Jul 9, 2015

Does Egypt Plan To Resurrect The Lighthouse At Alexandria?

Pharos Lighthouse Lighthouse Of Alexandria
Pharos Lighthouse, Lighthouse At Alexandria, Image courtesy of Wikipedia

History & Construction Of The Lighthouse At Alexandria

The Pharos Lighthouse, or Lighthouse At Alexandria (the Lighthouse), was built in Egypt during the reign of the Ptolemies.  The Lighthouse was the last-built of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World."  Completed by Sostratus of Cnidus in about 280-279 BCE, the Lighthouse towered above Pharos Island in the harbor at AlexandriaSome estimates say the Lighthouse was 350 feet high (110 meters).  Others place its height closer to 377-443 feet high (115-135 meters).  Regardless, for its time, the Lighthouse was the tallest man-made structure on Earth except for the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The Lighthouse stood for some 1,500 years, surviving the ravages of time and even a tsunami which struck the Mediterranean in 365 CE.  Unfortunately, Egypt is an area prone to earthquakes.  Over the years, tremors caused damage to the Lighthouse, requiring restoration in the 10th century.  Finally, in 1303, a massive earthquake badly damaged the Lighthouse.  Egyptian records tell us that a further and final collapse occurred in 1375.  Ruins of the Lighthouse remained at the site until 1480 when much of the stone was used to build the Medieval fortress, Citadel of Qaitbay, still standing on the site today.
Citadel of Qaitbay, Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Thanks to the detailed writings of Moorish travelers Idrisi and Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh, however, we have a rather precise description of what the Lighthouse looked like.  For example, we know that the Lighthouse was built in three sections, more closely resembling early skyscrapers than the slim, single-column style lighthouses of today.  The first section was a stone pedestal, shaped like a massive box.  On top of the pedestal sat the second level, an octagonal-shaped tower.  Perched above the tower was a cylindrical structure reaching up to an open cupola where a fire burned, emitting light.  Finally, based on recent archaeological finds in the Mediterranean Sea, it is believed that a giant statue of Poseidon adorned the top of the Lighthouse.

Much more could be said about the extraordinary construction of the Lighthouse.  There are even legends which claim the Lighthouse was used not only to light ships' way, but also as a weapon, its giant mirror capable of setting ships ablaze.  You can read more about the history and construction of the Lighthouse in this excellent article here or this article from Wikipedia.

Resurrecting The Lighthouse At Alexandria?

Recently, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities announced in a privately-owned, Egyptian
newspaper, Youm7, that comprehensive studies and a final building plan for the new Lighthouse project had been submitted to Alexandria's governor for approval.  At the present time, however, little is known about the details of these studies or plans.  According to one source, the new Lighthouse will be built on a parcel of land a few meters to the southwest of the original Lighthouse.

Another source - critical of the new Lighthouse project for lacking financial accountability or public transparency - reported that the project included not only the building of a new Lighthouse, but also a residency hotel for tourists as well as other structures.

With the current unrest between Egypt and the Islamic State, coupled with Egypt's own internal economic and political challenges, it will be interesting to see if this new Lighthouse project actually gets underway.  For it to succeed, Egypt will need to attract substantial investment.  This may not be easy to pull off given Egypt's current circumstances.

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