Cruise Port Atlas | Alexandria, Egypt Day Trips | Attractions

Alexandria, Egypt Day Trips | Attractions

With limited time in port, planning is the best way to make the most of your time. Should you strike out on your own? Should you hire a local guide? Or should you book a shore excursion offered by the cruise line or an international tour company? Below we have listed the attractions and activities that many other cruisers have enjoyed. This information should help you plan.

The advantage to cruise line tours is that they are timed for your visit and give you flexibility to change your mind after your trip begins. The advantage of using a large international firm is that tours are often less expensive than cruise sponsored tours. The advantage to using a local tour company or guide is that prices can be significantly lower or you may be able to get a customized trip just to see the attractions that interest you most.

Cruise lines that visit Alexandria: Oceania, SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea Holland America, Princess, Costa

Key Attractions: Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, Pompey's Pillar, Roman Amphitheater, Alexandria National Museum, Citadel of Qaitbay, El-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque, St. Marks Coptic Cathedral, Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, Montaza Palace and Gardens, Alexandria Library, El Alamein Battlefield, Italian and German Military Cemetery, Sakkara Step Pyramid, Ancient Memphis, Ptah Temple, Alabaster Sphinx, Great Pyramids, Great Sphinx, Egyptian National Museum, Pharaonic Village, Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali, Sultan Hassan Mosque, Ibn Tulun Mosque, Hanging Church (Coptic), Church of St. George (Greek), Coptic Museum, Ben Ezra Synagogue, Tahrir Square, Khan El Khalili Bazaar, Al Azhar Park, Babylon Fortress

Ancient and Medieval Alexandria

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Catacombs of Kom el Shaqafa - 2.7 KM, 11 minutes
Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Roman Amphitheater - 2.5 KM, 9 minutes
Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Pompey's Pillar - 3.1 KM, 13 minutes
Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Qaitbay Citadel - 3.5 KM, 9 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

The vibrant and evolving city of Alexandria has not preserved its past well, though recent efforts to restore historic sites have produced some interesting attractions. Three attractions from the Roman era retain some of their charm. The small Roman Amphitheater and Pompey's ceremonial Pillar are worth brief visits. Nearby are the impressive Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa which are considered one of Seven Wonders of the Medieval World. Used as burial chambers from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, the Catacombs are on three levels and include a chamber where the remains of a massacre perpetrated by Emperor Caracalla are said to have been deposited. The art and artifacts of the catacombs blend Greek, Roman and Egyptian styles. On the spot where the great Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood, Qaitbay, one of Egypt's most important Mamluk rulers built the great Citadel of Qaitbay (1477), a stunning example of fortress architecture. The Alexandria National Museum contains an extensive collection of Pharaonic (including mummies), Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic artifacts.

        

   

Photo of Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa by Roland Unger, photo of Pompey's Pillar by Abdelrhman

Sacred Alexandria

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to El-Mursi Abul Abbas Mostque - 3.4 KM, 8 minutes
Alexandria Cruise Terminal to St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral / Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue - 3.2 KM, 10 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Historically Alexandria has been an important center for Christianity and Judaism. The most important remaining synagogue is the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, which serves a small Jewish community and was rebuilt in its current form in the mid 19th century. The Coptic Orthodox church is the dominant Christian sect and has many churches the most important of which is St. Marks Cathedral, rebuilt in the mid-20th century on the reputed site of a church founded by St. Mark, the writer of the 2nd Gospel from the New Testament. There are a large number of Greek Orthodox churches in the city, remaining from the long era when Greeks were a dominant part of the city's population. The Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine is the largest Roman church in the city. The most popular mosque among travelers is the El-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque near the Citadel with it's 5 beautiful white domes and singular minaret.

        

   

Photo of

Modern Alexandria

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Alexandria National Museum - 4.3 KM, 14 minutes
Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Alexandria Library - 3.9 KM, 11 minutes
Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Montaza Palace and Gardens - 17 KM, 30 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Trade and commerce have dominated the culture and economy of Alexandria since it was established by Alexander. And as with many cities built on trade it has not been good at honoring its past, building over old no longer useful structures. So most of the city is newly built and utilitarian. However, it has also long attracted tourists to its beaches and water. Large resort hotels dot the coastline. And one of the city's most popular attractions is the Montaza Palace and Gardens built by King Faud in the 1930s as his summer beach house. The Palace and Gardens are now open the the public. The palace offers a collection of items from the Mohamed Ali dynasty (19th and early 20th century). Also within the grounds is the Salamlek Palace which served as a Presidential Palace for Presidents Sadat and Mubarek and is now a hotel. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Library of Alexandria) is a massive modern complex that works to revive Alexandria's place in scholarship and offers museums, books and other public facilities focused on Arabic, English and French books. Opened in 2002, the library is a stunning testament to the energy of the Egpytian people and their importance in the history of the Western World.

           

   

Photo of Montaza Palace by Doaa Ashour, photo of Alexandria Library by Pjamescowie

El Alamein Battlefields

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to El Alamein - 105 KM, 135 minutes
Link to Full-Page Google Map

Early in World War II, the Desert Fox, Germany's General Romel was capturing large swathes of North Africa. But in 1942 at El Alamein the Allies led by the British turned back the tide and arguably began the German retreat that would eventually end the war. Two battles were fought at El Alamein. The first was a stalemate but prevented the German capture of the Suez Canal and the heart of Egypt. The second lead by the British General Montgomery was described by Churchill as the "end of the beginning of the war." The battle represented the first defeat of the Germans in the War. El Alamein offers visitors several impressive memorials to the war dead commemorating the sacrifice of Commonwealth, German and Italian soldiers in the battles.

        

   

Photo of German Memorial by Dominik Knippel

Sakkara (Saqqara) Pyramids and Temples

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Sakkara - 238 KM, 3 hours 30 minutes
Link to Cairo area map

To the southwest of Cairo and south of Giza is Sakkara (Saqqara), near the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. This area is the second most important pharaonic site near Cairo and offers impressive numbers of temples, pyramids and funerary monuments that are less dramatic than Giza, but fascinating in their own way. The most famous site in the large complex is the Step Pyramid, built for the Pharaoh Djoser. From the 27th century BCE, it was the first pyramid ever built from cut stone and was one of the earliest buildings of cut stone in history. The pyramid was originally over 200 feet tall and was the dominant structure in a complex of temples, colonnades and other structures built as part of a funerary commemoration of Djoser. Besides the Step Pyramid, the Sakkara area has many other pyramids and mastaba - large squared off stone structures like benches, which were architectural precursors to pyramids. Most of the structures at Sakkara are from Egypt's Old Kingdom, but several are from later periods as well.

              

   

Photo of Step Pyramid by Charlesjsharp, photo of Djoser Funerary Complex by Berthold Werner

Pyramids at Giza and the Great Sphinx

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Giza Pyramids - 214 KM, 2 hours 55 minutes
Link to Cairo area map

At the very edge of the city of Giza, which is part of greater Cairo, is the pyramid complex at Giza - the oldest, largest, and only surviving monument of the original Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. The three large pyramids on the site, along with the Great Sphinx, were built in the 26th and 25th centuries BCE to honor pharaohs and to assist them in their role as kings of the dead. They are testaments to the wealth, spirituality, ambition, and ruthlessness of the Ancient Egyptian civilization. It is believed that the two largest pyramids built for Khufu (Cheops) and Khafre each required the efforts of 10,000 workers taking over 30 years to complete. One of the most interesting archaeological finds at Giza is the Worker's Village which has provided evidence of the massive efforts required to build these structures. The Great Sphinx is the world's largest and oldest monolithic sculpture and is believed to represent Khafre, though much about it is still debated and shrouded in mystery. Natural and human forces over a long period have taken an enormous toll on the sphinx, destroying the nose and other features.

Also within the complex is the Tomb of Queen Khentkaues I, boat pits originally containing the pharaohs' boats, smaller queens' pyramids, funerary temples, mastabas built as funerary monuments for lesser officials, and large areas used as cemeteries for the builders of the pyramids.

              

   

Photos of Giza Pyramids and Great Sphinx by Peter Croyle

Cairo Museums

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Central Cairo - 215-220 KM, 3 hours
Link to Cairo area map

Of all Cairo's Museums, by far the most popular is the Egyptian Museum, established in the early 19th century and containing the largest collection of Pharaonic artifacts in the world, including many from the tomb of King Tutankhamun. There are also several mummies on display. The sumptuous Abdeen Palace is one of the largest palaces in the world and contains Egypt's Royal Family Museum, an arms museum, the Silver Museum, and several other attractions of historic interest. The Coptic Museum in Old Cairo offers a glimpse into Egypt's Christian heritage and is one of the most important collections representing the large but oppressed minority. (Copts make up at least 10 percent of the Egyptian population, but the number is controversial since there has been no census.)

Built on a small island in the Nile, the Pharaonic Village is either a lovely step back in time, with excellent guides and appealing primarily school-age visitors, or it is a tired tourist attraction with limited appeal. It makes the effort to get beyond the academic and present visitors with a picture of what ancient Egypt was like.

        

   

Photo of Egyptian Museum interior by Kristoferb, Photo of Egyptian Museum by Bs0u10e01

Cairo Mosques

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Central Cairo - 215-220 KM, 3 hours
Link to Cairo area map

Metropolitan Cairo has 19 million residents, most of whom are Muslim. Cairo is known as "the city of a Thousand Minarets." The mosques listed here are a few varied and popular tourist destinations which might appeal to the visitor with limited time. The most iconic is the Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali, commissioned in the early 19th century by the man who is considered the founder of Modern Egypt. Ali was an Ottoman governor of Albanian extraction and built this mosque in an Ottoman multi-domed style. The largest, and possibly the oldest, mosque in the city is the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, built in the 9th century and featuring the famous spiral minaret. The Sultan Hassan Mosque was built during the Mamluk period in the 14th century and was considered the most expensive and impressive of the era. Now part of Al-Azhar University, the second oldest in the world, Al-Azhar Mosque was dedicated in the 10th century, but has elements from all the major eras since then, with minarets of strikingly different designs and domes added during the Ottoman period.

           

   

Photo of Alabaster Mosque by kallerna, photo of Ibn Tulun Mosque by Berthold Werner

Coptic Cairo

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Central Cairo - 215-220 KM, 3 hours
Link to Cairo area map

Christianity came to Egypt early and was the dominant religion in the region from the time the Roman Emperor Constantine ended the Christian persecution until the invasion of the Arabs, a period of over 300 years. Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church and the much smaller Coptic Catholic Church represent about 98% of Egypt's Christian population. The most important Coptic Church in Cairo is the Hanging Church, named for its location over the Babylon Fortress within the area known as Coptic Cairo, a part of Old Cairo. Originally built in the 3rd century AD, the current facade is from the 19th century. Coptic art and architecture is unique, incorporating elements of Pharoanic building with Byzantine, Greek, Roman and Western touches. There are several other historic Coptic Churches within Coptic Cairo from various eras, along with the Greek Orthodox Church and Monastery of St. George. The largest collection of Coptic art and crafts can be found in the Coptic Museum also in Old Cairo. Also, within the Coptic Cairo area is the Ben Ezra Synagogue, where a huge collection of religious and secular documents was discovered, shedding light on the historic Jewish community of Egypt and Cairo.

        

   

Photo of Hanging Church interior by Carsten Whimster, Photo of Coptic Museum by Gerard Ducher

Other Cairo Attractions

Alexandria Cruise Terminal to Central Cairo - 215-220 KM, 3 hours
Link to Cairo area map

Tahrir Square is the site of the 2011 protests, which ultimately toppled the regime of Egyptian strongman, Hosni Mubarak. It is the most important open space in modern Cairo, with important hotels, the Headquarters of the Arab League, and the Egyptian Museum at its edges. Khan El-Khalili is about one-half kilometer from Tahrir Square and is the historic (1382) Bazaar central to Cairo's local and international trade. It is now a great place to connect with Egyptian merchants and have some Egyptian coffee. In the eastern part of the city is a large scenic park known as Al-Azhar, which features beautiful Islamic style gardens and fountains and wonderful views of the city. While the park was being re-developed in the 1980s, the Ayyubid Wall, part of medieval fortifications, was discovered and this has been studied and opened as an historic attraction within the park. Within Coptic Cairo is another historic castle, known as the Babylon Fortress and named for the historic town known as Babylon. Long the site of fortifications, the fortress began as a toll station for river traffic at least as long ago as the 6th century BCE. Built and re-built over the centuries, it was the site of an important siege during the Arab invasion of Egypt (7th century AD).

           

   

Photo of Khan el-Khalili Bazaar by Joelsuganth, photo of Ayyubid Wall by Blazej Pindor

Interests Key:

Art Architecture Beach Children Wild Animals Local Cuisine Flora Gardens-Parks Geology

Diving UNESCO Views Wine Dance Music Shopping History Hiking

Walking & Wheelchair Accessibility:

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