Coastal region and small island papers 14
Alexandria lies on the Mediterranean coast at the western edge of the Nile Delta. It was founded in 331 BC and over the next three centuries became a centre of trade and scholarship. Three major archaeological sites from different eras remain: the 15th century Qait Bey Citadel, the submerged remains of Ptolemaic Royal Quarters and underwater ruins of the ancient lighthouse, the Pharos.
An international workshop on Submarine Archaeology and Coastal Management (known as ‘SARCOM’) was held in Alexandria in April 1997, organized by the University of Alexandria, the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The workshop followed a series of recent archaeological discoveries in Alexandria’s Eastern Harbour and a controversial project designed to protect the Qait Bey Citadel, which had inadvertently placed large concrete blocks over part of the ancient Pharos Lighthouse site. The aim of the workshop was to find a way of preserving Alexandria’s past while allowing the modern city to develop. Workshop sessions covered a wide range of topics ranging from Alexandria’s historical background to remote sensing to pollution. The workshop declaration included ways in which the Citadel might be stabilized without endangering the nearby Pharos site, and how Alexandria’s archaeological sites might be made into an on-land and underwater museum.
The ideas and recommendations resulting from the workshop have been followed-up by further studies into the protection of the Qait Bey Citadel, the feasibility of establishing an underwater archaeological museum, and ways to control the marine pollution and manage wastewater in the Eastern Harbour. A second workshop was held in 1999. The Supreme Council of Antiquities appointed a Consultative Committee for Planning and Follow-up, which in turn created a task team that led these activities.
Proposed future activities include the establishment of a university chair in submarine archaeology and integrated coastal management, inscription of Alexandria’s archaeological sites on the World Heritage List, and the preparation of a comprehensive project document. The need for an integrated coastal management programme which will provide for sustainable modern development as well as preserving the archaeological patrimony is of utmost importance.