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The Lighthouse

Alexandria - Capital Cities

What: One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World which showed the technological advances available to the Mediterranean World at this juncture

Where: Pharos Island, adjacent to Alexandria

When: Approx. 280BC, taking 12 years to complete

Who: Planned by Pharaoh Ptolemy probably using the Architect Sostratus. The Lighthouse was erected in the rule of Ptolemy II

Details: Approx. 120-135 meters tall and served as a location and navigational aid to mariners

Damaged and then Destroyed: In 5 separate Earthquakes in 796AD, 951AD, 956AD, 1303AD and 1323AD. The most destructive one being in 13030AD which emanated from Crete. The remains of the Lighthouse are now at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

Today: Sultan Qaitbay ordered the construction of a Fort on the location of the lost Lighthouse and reused the stone still readily available. The Fort was opened in 1477AD and remains open to the Public today.

Flag of City of Alexandria

Flag of Alexandria's Governate

As far as we can tell, the lighthouse was constructed out of Limestone and Red and Pink Granite with lead used to cement the blocks together to protect them from the Sea and its waves.

The bottom was constructed as a rectangular tower with an Octagonal Tower built on top and finally a tapering cylindrical structure which formed the “light” part of the Lighthouse.  This hosted 4 statues of the Roman Seabound God Triton, one on each front and then a statue of Poseidon atop the Lighthouse.  There were rooms inside the octagonal portion of the lighthouse which Arab traveller Abu Haggag el-Andaloussi, visiting Alexandria in 1166, described as being 18 rooms on the 2nd Floor, 14 rooms on the 3rd Floor, 17 rooms on the 4th Floor.

During the day, there was a mirror positioned to reflect the natural sunlight. The nocturnal light was produced by a furnace at its pinnacle. Internally, it is believed that the Lighthouse housed a spiral staircase for people to climb to the top in order for the Lighthouse to be refuelled. The fuel for the light meanwhile would be hoisted to the top on a series of elevators with ramps wide enough to let the wooden carts pulled by animals pass each way simultaneously.