Underwater Museum Planned for Egypt's Alexandria

Andrew Bossone in Cairo
for National Geographic News
September 16, 2008

Cleopatra's palace sank long ago into the Mediterranean, but visitors to Alexandria, Egypt, may eventually view the complex's remnants via the world's first underwater museum. (See photos.)

A site for the museum has been proposed near the New Library of Alexandria, where the famed queen of Egypt is believed to have sheltered herself with her lover Marc Antony before taking her own life.

In early September the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, announced it is funding a team to determine if such a museum would damage the submerged artifacts.

If built, the museum could display treasures and monuments of her palace, which once stood on an island in one of the largest human-made bays in the world but were submerged by earthquakes from the fourth century A.D. onward.

(Read related story: "Ancient Mediterranean Tsunami May Strike Again" [March 10, 2008].)

The bay is filled archaeological sunken treasures. In the 1990s archaeologist-divers found thousands of objects: 26 sphinxes, statues bearing gifts to the gods, blocks weighing up to 56 tons, and even Roman and Greek shipwrecks.

Sunken Treasure

The proposed museum could include pieces believed to be from the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

(See a photo gallery of the seven ancient wonders of the world, along with the "new" seven wonders.)

Archaeologists have mapped more than 2,000 submerged objects in the area of the bay where they believe the lighthouse once stood.

"The wealth of this area is quite impressive," said Naguib Amin, the site-management expert from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

"Sort of the whole ancient city of Alexandria is lying under the water, just meters away from the shore."

Continued on Next Page >>


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