About the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
Serving as the capital of Egypt for quite a long period of time, the city of Alexandria, nicknamed as the bride of the Mediterranean Sea, is featured for hosting a number of distinctive monuments that are hard to be found anywhere else in Egypt. Among the most interesting historical sites of Alexandria is the ancient necropolis of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa visited by a large number of travelers who tour Egypt.
Being one of the largest Roman burial sites in Egypt and one of the most marvelous examples of the influence of the ancient Egyptian art in the Roman styles and outlines, the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa is a must visit for any traveler spending his vacation in Egypt who is interested in the ancient Egyptian history and art.
Geographical Location of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are located in the Western section of Alexandria to the south of the neighborhood called Mena El Basel; or the port of the onions in reference to the old commercial activities related to onions in the district.
The Catacombs can be reached easily by a taxi from anywhere in Alexandria. However, it would be most enjoyable for a tourist touring Egypt to have a travel company organize such visits in the land of the Nile.
The History and the Discovery of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
The planning and layout of the tombs at the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, the difference in the components of its decorations, all these factors assert that they were not all established or constructed in the same period of time.
However, the similarity in the decoration in many of the tombs make us believe that the catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa were established in the period between the 1st and the 2nd centuries AD.
Some findings in the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa were unearthed and they date back to the years 117 and 138 AD. Historians have also noted that the tombs of Kom El Shoqafa were used until the end of the 4th century AD before they were all deserted.
The tombs of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa were discovered by mere coincidence on the 28th of September of the year 1900. Actually it was a donkey that fell in the main entrance to the tombs more than 12 meters under the ground and this grabbed the attention of the archeological mission that started its work in the location in 1892.
The Description of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa Today
Today the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa has turned to be a major touristic attraction for travelers who spend their vacation in Egypt.
When the guests visit the Catacombs, there is an entrance from above the ground that leads to a cylinder shaped set of steps that lead to the first underground floor.
The first floor of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa consists of a corridor that is linked to a circular shaped hall. The Rotunda, or the famous circular shaped well, is located in the middle of this hall. Aside of this hall, there is a rectangular shaped hall that served as a banquet area.
At the end of the circular hall, there is a set of stairs that leads to the second underground floor that hosts most of the tombs of Kom El Shoqafa. The second underground floor of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa is featured with many rooms, corridors, and chambers.
The cylinder shaped set of steps in fact revolved around a cylinder well that has a diameter of 6 meters and the depth of 10 meters. The steps at the top were actually constructed to be larger and wider than the step at the bottom. This was a common ritual in the Roman period. They believed that the people go to visit their deceased they would get tired at the top and this was why the step at the top were built to be larger and wider.
The Rotunda or this circular shaped hall has a well that is 8.5 meters in depths with a dome at the top that is based upon six columns. The walls of this hall are featured with wonderful geometric shapes that are dominated by the red color. Five heads of statues made out of alabaster, were found in that place and they are now put on display in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.
The second area the traveler visits when he explore the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa is the triclinium. This section consists of three layers where the family of the deceased used to gather to have a meal during they visit to the tombs.
The triclinium consists of a large hall that 9 meters wide and 8.5 meters in length. This section is fettered with some of the most remarkable decorations in the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa.
The most important section of the 2nd underground floor of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa is the burial area that consists of three coffins that are featured with some Greco-Roman decorations.
The second or the middle coffin present the complicated mummification process in ancient Egypt. The walls to the right and to the left represent a Roman emperor wearing his crown and presents the offerings to the bull god while Isis, the ancient Egyptian god, is standing with her wings to protect the deceased. This is in fact the most famous portrait of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa.When the guests leave the main burial chamber at the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa they see the god Anubis wearing the outfit of a soldier and equipped with Roman weapons. He is standing on what seems like a Pharaonic gate. To the right hand side, there is the god Anubis as well but this time he has the body of a human that has a tail of a dragon. All these scenes were derived from the ancient Egyptian mortuary arts.