The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern; its ambiance and cultural heritage distance it from the rest of the country although it is only 225 km. from Cairo.
Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Graco-Roman Egypt; its status as a beacon of culture is symbolized by Pharos, the legendry lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Alexandria was also the center of learning in the ancient world, but ancient Alexandria declined, and when Napoleon landed he found a sparsely populated fishing village.
Since the 19th century Alexandria has played a new role, as a focus for Egypt's commercial and maritime expansion. This Alexandria has been immortalized by writers such as E.M. Forster and Cavafy. Generations of immigrants from Greece, Italy and the Levant settled here and made the city synonymous with commerce, cosmopolitanism and bohemian culture; Lawrence Durrell described it as ' The capital city of Asiatic Europe, if such a thing could exist'.
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