I looked up all the things to do in Alexandria and the Pompey’s Pillar promptly came up. I looked at it and discarded the idea from my mind. It was just a pillar with just 48 hours in the city would we have time to accommodate it in our schedule? If we did would it be worth while visiting? You know how it is when you have a time crunch and you just want to see everything! Then again… Would I feel guilty if I missed it? You can see what was going through my brain as I tried to plan out our route of all the sites in Alexandria.
The final verdict was that since the Pompey’s Pillar was close to the Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa, we would try to squeeze it in if we had enough time after exploring the catacombs. The process would have been fair enough except that our cab dropped us in front of the Pillar of Pompey instead. Since the driver did not speak much English, we thought it was easier to just get out and visit. I mean… At the end of the day we were right there… Right? Long story short… BEST DECISION EVER!
LOCATION AND ENTRANCE FEES TO POMPEY’S PILLAR
Pompey’s Pillar is a major landmark in Alexandria. It lies in the heart of the city and almost every cab driver will know what you are talking about when you tell them where you want to go. If you think you will have a problem, then just punch in the location on the Uber map and voila!
The entrance fees to Pompey’s pillar is EGP 60 per person. Cameras can be taken in for free. At first, I thought that the fee was a little expensive but in retrospect I don’t have the same opinion any more.
WHEN HISTORY TELLS A TALE
If you’ve been to the section on Alexandria in the Bibliotheca Alexandria, you will see what the complex around Pompey’s pillar looked like. We however did not have this luxury. We visited the library after exploring the archaeological site. Photography isn’t allowed in this section of the library or I would have shown you what the model looks like. Let’s talk about the pillar first shall we?
Pompey’s pillar is actually a misnomer. The crusaders named the pillar such because they believed (wrongly) that the ashes of the Roman General Pompey were put in a pot in this pillar. The truth however is that the pillar was erected in honour of Diocletian at the end of the 4th century. The story goes that during a great famine, Diocletian ordered that a portion of the corn tribute (which was annually sent from Egypt to Rome) should be set aside and divided among the citizens of Alexandria. The pillar was erected in gratitude for his actions.
EXPLORING THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
One may be tempted to think that Pompey’s pillar is the only noteworthy attraction in the archaeological site. It certainly looks that way. Other than the two sphynxes that guard the pillar, the rest of the area appears to be nothing but a mound of rubble. While the majesty of the structures around it has certainly weathered away in time (and been destroyed) they are certainly worth exploring.
As you walk away from Pompey’s pillar and carry on along the designated path, you will notice that a set off wooden planks leads back to the pillar. It seems odd and out of place but follow it and you will see a small partially hidden path to your left. It is here that you will find the Daughter library and the Ptolemaic temple.
THE DAUGHTER LIBRARY
The daughter library got me in a really good mood!
The Daughter library was an extension of the main library of Alexandria. It was here that over 7000 scrolls were stored. Today you can explore the inside of the ruins of the daughter library and it probably isn’t as impressive as one would imagine. If you as much a fan of Egypt history as I am, visiting this library will give you an adrenaline rush!
THE TEMPLE OF SERAPEUM
A glimpse inside the ancient temple.
The Temple of Serapeum was probably one of the most magnificent structures in the archaeological complex of Pompey’s pillar. Today, you could possibly pass by without noticing it! It was believed to have approximately 100 steps leading up to the temple which would pass by the living quarters of the priests. The temple lies just next to the daughter library. Today, you can still find the statue of a bull inside where it was originally placed.
The Daughter library and the Temple of Serapeum were destroyed by the Christians in their campaign against paganism. Only the Pillar of Pompey and the two Sphinxes were left standing.