The history of Alexandria dates back to the city’s founding, by Alexander the Great, in 331 BC. Yet, before that, there were some big port cities just east of Alexandria, at the western edge of what is now Abu Qir Bay. The Canopic (westernmost) branch of the Nile Delta still existed at that time, and was widely used for shipping.
Alexander the Great and the Foundation of Alexandria
The bond between Egypt and the Hellenic Empire dates from centuries before Alexander the Great. Greek merchants and brokers lived in a village called “Kom Ge’eif” in the Governorate of Beheira . Egyptians were particularly close to the Greek community in Egypt during the entire time of the Persian occupation of the Nile Valley. As Alexander took control of all ports and harbors of the Eastern Mediterranean, he reached the location of Alexandria in the autumn of 332 B.C. On entering Alexandria, the Persian ruler of the city surrendered without resistance and Alexander entered the city in triumph.
After its foundation, Alexandria became the seat of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and quickly grew to be one of the greatest cities of the Hellenistic world. Only Rome, which gained control of Egypt in 30 BC, eclipsed Alexandria in size and wealth.
The city fell to the Arabs in , and a new capital of Egypt, Fustat, was on the Nile. After Alexandria’s status as the country’s capital ended, it fell into a long decline, which by the late Ottoman period, had seen it reduced to little more than a small fishing village. The French army under Napoleon captured the city in 1798 and the British soon captured it from the French, retaining Alexandria within their sphere of influence for 150 years. The city grew in the early 19th century under the industrialization program of Mohammad Ali, the viceroy of Egypt.
The current city is the Republic of Egypt’s leading port, a commercial, tourism and transportation center, and the heart of a major industrial area where refined petroleum, asphalt, cotton textiles, processed food, paper, plastics and styrofoam are produced.
Birth of the Concept.
As Alexander rides along the Mediterranean Coast, a land between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mariout catches his attention. With its unique features and intrinsic peculiarity, the spot was ideal for founding a great city. It had easy access to fresh water from the River Nile via the Canopic Branch, and was hardly a mile away from a small island strategically placed right on the opposite side allowing for the possibility of connecting them both, and creating a formidable natural frontline for the city. To the south was Lake Mariout; another natural border, which further fortified the city defenses.
Alexander knew the importance of building a city bearing his name to immortalize his memory for good . Also to become a port for international trading in the entire region. At the outskirts of the area to the west was the Racotis Village, which had many fishermen.
The name of Denocrates remains closely associated with the history of Alexandria since he started planning the city’s layout . The genius of this architect became evident as he blueprinted plans for roads, squares and districts of the city. Denocrates was born in the island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean Sea. He had been a close advisor of Alexander the Great. He accompanied him on his expeditions to scout the area. It started from the town of Canopic Abou Kir to Racoda village and the Island of Pharos. The reason is to decide on the most suitable spot to build the great city of Alexandria.