Ancient Alexandria Attractions: The Pharos Lighthouse

Wed, Mar 11th 2009, 10:52

The small island of Pharos off the coast of Alexandria was the location of the Pharos Lighthouse, declared one of the seven wonders of the world.

Alexander the Great chose the location of his city in Egypt carefully. The nile delta was unsuitable for the location of a harbour, so a town 20 miles west was chosen. A causeway, called the Heptastadion, was built between Pharos island and the mainland. On the island, the first lighthouse in the world was constructed to warn sailors of the treacherous sandbanks off the coast.

The Pharos lighthouse was a magnificent construction in white marble towering over 100 metres tall at the approach to Alexandria and described in glowing terms by many ancient writers. The tower was built in three parts and adorned with patterns and sculptures in the Greek style. A spiral staircase inside allowed the passage of animals carrying the fuel required for the fire burning at the top.

Work on the lighthouse started around 290BC and this magnificent building continued to be a beacon for sailors for over 1,500 years. However, Alexandria was struck by successive waves on earthquakes over the centuries and this took its toll on the building. By 1349 the lighthouse was in ruins. The legend of the Pharos lighthouse has continued ... the inspiration for lighthouse construction that has been used all over the world.

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