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Situated along the Mediterranean coast in north-central Egypt, Alexandria is the second largest city in the country.

Named for Alexander the Great, who founded the city in 331 BC, Alexandria quickly became an intellectual and cultural center for the Ancient World, attracting Greek, Jewish, and Syrian scholars.

Alexandria became significant too, for the early Christian Church, as it served as the center of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, one of three major episcopal centers, the others being Rome and Antioch. before Constantinople and Jerusalem were granted similar status. The Coptic Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria both trace their heritage to Alexandria, as well.

Alexandria was once home to the largest Jewish population in the world. The Septuagint, a Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, which was also the source for the Christian Old Testament, was produced in Alexandria. The manuscript was kept in order and maintained in the Library of Alexandria during the Ptolemaic dynasty. The Library also maintained Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian manuscripts and literature.

A large portion of Alexandria was destroyed during the Kitos War of 115 AD, in which ethnic Jews rose up against the Romans. In 215, the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus, visited the city and, after hearing some insults that were directed at him, he ordered all young men who were capable of bearing arms to be executed.

Muslim influences in Alexandria began in the early 600s and, in 641 the Arabs captured the city after a 14-month siege that was part of the Muslim conquest of Egypt.

During Napoleon Bonaparte's reign, French troops conquered the city in 1798, holding the city until 1801, when the British won the Battle of Alexandria. Britain did not exert its control over the city. The Ottoman governor of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, began to rebuild the city in 1810.

By the 1900s, Egypt was looking to Europe with the goal of modernizing the city. Greeks and other Europeans began moving to Alexandria, which soon became a haven for poets and novelists. That was short-lived, however. The Suez Crisis of 1956 resulted in an Arab nationalist movement, and the Europeans left.

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and a covert bombing operation by Israeli intelligence operatives in 1954, led to a negative climate toward Jews throughout Egypt, who became viewed as Zionist collaborators. Most of the Jewish residents of Alexandria fled to Israel or other countries during the 1950s and 1960s. Alexandria's Jewish population, which once numbered around 50,000, is now estimated at being between ten and fifty. Although the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, constructed in 1354, still holds services, it now caters to a very small community. However, the Egyptian government has announced its intention to restore the synagogue as a heritage project.

Because of persistent wars during ancient times, as well as fires and earthquakes, very little of Ancient Alexandria has survived. Some have, however. A Roman triumphal column known as Pompey's Pillar remains on Alexandria's ancient acropolis. Not far from Pompey's Pillar are the catacombs, which were rediscovered in 1900, and other excavations are currently underway.

Alexandria has several institutions of higher learning, including Alexandria University, the Alexandria Institute of Technology, and Pharos University in Alexandria, as well as several foreign educational institutions, some dating back to the early 1800s. In recent years, English-language schools, at all levels, have become very popular.

Founded in the 3rd century BC, the Royal Library of Alexandria was once the largest in the world. Although large portions of the library and much of its collections were destroyed by fire more than once over the years, the current Library of Alexandria is located near the site of the original facility, and functions as a modern library and cultural center.

Alexandria also has several museums, including the Alexandria National Museum, the Cavafy Museum, the Graeco-Roman Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Royal Jewelry Museum.

The most popular sport in Alexandria is football (soccer), as is the case throughout Egypt. The Alexandria Stadium is a multi-purpose facility that is used largely for football matches and is capable of holding 20,000 people. Alexandria also hosts the Alexandria Sporting Club, known for its basketball team. Other sports stadiums in Alexandria include Borg El Arab Stadium, El Krom Stadium, and Harras El Hodoud Stadium.

The Alexandria Opera House features classical and Arab music, opera, and ballet.


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