaches and warm Mediterranean Sea waters nearby. The Montazah Royal Gardens are a bit unique where city parks and public spaces are concerned as they are rigorously landscaped, and well-stocked with benches and wading or swimming pools that are open for the public to enjoy.  
  • Also in Montazah, Montazah Water Sports, provide various water sports, from waterskiing to wake-boarding, even Banana Boat and Donuts.
  • Hire a boat and go cruising at Ras el-Tin.
  • Have a long walk by the beautiful Corniche by the Mediterranean Sea.

CinemasEdit

  • 2 Renaissance Royal Cinema, 22E Al Bakht, Al Mesallah Sharq. This movie theater in Alexandria is owned by the same people who run the Renaissance theaters in Cairo. There are three screens, with surround sound and all options. Midnight shows are daily.  
  • Cineplex, 14th of May Bridge Rd (by Hilton at Green Plaza, Smouha, see Sleep). 10 screens, 3D movies available. Tickets LE25.
  • 3 Amir.  

SportsEdit

  • Football: Alexandria has two soccer teams in the Premier League, Egypt's top tier. Smouha SC and Al Ittihad are both based at Alexandria Stadium (capacity 20,000), 500 m east of the railway station. Haras El Hodoud are in the Second Division, playing in the western suburb of El Max. Pharco in the Premier League play at Borg el Arab (aka El-Geish) Stadium 25 km west towards the airport.
  • 4 Alexandria Sporting Club (right in the heart of Alexandria). Built in 1898 and used during the British occupation, the Alexandria Sporting Club is one of the oldest sporting clubs in Egypt. Today, the golf course stands on 97 feddans, 97 percent of which constitutes the total club area. It is a flat course with tricky bunkers and can be played by beginners as well as experts. The club also features four restaurants, the Club House Restaurant being the most luxurious, and the Happy Land restaurant serving the children's playground. It also offers party catering.    
  • 5 Smouha Sporting Club, Smouha. International Hockey Stadium, many swimming pools, a number of soccer fields, two running tracks. Members and guests only.    
  • Scuba dive with Alexandra Dive, based on the Corniche. It's historic wreck-diving, year-round, interesting but distinctly cold and gloomy compared to the Red Sea. The standard one-day, two-dive trip takes you to the "Palace of Cleopatra" immersed off Antirodos Island, and around the old harbour and lighthouse remnants off Pharos point. They also venture out to wrecks from ancient Greece, the Napoleonic era, and the Great War. They offer training courses, but beginners will do much better to train in the Red Sea. (They run trips there but you're probably going anyway.) All these trips depend not only on weather, but on having viable diver numbers.
  • Go swimming in the Country Club or Lagoon Resort, in front of Carrefour.

LearnEdit

Cultural institutesEdit

Language schoolsEdit

  • 6 Ahlan Egypt - Alexandria, 8, El-Ghorfa El-Togareya Street (next to the French Consulate close to Mansheya Square and one street behind the Corniche), . Language school with native teachers for Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic teaching since 2005. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and fewer students than before the pandemic teaching mainly consists of one-to-one lessons as of April 2022. The atmosquere is familial. Quite some information on the website is outdated. Contact is very responsive though.  
  • 7 TAFL Center, . Center for Teaching Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic of the University of Alexandria with bigger number of students from a lot of foreign universities and higher prices. Apart from the fixed programmes one-to-one lessons can probably be arranged. Online information is scarce, mainly on their Facebook page.  

WorkEdit

Alexandria has a tiny industrial section, mainly centered around the natural gas industry. A few expatriates work in this section. This section is increasing now as many new factories are built in Borg el Arab.

Other than that, there are some but not many international schools that employ expatriate teachers. Generally they pay less than the much more lucrative educational section in Cairo.

Alexandria has got quite a large number of language schools. You can find girls-only, boys-only and mixed schools. Also international certificates -like the IGCSE or the American SAT I and SAT II- could be completed in most of these schools. Moreover, study is available in English, French and also German.

BuyEdit

 
Central Alexandria

Standard shop hours are daily until 10PM or later, but in summer they take a siesta from noon to 4PM. Ramadan hours also vary.

Typically, vendors of a particular product cluster along a street.

  • Nabi Daniel, the street between the railway station and Corniche, has many booksellers with titles in several languages. Prices negotiable. Further inland has vendors of electrical components (e.g. plug adapters) that may be useful to a traveller. "Nabi" means prophet so the street refers to the Biblical figure.
  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina Bookshop (within the new library). daily 9AM to 7PM. Good for general and tourist literature in different languages.
  • 1 Deeb Mall, 1 Syria St, Roushdy. 10:30AM-10:30PM. Midrange shopping mall, mostly clothing but with IT section. Plus cinema and food court.  
  • Green Plaza (by Hilton Hotel). 9AM-1AM. Big modern open-air mall with many shops, restaurants, cinema and a court for video games and bowling.
  • 2 Maamoura Plaza Mall, Maamoura. 24 hours. Small mall in the tract east of Montazah, has some restaurants.
  • San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall. By the Four Seasons Hotel, see #Sleep. Large mall with upscale shopping, 10 cinemas and large food court.
  • 3 Zahran Mall, Smouha. Daily 10AM-11PM. Popular mall with cinema and coffee shops.
  • 4 Carrefour City Center, Gate 4 - 1st Alexandria Cairo Desert Road. Daily 10AM-midnight. If this is "city centre", you'll need camels to reach "edge of town". It's a big mall with huge hypermarket, coffee shops and cinemas. Take a taxi to get here.

EatEdit

  • Seafood restaurants line the waterfront.
  • Alexandrian ice cream is similar to the typical soft-serve ice cream, but it is described as being a little bit 'stretchy'. It is available in numerous flavors, and according to the locals, this type of ice cream is only made in Alexandria and Greece. Try it at Bahary near Qait Bey, where popular shops include Makram, El-Sheikh Wafik, Azza and El Se'eedy.
  • Corn on the cob (dorra mashwey) is sold by street vendors along the Corniche.
  • Koshary, the Egyptian national dish, is a mixture of noodles, rice, lentil and more noodles topped with a tomato sauce. Koshary topped with kibda Iskandarani — Alexandria-style liver with peppers — is a local tradition.

BudgetEdit

  • 1 Tawn Coffe Shop. Yes, "Coffe". Great place on the Corniche, with a decent pizza and chairs in front of the café for "enjoying" the traffic and view.  
  • 2 Kushari Bondok, Smouha (beside Fathalla supermarket). Well known kushari joint, value for money.
  • 3 Meto, 273 Gamal Abdel Nasser St, +20 3 550 7774. Daily 9AM-midnight. Fast food: pizza and its Arabic equivalent fateer.
  • 4 Asmak Shabaan, El Hana Tower, Al Max, Corniche, +20 120 424 2551. 24 hrs. Great place for seafood.
  • 5 Foul Mohamed Ahmed, 17 Shakour Street (off Saad Zaghloul Street, opposite Metropole Hotel). Legendary joint for fuul and falafel, clean, friendly and inexpensive. According to a personal memory by an Alexandrian lady it was in Jewish ownership and called Binyamin before the Revolution of 1952.[1].  
  • 6 Foul Mohamed Ahmed (Mohammed Ahmed) (inside the small Raml Station building). Takeaway only branch of the bigger Mohamed Ahmed restaurant.  
  • 7 Mostafa Gad, Al Iskandar Al Akbar Street (just opposite the Raml Station building). Takeaway only branch of the Egyptian cuisine fast food chain.  
  • 8 Mostafa Gad, Mahmoud Azmy Tousoun Street (close to the Bank of Egypt building). Takeaway and eat-in branch of the Egyptian cuisine fast food chain.  
  • 9 Mostafa Gad, El-Horeya Road (opposite Cinema Amir). Takeaway only branch of the Egyptian cuisine fast food chain.  
  • 10 Fayrouz. Fastfood restaurant with Levantine and Egyptian plates. Slightly more expensive than Gad.  

Mid-rangeEdit

Mid-priced by Egyptian standards, Western fast-food chains like Pizza Hut, McDonald's and KFC can all be found in the city's larger malls, but there are more interesting options as well.

  • 11 Abou Shakra, El Geish 424 (Smouha Green Plaza), +20 3 426 1777. Daily 10AM-midnight. Popular Egyptian chain for shwarms, similar grills and set meals of kebab, kofta, fries and salad.
  • 12 Hosny, Gamal Abd El-Nasser St (El Mandara), +20 3 550 6655. 24 hr. Good fresh Middle Eastern food.
  • 13 Patisserie Délices, 46 Saad Zaghloul. It is now part of La Veranda, see below.  
  • 14 Le Boudoir, 30 Al Naby Daniel Street. Café and small restaurant of the French Institute (Institut français). The Boudoir will close after Ramadan 2022. It is not yet clear if and in which form it will open again.  
  • 15 Trianon, 54 Saad Zaghloul Street. Café and restaurant.  
  • 16 Chicken Tikka (Tikka Grill), 11, 26th of July St., Bahary (Eastern Port, beside Diving Club), +20 3 5832470. Daily 11AM-2AM. Delicious Egyptian food, with views of the harbour and Fort Qait Bey. Try the shish kebab and the wara' el enab (stuffed vine leaves). There is a second restaurant of this chain in 426 El-Gaish Rd., Luran.
  • 17 Balbaa, 4 Al Manteka Al Shamalea, Mustafa Kamel WA Bolkli, Sidi Gaber (Sidi Bishr, corner with El Gaish). Daily 10AM-4PM. Popular place for Egyptian meat and seafood. Their outlet at Carrefour City Center has closed.
  • 18 Elite.  

SplurgeEdit

 
The entrance of Athineos
Many of Alexandria's high-end restaurants are within its hotels.
  • 19 Athineos, 21 Saad Zaghloul Sq (on the Corniche), +20 110 285 5557. 24 hrs. The "Mermaid of Alexandria" is a local legend frequented by both Durrell and Cavafy, but alas, it has fallen far since its glory days. The views are still amazing, and the Greek motifs in the gilded friezes and stenciled frescoes give some character, but the food is, despite the Greek names on the menu, almost entirely Arabized: order souvlaki and you'll get kebab.  
  • Byblos is the swish Middle Eastern restaurant within Four Seasons Hotel, open daily 2 PM to midnight. Stefano's their Italian restaurant is closed in 2021.
  • 20 Chez Gaby au Ritrovo, 22 El Horreya Rd (Near Raml Station), +20 3 487 4404. Tu-Su 2PM-midnight. Possibly the best Italian restaurant in town, serving pizza and pasta since 1979.  
  • 21 Ibn El-Balad Gleem, Mustafa Kamel (behind El-Salam Theatre), +20 122 855 5909. 24 hours. Two-storey restaurant, now part of THM chain. First floor has grilled meats featuring their famous Ibn al-Balad fattah. The second floor serves seafood. Both get great scores for food, service and ambiance.
  • 22 La Veranda, 46 Saad Zaghloul. (inside Patisserie Delices), +20 3-4861432. Very central downtown, near the Metropole, Cecil and Sofitel hotels. Within, most of the floor space is the cafe-patisserie Jardin Delices. About a quarter is La Veranda restaurant, with good European/East Med cuisine. Serves alcohol. Atmospheric with the old posters, but nowadays not a spy or dilapidated duchess to be found.
  • 23 Ole Cafe, Kafr Abdou Street, Roushdy. Daily 8AM-10PM. A reasonably priced restaurant with Spanish cuisine. Try the Beef Madrid.
  • 24 Ottimo, Kafr Abdou 3. Daily 9AM - 1AM. Nice restaurant with veranda.
  • 25 White and Blue restaurant (Greek Club), on Harbour Mall near Qaitbey Fortress. The Greek Club (ENOA: Ellenika Nautikos Olimnos Alexandria) is a private club but with two public restaurants, and something of an Alex institution. Ride the elevator up to Olive Island Restaurant on the third floor: the place is dark and piled high with old furniture. So ride back down to the second floor which has White and Blue Restaurant out on the terrace, overlooking the eastern harbour. A few civilities like "Kalispera sas" go a long way as they clearly don't speak Greek themselves. Traditional East Med specialities such as kebabs, stews, and lots of fish. Clean, and inexpensive by western standards.

DrinkEdit

CafesEdit

 
Stanley Bridge
  • Traditional coffee shops or ahwa serve coffee, tea and shisha water pipes. Play a little backgammon or dominoes and watch the world pass by. They remain a male bastion.
  • Brazilian Coffee Stores are a chain with several city outlets. Western chains such as Starbucks or Costa have only a handful of outlets. The chain's best known branch is the one in Saad Zaghloul Street:
    • 1 Brazilian Coffee Stores (next to Délices Patisserie/La Veranda). Daily 7AM-11PM.  
  • 2 Clay Cafe, 156 Omar Lotfy St (near Small Sporting Tram station). Daily 11AM-midnight. Coffee and stuff are only just okay for the price, you come for the laidback atmosphere.
  • 3 Trianon 1905, 52 Saad Zaghlul Square (Metropole Hotel building, see #Sleep), +20 128 583 9731. 8AM-midnight. Posh cafe and dessert restaurant, you're paying for the ambiance.  
  • 4 Cafe de la Paix, 202 El Geish, Raml Station. 24 hours. Relaxing place on the waterfront.  
  • 5 Club21, 5 Mo'askar Elroumany St, Roushdy, +20 3 523 2929. Daily 9AM to 1AM. Friendly inexpensive place for food and drink, plus shisha in the garden.
  • 6 Le Boudoir, 30 Al Naby Daniel Street, Al Attarin East, +20 3 4974151, . Cafe and small restaurant of the Institut français. Large and calm outdoor seating area, small indoor seating area. Entry via the security check of the Institut français.  
  • 7 Lail. 10AM-4AM. Spacious cafe and restaurant on a rooftop offering shishas.  

BarsEdit

Time was, way back, when a maze of bars and nightclubs filled the city. They're now mostly confined to the hotels, with few free-standing bars. Still, enough remain for visitors to get squiffy recalling their days on General Auchinleck's staff, eyes swivelling independently upwards to recreate the effect of an old ceiling fan.

  • 8 Spitfire Bar, 7 Old Borsa Street, Mansheya (off Saad Zaghloul Street before Cherry Maryski Hotel). Daily 4PM-midnight. Cheerful bar with food a short block off the main downtown street. "Atmospheric", meaning the building looks derelict, but persevere.  
  • 9 Mermaid Bar, Mahatat el Raml (near Athineos). Little and nice bar with good view to the sea. Prices on beer are moderate; hard liquor is more expensive. At night the upper floor has a dance floor featuring Western and Arabic music. The bar is frequented by foreign (particularly American) Arabic language students at the Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL) Center at Alexandria University.
  • 10 Sheikh Ali, Adib Bek Ishak Street off Sa'ad Zaghloul. Better known among travellers as the Cap d'Or and one of Alexandria's oldest bars.
  • Drinkie's is a chain of liquor stores with a dozen city branches. The most central branch on Saad Zaghloul Square is open daily noon-2AM.
  • San Giovanni Club within that hotel has live music, singers and oriental dancers until late.

SleepEdit

 
Al Qaaed Ibrahim Basha Mosque on the Corniche

Accommodation in Alexandria has quite a different feel due to the old buildings with sometimes nice colonial style lobbies. There is a good selection of hotels in all price ranges.

ApartmentsEdit

For stays of a month or more, consider renting. Apartments are easy to come by, in a range of prices (LE180-1000 per week) and states of repair. Landlords/ladies tend to live in the same blocks and will be willing to haggle the rates. It's definitely worth visiting an apartment before placing any money down, preferably in late afternoon so you see how well the lighting works and the worst of any insect problems. (It's very unlikely to find any accommodation near the coast that's completely roach-free!)

BudgetEdit

It is mostly not necessary to reserve ahead online, this is in general more expensive. Just check around where many hotels are—there are at least 7 or so near Triomphe Hotel, where you can walk in and ask for a price. One will definitely have the required budget and standard.

  • 1 Ithaka Hostel. 4-dorm hostel just at the sea front with very friendly staff. Not the quietest place. There used to be just one shower for the whole hostel. The installation of a second is planned for December 2021. Shared kitchen and spacious common area, smoking permitted in one half of it. Warm water. Lockable drawers under the beds, locks are provided. Sockets at the beds, but no lamps. Wi-Fi isn't very stable. 24/7 reception, hostel is in the 2nd floor. LE230 without and LE250 with sea view and tiny balcony in a dorm. LE100 deposit are returned upon checkout.  
  • 2 Alexandria Youth Hostel, 13 Sharia Port Said (1 km east of the Bibliotheca), +20 3 5974559. A decent budget option and close to the sea and Bibliotheca Alexandrina. LE82 in 4-bed dorm and LE56 in a 8-bed dorm, including breakfast.
  • 3 Triomphe Hotel, 26 El Ghorfa El Togaria Street, +20 34807585. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 11:30. Decent choice with impressive (smoking area) lobby and nice staircase, elevator also available. The rooms are clean. The bathroom is clean and has warm water. WiFi is free. Single from LE150.  
  • 4 Normandy Hotel, 8 Gamal el-Din Yassen (near Raml Station), +20 3-4806830, . The Normandy hotel is good value for money, but a little run down. It is a one-floor hotel on the Corniche, with unbeatable views of the city's Eastern Harbor. It is the building behind the famous Cecil Hotel, on the fourth floor. The rooms are well-appointed, large and clean, but spare. The bathrooms are down the hall, and also clean. Staff are very friendly, helpful, and honest. The staff speak both English and Arabic, with limited knowledge of a few other random languages. Single from LE100.  
  • Welcome House are basic apartments within the same block as Normandy Hotel.
  • 5 Union Hotel. On the fifth floor right at the Corniche. Great views from the lobby. The rooms are just ok, but the bathroom however is new and comfortable. If this is full, try Triomphe, or vice-versa. Single from LE150.  
  • 6 Nile Excelsior Hotel, 16 Borsa Kadema Street, Manshyia, +20 3 480 0799. Cheap downtown hotel, cleaning erratic but value for what you're paying.
  • 7 Hotel Queen Transit Alexandria, 21 Hasan El Shiekh Street, +20 3-4815556. Mansheya, downtown, sea side Corniche 1st Floor, in the heart of Alexandria, very new and clean amazing sea view. LE100 for single rooms, LE150 for double room with bathroom + breakfast + Wi-Fi.
  • 8 Acropole Hotel, 27 El Ghorfa El Togaria Street (+20 1200111170), .  

Mid-rangeEdit

  • 9 Holiday Manshya Hotel, 6 Ourabi Sq, +20 3 4801559. A no-frills two-star hotel with private bathrooms and hot water, popular with overland trucks setting off down into the heart of Africa. Not far from the shore and within walking distance from the center of town. Watch out for bedbugs. It wasn't open in 2021.
  • 10 Hotel Delta, 14 Champollion Street, Mazarita (corner of Omar Lotfy), +20 3 486 5188, . Modern concrete block with 63 basic rooms, some overlooking the sea. Aircon, cable TV. Not far from the Alexandria Library. B&B double LE1800.  
  • 11 San Giovanni Hotel, 205 El Gaish Rd (at Stanley Bridge), +20 3 546 7774. Old-style hotel with 32 rooms and the traditional Egyptian reek of cigarette smoke. Looks onto the beach restaurant strip.

SplurgeEdit

 
San Stefano Grand Plaza
Most of Alexandria's top-end hotels are along the coast to the east, several km from the historic city centre.
  • 12 Four Seasons San Stefano, 399 El Geish Road, +20 3 581 8000, fax: +20 3 581 8080. Upscale resort hotel scores highly for comfort and service. With private beach, the public Med beaches are filthy. B&B double LE5000.  
  • 13 Helnan Palestine, Montezah Park, El Saa Square, +20 3 547 3500, . Boxy modern place facing Montaza Royal Palace, comfort, cleanliness and internet erratic. B&B double LE5000.  
  • 14 Hilton Alexandria Green Plaza, 14th of May Bridge Road (within Green Plaza mall), +20 3 420 9120, fax: +20 3 420 9140. Decent mid- to upmarket hotel, clean and well-run. B&B double LE1500.  
  • 15 Hilton Alexandria Corniche. This is their other city offering. "Hilton Kings Ranch" is away out towards Borg El Arab Airport.
  • 16 Le Metropole, 52 Saad Zaghloul St (near el-Raml station), +20 3 486 1465. Opened in 1902, this is one of Alexandria's two grand old hotels (the Cecil is the other). It has been partly renovated, keeping the turn-of-the-century style. It's on Alexandria's main street, handy for sightseeing but lower floor rooms (especially at the back) can be noisy. The food is nothing special but the views from the rooftop restaurant make it special. B&B double LE1500.  
  • 17 Sheraton Montazah Hotel, Corniche Road, +20 3 548 0550. It's at the far east end of the Corniche. Small, shabby and in need of renovation and a good clean. The beach (across a very busy road) is grubby. B&B double LE1800.  
  • 18 Steigenberger Cecil Hotel, 16 Saad Zagloul Square, +20 3 487 7173. Alexandria's other grand old hotel, many of whose rooms are named after famous guests like Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill. Great central location, clean and comfy, helpful staff. The old wire-cage lift conjures period charm but it's basically a modern hotel, though some furnishings (e.g. bathroom) are kinda tired. Good sound-proofing, which you'll appreciate given the swirling Corniche traffic and many wedding parties held here. Decent Jardin restaurant for breakfast but the Chinese restaurant has closed. Service sometimes slow. B&B double LE2700.    
  • 19 Radisson Blu Hotel Alexandria, Mehwar El Taameer Northern Coast Road km 23, Alex West, +20 3 589 6000, fax: +20 3 589 6020. The km 23 in the address indicates how far out this is, in the part-built, part abandoned Alex West district. Visitors have enjoyed the clean spacious rooms (with a/c) and away-fom-the-city feel, but there's some construction noise. B&B double LE2000.
  • 20 Cherry Maryski Hotel, +20 3 488 1111, .  

Stay safeEdit

Although crime is rarely violent, beware of pickpockets and don't flash your valuables or wear a bum bag or fanny pack. Street kids, taxi drivers, and others may harass tourists. They will usually desist after a stern "La!" or two. Or you can say "la shukran!" (no thanks) or "emshi" (go!).

Alexandria is a conservative city, so women should cover their shoulders, midriffs, cleavage and legs. Even still, women can expect to be heckled or harassed in the street, especially if walking alone. The best response is to ignore the offender and pretend you don't hear anything. Cover your head when entering places of worship.

EmergencyEdit

CopeEdit

Many consulates have closed and centralized in Cairo: this includes the American, Italian, Irish, Chinese and Greek.

ConnectEdit

 
Abu Mena monastery

Alexandria and the airport have 4G from all Egyptian carriers. As of Oct 2021, 5G has not yet rolled out in Egypt.

Go nextEdit

  • Abu Mena is a Christian pilgrimage site 45 km south of Alexandria, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • El Alamein is a small town on the coast 120 km west of Alexandria. In 1942 the Axis forces under Rommel had swept this far across Libya towards Cairo and Suez. They were halted in June 1942 by Allied forces under Auchinleck, and sent retreating by Montgomery in November. The town has memorials, museums and war graves commemorating all nations. It's usually done as a day trip from Alexandria.
  • Marina El Alamein is the upmarket beach resort 20 km before El Alamein main town.
  • Marsa Matruh is start of the desert road to Siwa Oasis, but check if the highway is open. The oasis towns are usually reached via Cairo.
  • Cairo can be done as a day-trip, but needs longer, and you'll probably pass through on your way to Luxor, Aswan or the Red Sea resorts.


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  1. Farah El-Akkad, Revisiting Alexandria’s leisure landmarks, Ahram Online, 12 March 2021, retrieved 18 June 2022.