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At the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Alexandria was a small backwater with a population of less than five thousand. Then in 1801 Muhammad Ali arrived in Egypt as second‐in‐command of an Albanian contingent, part of an Ottoman force sent to re‐occupy the country after Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion in 1798. By 1805, Ali had become ruler of Egypt and in a short time, he built a new modern cosmopolitan Alexandria―a thriving commercial hub and court city, the country’s unofficial capital, and home to a large number of immigrants from the surrounding Mediterranean. Alexandrea ad Ægyptum, the old Latin adage meaning “Alexandria by Egypt,” re‐emerged, underlining Alexandria’s singular separateness.
Foreign dominance was further reinforced by British colonialism beginning in 1882, until 26 July 1956, when, from the parapet of the Bourse on Muhammad Ali Square in Alexandria, Gamal Abd al-Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. As the city’s sizeable foreign community left, following the Suez War then through waves of nationalization, the international Alexandria ceased to exist. This beautifully illustrated anthology brings together the work of contemporaneous writers who witnessed the stages of Alexandria’s dramatic rise and growth during the nineteenth and early- to mid-twentieth centuries.