Alexandria, Arabic Al-Iskandariyyah, major city, and urban muḥāfaẓah (governorate) in Egypt. Once among the greatest cities of the Mediterranean world and a center of Hellenic scholarship and science, Alexandria was the capital of Egypt from its founding by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE until its surrender to the Arab forces led by ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ in 642 CE. One of Egypt’s largest cities, Alexandria is also its principal seaport and a major industrial center. The city lies on the Mediterranean Sea at the western edge of the Nile River delta, about 114 miles (183 km) northwest of Cairo in Lower Egypt. Area city, 116 square miles (300 square km). Population (2006) city, 4,110,015.
Character Of The City
Alexandria has long occupied a special place in the popular imagination by virtue of its association with Alexander and Cleopatra. Alexandria played an important role in preserving and transmitting Hellenic culture to the wider Mediterranean world and was a crucible of scholarship, piety, and ecclesiastical politics in early Christian history. Although it has been asserted that Alexandria declined as a result of its conquest by Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE, such a statement is misleading. While the city’s political primacy was lost when the capital was moved to the interior, Alexandria remained an important center of naval operations, maritime commerce, and craft production. As late as the 15th century, the city prospered as a transit point in the trade conducted between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean basin.
The modern city extends 25 miles (40 km) east to west along a limestone ridge, 1–2 miles (1.6–3.2 km) wide, that separates the salt lake of Maryūṭ, or Mareotis—now partly drained and cultivated—from the Egyptian mainland. An hourglass-shaped promontory formed by the silting up of a mole (the Heptastadion), which was built soon after Alexandria’s founding, links the island of Pharos with the city center on the mainland. It’s two steeply curving bays form the basins for the Eastern Harbour and the Western Harbour.
The prevailing north wind, blowing across the Mediterranean, gives Alexandria a markedly different climate from that of the desert hinterland. The summers are relatively temperate, although humidity can build up in July and in August, the hottest month when the average temperature reaches 87 °F (31 °C). Winters are cool and invariably marked by a series of violent storms that can bring torrential rain and even hail. The mean daily temperature in January, which is the coldest month, is 64 °F (18 °C).
From the late 19th century to the 1980s the population grew 10-fold, the result of high birth rates and migration from the countryside. In the decade following the 1952 revolution, the city’s population reached roughly 1.5 million; by 1976 the population stood at more than 2 million, with half the people under 20 years of age. The city’s population continued to grow, reaching more than 4 million in the early 21st century.
Manufacturing, finance, and other services
Alexandria’s industrial and commercial activities—manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, banking, food processing, and the production of petrochemicals and cement—indicate the importance of the city’s output for the national economy. Alexandria and its environs account for roughly two-fifths of Egypt’s industrial production. Most industrial development has taken place in the western approaches to the city, around the more modern Western Harbour, and along its southern flank; the industry is the city’s chief employment sector.
The area around the port known as Mīnāʾ al-Baṣal contains warehouses and was once home to the Cotton Exchange. West across the Al-Maḥmūdiyyah Canal is the Al-Qabbārī neighborhood, site of the asphalt works and rice and paper mills. Farther to the west is Al-Maks, with its salt and tanning industries, an oil refinery, a cement works, and, farther on, the limestone quarries. Other industrial development has taken place still farther west in Al-Dukhaylah. To the south lies the area of Al-ʿAmiriyyah, the site of two more refineries, including the Middle East Oil Refinery (Midor), which was designed to meet stringent environmental standards. The lighter industry is concentrated on the banks of the Al-Maḥmūdiyyah Canal.
Agriculture is an important economic activity in the hinterland, and land reclamation has been attempted with some success. In one such project implemented near Alexandria, the Egyptian government has aimed to encourage food production and divert job seekers from overcrowded urban areas by offering graduates of universities and other institutes of higher education parcels of reclaimed land, which they are able to purchase using long-term loans.
Europe’s increasing demand for cotton—introduced into Egypt in the 1820s—was by the 1840s contributing substantially to the city’s wealth. As a result, Alexandria became an increasingly important center for banking and commerce. The Alexandria Stock Exchange, founded in 1883, was followed by the Cairo Stock Exchange in 1903; they eventually linked their operations and continued as the Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchanges (CASE). Though some banks, such as the Alexandria Commercial and Maritime Bank, are based in Alexandria, a majority of banks—including the Bank of Alexandria—are headquartered in Cairo.
there are special organized tours to discover the magic of alexandria