Alexandria Known in Arabic as "Al-Iskandaria", Aexandria is situated in the extreme north of Egypt , on the strip of land separating the Mediterranean from Lake Marriyut . It was founded by Alexander the Great in 332-331 BC , on the site of the Egyptian town of Rhakotis . The great Macedonian conqueror intended to provide Egypt with a new capital and Mediterranean Greece and the East with a port , preferring this option to the destroyed Tyre due to its more central position which made it a potential centre of trade in the Mediterranean . It is not known whether Alexander intended the city to be one of the metropolises of the universal empire he dreamed of , but the site soon proved to be well chosen . However , he did not stay there long enough to see a single building completed . Following his mysterious visit to the priest of the temple of Jupiter-Amun in the Siwa oasis , Alexander departed to devote himself to the conquest of Asia . Eight years later , he died prematurely at 33 years of age . His body was embalmed and placed in a tomb in Alexandria with all the honours and funerary rituals normally accorded to a pharaoh . One of Alexander the Great's generals , ptolemy , promptly took up the reins of power and installed a new dynasty destined to endure for around three centuries until Cleopatra VII 's suicide in 30 BC . Under the aegis of the Ptolemaic Dynasty , Alexandria became a flourishing cosmopolitan city , the largest in the ancient world before Rome imposed its supremacy , thanks to extensive trading with the peoples of the Mediterranean . The union of the Greek and Egyptian cultures meant that to all intents and purposes the city also became the cultural centre of the country . Thanks thinkers and scientists such as Euclid , Aristarchus of Samos , Eratosthenes , Herophilus and Eratistratus , it was also the cradle of methodological criticism and philology , classical geometry and astronomy , map-making , the medicine of the central nervous system and the circulation of blood . Classical literature mentions two extraordinary institutions of learning and scientific research , the Library and the Museum . Unfortunately nothing now remains of either , and nor of the Pharos lighthouse , considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World . A visit to the modern city of Alexandria will hardly satisfy a tourist interested in antiquities . Echoes of the past can be heard , it is true ; you will be aware of being in the vicinity of the tomb of Alexander the Great or the palace of Queen Cleopatra but this has all now vanished forever . All that remain are the Temple of Serapis and the large Caesareum temple , probably begun by Cleopatra and completed during the reign of Augustus . You may also observe remains of the Roman baths and the so-called "Pompey's Column'' . Of more interest is a visit to the ancient catacombs , the most important of which are those of Komesh- Shuqafah , dating from the 2nd century AB . Lately , various works of sculpture and painting and several mosaics are conserved in the Local Graeco-Roman museum .