Modern Alexandria is an elongated sprawl of sun-bleached concrete stretching for miles along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Since antiquity the sea served as the city’s lifeline to the civilized world. The Fort of Qaitbey, located at the entrance of the ovular eastern harbor, is a relic of the city’s storied status as a trade center and global power. It was built in the 15th century by the Mamluks on the exact site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. These days the fort is Alexandria’s star attraction and is particularly popular for young Egyptians on field trips. Its ramparts and turrets offer beautiful unobstructed views of the awe-inspiring, seemingly limitless Mediterranean Sea on one side, and the city’s faded but charming boat cluttered harbor and skyline on the other.
The surprising lack of other Western visitors will work to your advantage, so bring your camera and strike up a conversation with some of the friendly Egyptian tourists, who will be happy to take your picture (no baksheesh necessary!). From the outside, the cream-colored citadel itself cuts a striking figure against the bright blue sky. It’s best to visit early (9am) to avoid the crowds and harsh midday Egyptian sun. The entrance fee is around 15 Egyptian pounds.