Alexandria During The Islamic Period

Alexandria From The Arab Opening to Modern Times

in 642 A.D. Amr Ibn Al-As the Muslim Arab leader could break into Alexandria after nine month of siege, with a the help of the Copts of the city. The city took the minds of Arabs with its huge palaces, temples, the vast colonnaded streets, cisterns, and baths.

When the Arabs entered Alexandria. it was consisting of three districts each one of them was surrounded by a wall and they were all surrounded by the outer wall of the city. The three districts were the national district, the Roman district and Jewish district.

The city was planned in Hypodamus order with crossed streets, the main longitude one the Canopic street ( Present El Horria Avenue) which was known in Islamic era as El Mahagga El Ozma), the other vertical street, the Soma (Nabi Daniel Street). remains of the Lighthouse was still existing, as well Pompey’s Pillar and it was surrounded by a hundred of colons were thrown in the sea later in Ayyubid era, The church of saint Mark and the Caesareum temple which was preceded by-tow obelisks were transferred to London and New York. The Arabic sources never mention the library of Alexandria which was revived lately in its original site.

Amr was appointed as ruler of Egypt, and he had to make a critical decision: He knew the Arab civilization was of the land, not of the water. Omar lbn El-Khatab, the Muslim Caliph, had bitter memories about thousands of soldiers drowning in Persia when a bridge fell on the Euphrates. “Establish your capital wherever you wish, but let be no water between you and me” said Omar. This meant that Alexandria could not serve as the Capital as long as the Nile River existed. The Arabs moved east of the Nile, where they established another city, Al-Fostat, the nucleus of modern Cairo.

After four years from the Arab opening the Romans captured the city with the aid of the Roman Inhabitants in Alexandria. Amr reopened the city and drove out the Romans from it. The city lost its foreign characteristic and became an Arabic one gradually. It became weaker in economic. state in spite of the resident of high-ranked Arab people. Amr built a mosque near by the Mausoleum of Abu El Dardaa, and an other mosque in the site which is known Sidi Amr in El Shalalat, Within fifty years Alexandria had five mosques, El Nabl Mosque, Soliman Mosque, Zul Qarnien mosque. el Khedre Mosque and Amr lbn Al-As Mosque.

The Arabs paid attention to fortify Alexandria and it restored its position as a naval arsenal and a house of building ships and it achieved a maritime victory over the Roman navy in Battelle of Zat el Sawary in 654AD.

The Eyyubid rulers were interested in the city of Alexandria and its naval Armada; they provided it with 10000 soldiers from Sham and 5000 soldiers from Madinah which made the city more Arabic in Characteristic, a movement of construction and building mosques happened. During the Tulunic era, Ahmed lbn Tolon visited Alexandria and he renewed its walls and reconstructed the collapsed parts as he ordered to dig the Bay. of Alexandria, he paid interest to the navy and maritime fleet.

In the Fatimid era Alexandria became the most important Maritime Base in the east of the Mediterranean, shipbuilding of the Maritime fleet was done in the House of Industry in Alexandria. Industries of soap, wax, win, textile and arts flourished and participated in trade activities and Alexandria became an international trading center, especially after the natives of the Italian cities, have suspended to the Fatimid to pass through to pilgrim in Jerusalem During Fatimid era the city kept streets planning and new palaces and parks were established as the Bay of Alexandria was cleaned.

The influence of the Morocco on Alexandria life appeared because it was a pass way during pilgrimage and trading and many of them visited it and settled in it. Alexandria continued as a center for the religious Sonna Malekieh School beside the Shafieiah, on the other hand El Hafezia and ancestor Schools were founded in it.

The lnfluence of the Moresque appeared also in marketing since the market of El Magharba and zanket Elstat were founded as well. (The word zankah means Street in native Morocco slang). The Alexandrian accent uses the plural pronoun when a single person talks as the Moors do. lt is worthy to mention that all famous mosques in Alexandria were for Moroccan Shelkh who lived and died there. The Lonely remained Fatimid monuments were the Tartoushi Mausoleum and the foundation plate of Attarin Mosque.

During the Ayyubid ara, Salah edin el Ayyubi visited Alexandria three times; be gave orders to reconstruct the walls and towers and to dig trenches around it, He ordered also to strength its maritime fleet and loading it with men and weapons, ln his third visit he checked what was achieved of his orders. During the Ayyubid era Alexandria hosted a great community of the Moors which helped a lot with its education, art and trade in the city wealth.

The Mamalouk era was considered the golden age of lslamic Alexandria when the architecture prospered in many trading buildings like hotels. wekalah, industrial houses, and in military affairs such as fortifications, as the mosques and houses of sacred speech were built as well.

Sultan el Zaher Bebars visited Alexandria four times, through his visits he built the western mosque, and visited two of the main Sheikh in the city, Shiekh El Qabbary who advised him to reconstruct the city walls, and Shiekh el Shatby. He ordered to clean the Bay of Alexandria and to install a hundred mangonels upon the city walls preparing for the Crusades and the restored the Lighthouse as the gave orders to build a mosque instead of the wooden doom.

Sultan Qalawon continued paying attention to city, he dug the bay of Alexandria. In the reign of Sultan el Ashraf Shaaban, he reconstructed the wall after the attack of Cyprians and he visited the city in 1368. Sultan Barkuk visited the city in 1411 AD while Sultan Ashraf Bersbay ordered to dig the Bay of Alexandria.

In the reign of Qa’it Bay, Alexandria showed a prospcrity in trading and he chose the site of the lighthouse to build his famous fort.

Alexandria was further struck by he discovery of the route around Africa to the Far East. The port would not regain its power until the inauguration of the Suez Canal in the mid 19th century. The population of the city shrank, and was centered in the vicinity of the newly accredited land around the heptastadion. The area, formerly known as the Turkish town, later became the city center (el-Mansheya).

Towards the end of the Mamelouk rule (late 15th ccentury), corruption reached its peak. Egyptians were burdened by heavy taxes, and were scientifically and economically lagging behind other nations. Europe had started witnessing global political changes with the French revolution and the emergence of Napoleon as a military and political leader. And indeed, the Frenchman gave Egypt a wake-up call on July 1st 1798.

When Napoleon Bonaparte and the French army entered Alexandria on July 1 st 1798, she was on more than a small town. The population of the city that was once the second largest in the world had shrunk to a mere 8000. Illustrations and maps shown in “Description de l’Egypte”, the comprehensive book complied by the French expedition, suggest that the population was mainly centered on the Turkish Town, now know as el-Mansheya. One ruins, sand dunes, and the two obelisks known as the Cleopatra’s Needles.

Although the French expedition eventually failed when in 1799 the British admiral, Nelson defeated the French al Abu-Qir (Canopus), its influence on Egyptian history was dramatic. It was a wake up-call to a country that was struck by Ottoman isolationism and Mamelouk corruption.

It also brought to the attention of the British the importance of Egypt’s strategic location. For the next decade, Alexandria witnessed military confrontations between the Ottomans and the Mamelouk as well as the British who sent another expedition in 1807.

During the course of the events, a new political figure started to emerge, An Albanian officer by the name of Mohamed Ali who had been appointed by the Ottoman sovereignty, and started a dynasty of Khedives and Kings that lasted for over a century. Mohamed Ali is one of he most controversial figures in modern Egyptian history.

Egypt experienced an age of rising under his rule. He gave away Alexandria’s own Cleopatra’s Needles as gift to the British and American governments, he dug the new Mahmoudeya Canal and connected it to the Nile, an achievement that revived Alexandria’s as well as Egypt’s economy. He also prepared the Western Harbor to be Egypt’s main port, and built a modern lighthouse at its entrance, When Mohamed Ali died, Alexandria’s population had grown from a meager 8.000 to a prosperous 60.000. Under the rule of Mohamed Ali’s successors, Alexandria continued to grow.

When the Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869, Alexandria’s exports increased. New communities emerged east from Ancient Alexandria, to accommodate the growth of population.

During the reign of Abbas I (1848-1854) Alexandria railway was established which had its effect on the construction of the city. While in Mohamed Said reign (1854-1863) the city developed in economic and construction issues, and it became one of the most important financial centers in the east. And he connected Alexandria with Cairo by Telegraph line.

Under Khedive lsmail’s reign (1863-1879), Alexandria witnessed a huge development when lsmail encouraged the foreigners to settle in Alexandria and to own buildings, they preferred to live in Al Mansheya which became a center of European trade in the city, They installed a bronze statue for Mohamed Ali Riding a horse. Ismail built royal palaces and restored Ras el Tin palace, He founded el Nozha gardens and el, and he also founded new districts such as el Raml district. New strects were added to the city plan; he founded a company for lighting the city and Alexandria Company of water and the drainage net.

One of the major deeds was founding the tramway from Bolky to Ramlah Station in 1863, as he established railway line connecting the city areas of producing cotton. He improved telegraph lines. He enlarged the city harbor and founded the floating dock and the wave hinders in the sea; he revived the arsenal of Alexandria and renewed the Maritime School which helped in developing the maritime transportation and external trade in Alexandria.

He also established Arabic newspaper in Alexandria like Elkawkap el Sharky, Al Ahram, and Altegarah newspaper.

In 1882, the British fleet stokes Alexandria casts and destroyed its buildings and the was occupied completely, Ahmed Orabi, an Egyptian nationalist then minister of the military, led a revolt against the Khedive Tawfik to protest British intervention in Egypt. The situation was aggravated when the British fleet arrived in Alexandria in May on July 11th, Alexandria suffered greatly when she was bombarded by the British. The bombardment lasted for 2 days and the city surrendered, marking the beginning of a British occupation to Egypt which lasted for 70 years.. The city had a role in the resisting against the occupation where Mustafa Kamel made speeches against the occupation, the city took place also in the popular revolution in 1919 led by Saad Zaglol and Britain replied some of the asked issues by the Egyptians.

During WWII, Alexandria was important headquarter for the British military operations and the city suffered a lot.

During the 20th, century, the city became Egypt’s summer Capital, Al Montazah Palace was designated as the king’s summer residence, and the official government headquarters were based in Boulkly. in 1944, Alexandria witnessed the birth of the Arab League. She witnessed the abdication of king Farouk and his departure to exile in Italy on July 26th 1952, And exactly four years later, president Nasser (who was born in the middle-class district of Bacchus in Alexandria) announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal a Al-Mansheya Square.

Many projects were held during the republic era such as founding the maritime passengers
station, and several platforms in the harbor, the green road from Alexandria to Cairo, the Alexandria broadcasting radio, and the development of the arsenal.

In the reign of President Mubarak other global projects were added to the city such as the conference hall, The international Park, enlarging the Cornice road, developing the museums and founding new ones like Greco-Roman Museum which was developed in 1984 and it is under a great developing process now a days Mahmoud Said Museum was developed as well, founding The museum of Royal Jewels and the Maritime Museum, restoring Qa’it Bay citadel which is used as a background in the internal festivals, also The museum of Mosaics, the Alexandria Library Museum were founded. Moharam Beck
Bridge was constructed; the developing of Mahmodiah Canal, the founding of Borg el Arab airport and developing the Harbor are also some of several projects were added to the city in order to promote the city.

The most important project is the revival of the ancient Alexandria Library which was the scientific and civilized spotlight in the ancient world, the modern Library is designed according to the modem style and techniques and it helped in great part in enriching the cultural and scientific movement in Alexandria.