Alternative Egypt Travel Guide
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Pompey's Pillar

Pompey's Pillar

A ten minute walk from the catacombs stands Pompey’s Pillar, the single, solitary column originally erected in honour of the Emperor Diocletain. Constructed in 291 A.D from polished, red granite, and with a nine metre circumference the pillar is no match in ‘wow factor’ to the colossal structures of Upper Egypt. Yet it remains one of Alexandria’s most popular tourist sites.

Early explorers named the structure after the Roman General Pompey, mistakenly believing his remains to be buried in the vicinity. It was later realised that the honour was actually that of Dioceltain, the Roman Emperor of Egypt who fed the starving city’s population after an eight month siege left them famished. At the time of its construction the column would have supported a statue of the emperor.

In its heyday, Pompey's Pillar was located close to the Temple of Serapis, once described as “the most magnificent building in the whole world” (Ammianus Marcellinus, The Later Roman Empire (XXII.16). Sadly the building was destroyed 391 AD and all that currently remains besides the column is a garden, three sphinxes, a cistern, and several excavation pits.

How to get to Pompey’s Pillar?

Pompey’s Pillar is located in Alexandria’s Karmous Quarter.

By far the easiest way of reaching Pompey’s Pillar is by taxi. Hail one on the street and ask for “Amoud el-Sawari” (meaning column of the Horseman in Arabic). You should pay no more than 5 – 10 LE from central Alexandria but be sure to agree the price before hand (read more about taking taxis in Egypt).

Alternative you can take bus 709 or tram 16 from Midan St Katerina.

If you’re already at the Catacombs you can walk to the site in less than ten minutes. Ask one of the guards to point you in the right direction.

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