The seafaring city of Alexandria, second largest in Egypt, enjoyed a long heyday as one of the most culturally and politically prominent ports on the Mediterranean.
Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria served as Egypt's capital under the Ptolemaic dynasty, and during the Roman period it became the Middle East's most important center of Christianity. The setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Alexandria was also the center of learning in the ancient world.
During the 19th century, generations of immigrants from Greece, Italy and the Levant settled in Alexandria, making the city synonymous with commerce, cosmopolitanism and bohemian culture.
Today Alexandria's atmosphere is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern, its cultural heritage distancing it from the rest of Egypt even though it's just 225 km from Cairo. If you've tired of Egyptian fuul and falafel, be sure to catch some of this city's international cuisine and European-style patisseries.
Highlights in the city include the Catacombs of Kom el Shogafa, dating from the 2nd century AD; Pompeii's Pillar; the Graeco-Roman Museum and the Ptolemaic and Roman remains of Kom el Dikka. Excavations begun in 1959 under a Polish archaeological team have revealed a small Roman amphitheater, Roman baths and Muslim tombs.
Home to several universities, Alexandria hosts a vibrant student and arts community. The city's waterfront along the Eastern Harbor stays up latest and is the place for evening strolls along the Mediterranean.