Alexandria is rightly known at the Pearl of the Mediterranean. Founded by Alexander the Great around 300 BC, Alexandria was the most important city in the Mediterranean for centuries and was home to many great and wonderful buildings and a vibrant cosmopolitan culture. Today the remaining monuments of ancient Alexandria are different cemeteries scattered in many various locations, some of which date back to the Ptolemaic period: El-Shatby, Moustafa Kamel, El-Anfoushy, and El-Wardain. Others date back to the Roman period: the tombs of Kom El-Shouqafa (called the Catacombs), the tomb of Tigran, Pompey’s Pillar, Tomb of Silvago and the cemetery of El-Qabbary which was recently discovered.
There are also other important monuments in the city that date back to various periods, such as the Serapium, the Roman Theatre, the Temple of El-Ras El-Souda, Citadel of Quaitbay, the Jewelry Museum, the National Museum, Mosque of El-Naby Daniel, Mosque of El-Moursi Abou El-Abbas, the Montazah Palace and gardens and the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier. There are also some excellent souqs, such as the Attarine Souq, to visit. Alexandria is also blessed with excellent seafood restaurants.
Alexandria Mediterranean Biennale
When: mid December to end January (biennial)
Where: Alexandria Atelier
Held at venues including the Alexandria Atelier, the Alexandria Mediterranean Biennale presents a selection of art exhibitions from different Mediterranean countries. Video, photography and sculpture collections, along with a number of fringe activities, are all included in the programme.
When: 7 January (annual)
Where: Cairo (and in Coptic communities all over Egypt)
Coptic Christians celebrates Jesus’ birth on 7 January. This is the day when believers take part in religious services and concerts and typical Christmas bazaars create a magical atmosphere. The Christmas season marks a time of fasting and vegetarianism for the community, and no meat or milk is taken from November 25th to the night of January 6th. Churches and Christian homes are festooned with lights, Christmas trees and manger scenes in the week leading up to Christmas, and on Christmas Eve, the 6th of January, celebrations in churches are held and the bells of the churches ring out. The Pope of the Orthodox Church begins prayers at the big Cathedral in Cairo at 11 p.m., and this service is broadcasted on Egyptian television.
Website of interest: http://www.christmasarchives.com/christmas_in_egypt.html
Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday
When: 26 February (annual)
Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday is celebrated with parades and decorations in villages, towns and cities across Egypt. Children receive a special sweet for the occasion and there is much revelry to commemorate this holy day.
Alexandrina International Book Fair
When: February – March (annual)
Where: Bibliotheca Alexandrina
The Alexandrina International Book Fair is organised by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in cooperation with the Egyptian Publishers Association. It takes place at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, featuring a different theme every year.
Ramadan and Eid
When: August 2012 (annual)
Where: All over Egypt
Cairo’s Muslims regard Ramadan with deep respect, fasting throughout daylight hours. But as the sun sets, the volume rises and crowds gather to eat, drink tea and hear music. The end of the month is Eid-al-Fitr, a joyous three-day festival of family and friends’ get-togethers and well-earned feasting.
Crowds gather at mosques, and on the streets outside, for Eid’s sunrise Salat al-Eid prayers. Afterwards, a feeling of excitement rules as everyone greets each other joyfully and families head home to exchange gifts and put on new clothes. Over the next few days, you can join in the festivities with outings to funfairs and amusement parks, and picnics in the parks.
Please note that the exact dates are an estimate based on the visibility of the lunar crescent, so Eid may actually start 1-2 days earlier or later than predicted. Ramadan moves forward by around 11 days each year as it is based on the lunar calendar.
Alexandria International Film Festival
When: September (annual)
Organised by the Egyptian Association of Film Writers and Critics since 1979, the Alexandria International Film Festival aims to broaden film culture and strengthen the relationships between filmmakers. In the spotlight are Mediterranean productions, although films from all countries are welcome.
When: October – February (annual)
Where: Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Time: Daily 4pm-6pm
Learn to decipher hieroglyphics inscriptions and discover the fascinating world of ancient Egypt. Organised by the Calligraphy Center, Hieroglyphic Courses for adults run annually from October to February at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Advance booking is recommended.