The Catacombs Of Kom El Shoqafa – Peep Into The Ancient Lives

Located close to the Pyramids, the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa are astonishing and fascinating. A historical archaeologist site, it is considered among the seven wonders of the middle ages. An underground tomb, which was used as a private tunnel, narrates the story of an era gone by.

Overview

Located in the east of Alexandria in the Karmouz district, catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is a tomb with three levels cut in rock consisting of spiral staircase, a rotunda (lobby), banquette hall, an antechamber and burial chamber. A design similar to the Christian catacombs in Rome, it was a private cemetery which was later converted into a public one. A historical structure, it lets you peep in the ancient lives.

History

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa which literally means ‘mound of shards’ (heap of remains) is a cemetery that dates back to 1st century AD and functioned till 4th century AD. As per the locals, the tomb was discovered in 1900 when a donkey fell in to a pit and went straight down to one of the catacombs. And this is the same story you would here from the tour guide when you visit the place. However, there is other side to it which says that the tomb was discovered by Alexandrian ‘Monsieur Es Sayed Aly Gibarah’ who was quarrying for stone. He immediately informed the local museum to come for an inspection and since then the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa became a sensation.

Architecture

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, is the largest known Roman burial sites in Egypt that could house 300 dead. The place was opened to public in 1995 after clearing the subsoil from the second floor. Made out of solid rock, the tomb comprised of three levels. The structure consists of a spiral staircase, a rotunda (lobby), Banquette hall, antechamber, burial chamber and vestibule (entrance hall).The architecture of this tomb is a combination of Greece, Egyptian and Roman culture and style.

The structure reflects the talent of the one who engineered it. The depth of this tomb is equal to 5 storey building and as you move down you can feel the change in the air.

The dead were lowered down with the help of ropes from the spiral staircase. At first it was used only for a single family burial but was later used for mass burial. Sculptured pillars, magnificent statues and ornate carvings in the tomb, simply stun your eyes. Although the Egyptian style remains dominant, the little twist surprises you. For instance, you can spot an Egyptian human figure dressed in Roman outfits and spotting different hairdos.

The catacombs are open for the public daily from 9 am to 4:30 pm. As the catacombs are situated deep inside, it can get quite suffocating when crowded, so make sure you walk in early morning for a better experience. The lower levels can at times be flooded with water, so make sure you wear proper footwear.

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