Alexandria or the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’ is the second largest city in Egypt. This city always enjoyed a strategic importance because of its location between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
Alexandria was the chief center for maritime trade. The place has been under the occupation of many cultures and as a result many palaces and castles were built in this city.
Al – Haramlik Palace
The palace overlooks the Royal Mediterranean Bay and the Montazah beach. The palace is also known as the Al Montazah Palace. The palace was actually used as a summer home by the erstwhile King Fuad. It covers a huge area of 350 acres with beautiful gardens surrounding the palace from all sides.
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The garden encompasses a children’s park, a museum and a tourist center. The palace is now the resident of the president and is closed to the general public. But you can definitely visit the gardens and the other attractions surrounding the palace. The fees are $6.00 and the entrance fee for Montazah beach is $15.00
El Salamlek Palace
This palace was the summer residence for Khedive Abbas II. The palace is within the Salamlek complex in Alexandria. The complex is fully protected with fortified walls and it encompasses the Al – Haramlik Palace, the park, the Montazah Gardens and a number of tourist buildings.
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The El Salamlek Palace has been transformed into a hotel featuring suites ($120) and guest rooms ($80). The hotel also houses a casino.
The Qaitbay Castle & Mosque
The Qaitbay Castle or Qaitbay Citadel is one of the most easily recognizable attractions in Alexandria. The castle is located on the Pharos Island which also has the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Qaitbay Castle was built around 1480 AD, mainly to protect the city against the invading Turks. The Qaitbay Mosque has been certified as the oldest in Alexandria by the Egyptian Supreme Counsel of Antiquities. The castle was in ruins from the British invasion of 1882 but the Ministry of Defense did some basic repairing work afterwards.
In 1952, the castle was turned into a Maritime Museum by the Egyptian Navy. However, the condition of the castle was still in pretty bad shape. However, things changed for better in 1984 when the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities finally converted the castle into an Aquarium and Marine Life Museum. The admission fee is fixed at $9.00 and the museum is open from 9:00 in the morning to 2:00pm.
Alexandria is steeped in history and it is only natural that you will find some beautiful palaces and castle. It is encouraging to see the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities taking interest in restoration of these castles and palaces. The Qaitbay Castle and Mosque is renowned all over the world and its conversion into a Marine Life Museum has been welcomed by all.
People are discouraged to enter the citadel as it is practically empty inside. But one must not miss the stunning views of the Mediterranean from the fort. The breaking of the ocean waves into the citadel stones is a real treat to watch.