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Ancient city rises again near Egypt resorts
Greco-Roman columns, deep tombs excavated at Marina
Question of the Day
Its end also came from the sea. Leukaspis was largely destroyed when a massive earthquake near Crete set off a tsunami in A.D. 365 that also devastated Alexandria. In the ensuing centuries, tough economic times and a collapsing Roman Empire meant that most settlements along the coast disappeared.
Today, the remains of the port are lost. In the late 1990s, an artificial lagoon was built, surrounded by summer homes for top government officials.
“It was built by dynamite detonation, so whatever was there I think is gone,” said Agnieszka Dobrowlska, an architect who helped excavate the ancient city with the Polish team in the 1990s.
However, Egyptian government interest in the site rose in the past few years, part of a renewed focus on developing the country’s classical past. In 2005, Ms. Dobrowlska returned as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development project to turn ancient Marina into an open air museum for tourists.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for ancient Marina, which long attracted covetous glances from real estate developers.
“I am quite happy it still exists, because when I was involved, there were big plans to incorporate this site in a big golf course being constructed by one of these tycoons. Apparently the antiquities authorities didn’t allow it, so that’s quite good,” Ms. Dobrowlska recalled.
Redoing the site is part of a plan to bring more year-around tourism to what now is largely a summer destination for just Egyptians — perhaps with a mind to attracting European tourists currently flocking to beaches in nearby Tunisia during the winter.
Much still needs to be done to achieve the government’s target to open the site by mid-September, as ancient fragments of pottery still litter the ground and bones lie open in their tombs.
But if old Marina is a success, a similar transformation could happen to a massive temple of Osiris just 30 miles away, where a Dominican archaeological team is searching for the burial place of the doomed classical lovers Antony and Cleopatra.
“The plan is to do the same for [the temple of] Taposiris Magna so that tourists can visit both,” said Khaled Aboul-Hamd, antiquities director for the region.
These north coast ruins may also attract the attention of the visitors to the nearby el-Alamein battlefield and cemeteries for the World War II battle that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once called the turning point of the war.
In fact, there are signs the allied troops took refuge in the deep rock-cut tombs of Marina, just six miles from the farthest point of the Axis advance on Alexandria.
Crouched down awaiting the onslaught of German Gen. Erwin Rommel’s famed Afrika Corps, the young British Tommies would have shared space with the rib bones and skull fragments of Marina’s inhabitants in burial chambers hidden 25 feet below ground.
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