The ancient Egyptian capital
Alexandria was Egypt’s capital for almost a thousand years before fading into oblivion, only to be reborn in the modern age as a Europeanized metropolis In Arabic the city is called Al-Iskandariya, after its founder Alexander the Great.
For visitors sailing on an MSC cruise to Egypt, the modern city’s top three attractions are its iconic library, the Alexandria National Museum and the Roman Theatre (all on the periphery of downtown, fifteen minutes’ walk from the central Midan Sa’ad Zaghloul).
Alexandria runs along the Mediterranean for 20km without ever venturing more than 8km inland – a true waterfront city. With an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion, you can also visit its great Corniche, which sweeps around the Eastern Harbour and along the coast past a string of city beaches to Montazah and Ma’amoura, burning out before the final beach at Abu Qir. Most foreign tourists frequent the downtown quarter of El-Manshiya, where many restaurants are within a few blocks either side, or inland, of Midan Sa’ad Zaghloul.
The Corniche (and breezes blowing inland) make basic orientation quite simple, but the finer points can still be awkward and even the latest map doesn’t show every backstreet in the centre. Starting as an alleyway off Midan Sa’ad Zaghloul, Sharia Nabi Daniel widens into a busy shopping street leading towards Masr Station, passing a synagogue, a Coptic cathedral and a mosque – each related to different facets of Alexandria’s history – on the way.
The only trace of what existed here in antiquity however is the street’s alignment, which follows the ancient Street of the Soma, a wide thoroughfare paved in marble that dazzled the Arabs in 641 even though its finest buildings had already vanished.