Island of Pharos
Located outside the Eastern harbor, around the Qaitbay citadel of Alexandria, The “Island of Pharos” diving site is home to more than 5000 archeological pieces scattered on an area of 5000 sq m. Being there, you’ll acknowledge the power of the destructive earthquakes that hit the city of Alexandria: columns, statues and sphinxes (Greek, Roman & Pharaonic) have been lying there for ages, you’ll also see parts of the wall that once surrounded the city and ruins from the famous ancient Alexandrine lighthouse that was considered as an architectural wonder and the tallest building on earth reaching up to 117 metres. One dive is barely enough to go through half of what’s there to see: a truly amazing underwater museum.
Montazah and Maamoura
Located in a small bay, in the eastern part of Alexandria, overlooked by the Montazah Palace, the underwater archaeological sites of Montazah and Maamoura are a testimony to the evident marine activity that took place in the region back in the period between the 1st and 6th centuries A.D.
Taposiris Parva, or the “Small Temple of Osiris” is believed to have stood once on the small island that overlooks the bay from the east. The temple was demolished in the 5th century A.D when Christians decided to destroy pagan temples throughout Alexandria.
The temple was also known for its pagan High Priestess, Hypatia of Alexandria, daughter of Theon the Geometer who was the last head of the Great Alexandria Library before its destruction. This extraordinary historical figure was known to be a talented mathematician, astronomer and philosopher; she shared her knowledge with her followers at the temple and incurred the wrath of the church, which considered her acts as going against Christian beliefs. In March 416 A.D., Hypatia of Alexandria was apprehended and beaten, before being dragged into a church where her abductors scraped her skin off with oyster shells or tiles. She is believed to have been buried in an area known then as Cinaron.
There are no remnants of Taposiris Parva on the island, nor in the waters. The main attraction of the site is a long (approx. 200 m) stone pier dating back to the 1st century. It lies in 3 to 6 metres of water, surrounded by pieces of amphorae and small anchors.
The site of Maamoura is located more to the east of Montazah; there lie the remnants of another stone pier, dating to approximately the same period. The area, some 6 metres deep is also littered with pieces of amphorae and anchors. A few years ago, one could also see bronze naval artifacts.
These 2 sites can be accessed from shore, but you will need to make a somewhat long swim to reach them. Boats are also available.
There’s something magical about the sunken site of Cleopatra’s Palace where legend has it that Mark Anthony and Cleopatra declared their love in 37 BC. Next to the ruins of the ancient palace, you’ll also see some of Cleopatra’s sun boats around which are littered dozens of clay amphorae that once contained wheat or wine depending on their shape and size.
Your diving instructor will probably tell you also that at this particular spot, if a woman throws a penny or a flower in the water, her wish about her loved one will come true! And nobody said men can’t try it as well…
The HMS Attack Wreck
About 13 km north of the western harbour of Alexandria, lie the wrecks of the HMS Attack and the SS Aragon. The SS Aragon was an Allies troopship heading to Alexandria’s harbour from Marseille, France, with 2700 troops onboard, in 1917. It was torpedoed by a UC34 German submarine while entering the harbour. 610 marines died. Short after the accident, the HMS Attack destroyer came to the rescue of the ship but was sank as well, almost blown up in half. They both lie in the Mediterranean seabed today waiting for divers to explore them. Specialized wreck diving safaris departing from Alexandria cover this site on their program.
The Sunken Cities of Abu-Qir
Northwest of Alexandria, lies the site of Abu-Qir, where archaeologists have been exploring the sunken cities of Heracleion and Canopus since 1992. Besides being a prominent religious centre, the city of Heracleion was the main trading point on the Mediterranean in the 6th century. When they started diving this site, archaeologists discovered ruins of the temple of Heracleion which was dedicated to Amun and Heracles-Khonsu. They’ve also found giant statues of gods, Ptolemaic kings and their consorts, pottery, jewellery, and numerous wrecked wooden ships.
Canopus was the site where the goddess Isis was believed to have found the last part of Osiris’s savaged body. Ancient Egyptians believed that Osiris was murdered by his jealous brother Seth, who scattered the dismembered parts of his body all over Egypt. According to Egyptian mythology, Isis succeeded in finding the scattered pieces and placed them in a vase which was kept at Canopus. The site, which has hundreds of Greco-roman amphorae, attests to the extensive trade connections between Egypt and the Roman Empire.
The City of Alexandria and numerous NGOs in cooperation with UNESCO are working on the project of building an underwater museum to showcase the artefacts to the public. Archeological dives to the site of the Sunken Cities of Abu-Qir can be arranged through the Montazah diving centre in Alexandria.
The Wreck of the Dalia S
The M/V Dalia S Syrian cargo ship sank on the 16th of May, 2000, a few kilometres from Alexandria shore, while transporting 320 tons of nitric acid. It had departed from the Syrian port of Tartous. Leakages from its cargo insidiously corroded the ship hull and caused the disaster, just a few kilometres from shore. Gladly, the Egyptian rescue ship M/V Maridive succeeded in rescuing all the ship crew.
Wreck diving safaris include a stop at the Dalia S.