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Diving AlexandriaDuring my stay in Alexandria, I had the opportunity to go SCUBA diving. Originally, my group was supposed to dive in Sharm al Sheik, but our flight home got bumped back and it made it impossible to get back to the ship on time. The good news was that we found a dive shop in Alexandria called Alexandra Dive.
Alexandria is a coastal city on the northern shore of Egypt. It is next to the Nile Delta and is found between the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Mariut. It is said to be the second most important city in Egypt. It is also the main port for shipping. This port is where 75% of Egypt's foreign trade occurs. In the port there are two harbors, East and West. They are separated by a peninsula that resembles a T. It is likely formed by longshore currents which pile sand up making the end of the peninsula. We dived in the West harbor because the East harbor is shallow and is not actually used for navigation and it does not contain items of valued by scuba divers. There are two breakwaters that form the West harbor and we dove outside of them as well as within their protective borders.
Alexandria is one of the oldest ports known in the world. It is over 4000 years old, being built in 1900 BCE. The port boomed when Alexander the Great came to Egypt n 331 BCE and began to build up the city and his naval armada. In the Ptolemy times, a bridge was built connecting Pharos island with the new city. This is the bridge that formed the East and West harbors. Ptolemy II is credited with building the "Polite Tower Pharos" which we call a light house and it is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
While diving we were able to see the lighthouse as it currently lays. The water clarity is limited to about 10 or 12 feet, but as its massive blocks of stone come into view they are stunning. They seem to be as big as a container on a container ship. Some of them sit flat on the ocean floor and provide a "dance floor" for the local guides to get a good laugh out of while they are scuba diving.
We also saw ancient Sphinx's that had been lost underwater and were never removed. They too come eerily out of the haze and provide a real sense of history when seen. For some reason, the Sphinx's found in the ocean seemed so much more closely linked to those that we had seen above ground. They seemed untouched and unmolested by the modern world. They were of course slightly covered with barnacles and other sea life, but their impact was unimaginable for me.
Another stand out was seeing a World War II plane crash. Inside the harbor, the visibility was less than four feet. This provided an interesting scenario because we could not even see our flippers. We were definitely wondering how we were going to see artifacts if we could barely see our guide. At first it was difficult, but once we got close to the plane we could see its definition it was clear what it was. The best part was seeing the pilot's mask that we found inside the cockpit. I was a little bit shocking to see that a man likely died in it, but history is history and it is always worth appreciating. Especially if it is in Egypt!
Kyle Ewing -- University of Denver