Founded by none other than Alexander the Great and once the seat of Queen Cleopatra, the city of Alexandria (Al-Iskendariyya) is the stuff that legends are made of. It's harbour entrance was once marked by the towering Pharos lighthouse (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and its Great Library was renowned as the ultimate archive of ancient knowledge. Alas, fate dealt the city a spate of cruel blows. The Pharos lighthouse collapsed. The literary treasures of the Great Library were torched. Today no sign remains of the great Alexander himself and the city of Cleopatra has been mostly swallowed up by the ocean. To add insult to injury, Egypt's subsequent Muslim rulers moved the capital to Cairo, ignobly thrusting the once-influential metropolis into near obscurity for centuries.
For many visitors though, Alexandria remains a city of ambience rather than sights. After you've deciphered its mind-boggling history amid the museums and monuments, this is the ideal place to spend time sipping coffee in old-world cafes, and meandering the harbour area to gaze up at belle époque architecture and ponder the ghosts of the past. The facade of this city may have tarnished down the centuries but its allure has not diminished.