The ambitious proposed design of the planned underwater antiquity museum set for the Bay of Alexandria, Egypt

Ancient Sunken Cities and Artifacts to be revealed with Ambitious Underwater Museum in Egypt

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Ancient sunken treasures hidden for thousands of years will be revealed in an underwater antiquity museum, the first of its kind, set for the history-rich Bay of Alexandria in Egypt.

The ambitious project put forth by the Ministry of Antiquities is set to allow visitors to experience the submerged ruins of ancient Alexandria, including some stonework and artifacts dating back to 365 AD.

Visit Lost Underwater Sites Firsthand

Youssef Khalifa, chairman of the Central Administration of Lower Egypt Antiquities, told news website Al-Monitor that the museum is planned to be partially submerged in the Bay of Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast in Egypt.

Khalifa said museum is planned to feature an above-water building showcasing relics that have been recovered from the sea, as well as an underwater section leading visitors down into the water, to walk along the bay floor some seven meters (23 feet) deep and see the submerged antiquities.

“Visitors will be able to see the relics either by diving or walking inside underwater tunnels.  There will also be glass submarines taking tourists on a tour inside the museum,” said Khalifa.

French architect Jacques Rougerie is behind the proposed design of the compelling architecture, including fiberglass tunnels connecting waterfront galleries to underwater viewing chambers, reports WebUrbanist. The design will allow visitors to experience the ancient ruins in context.

Design of the proposed underwater museum of Alexandria.

Design of the proposed underwater museum of Alexandria. Image Credit: © UNESCO/Rougerie

Additionally, “the museum will include four tall underwater buildings in the form of Nile boats connected to one another over an area of 22,000 square meters (5.4 acres). They will be lined up in a circle with a radius of 40 meters (131 feet). The museum will accommodate 3 million visitors a year,” Khalifa told AlMonitor.

Underwater Museum of Alexandria, Egypt featuring Architect Jacques Rougerie (2009) [French language].

Research and construction plans, originally proposed in 2008, were delayed with regional political strife. UNESCO sent an international scientific advisory committee to assist with a feasibility study, but the proposal was put on indefinite hold during the January 2011 revolution in Egypt. Those involved with the project believe the time is now right to revive the exciting plans for the underwater museum.

Sunken Ancient History Revealed

The underwater heritage of Alexandria Bay is protected by UNESCO conventions. The 270,000 square foot area includes invaluable sites such as Pharos, the Lighthouse of Alexandria , one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, and Cleopatra’s palace , found in the submerged ancient ruins of Thonis-Heracleion, which plunged into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Egypt around 1,200 BC.

Pharaohs of Alexandria: Idealized representation of the Bay of Alexandria.

Pharaohs of Alexandria: Idealized representation of the Bay of Alexandria. ( Public Domain )

During the middle ages earthquakes caused much of the land to fall beneath the sea, where it lay hidden for ages.

Lighthouse remains found in the Mediterranean Sea.

Lighthouse remains found in the Mediterranean Sea. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Protection and Preservation

Other underwater archaeological sites, such as those submerged in waters in China, Turkey and Mexico, highlight contemporary sculpture in a marine environment for groups of divers. This self-contained, glass-walled, underwater museum featuring sunken ancient relics, however, will be the world’s first.

Not only will the Alexandria sub-marine museum allow the public to experience first-hand the ancient history of the region, but an underwater presence and watchful eyes will further protect the antiquities from thieves. Underwater looting is a real problem, but it is fortunately less easily accomplished than antiquity theft on land.

The project’s estimated cost is $150 million.

Beyond highlighting and preserving almost 2,000 years of regional history, Youssef Khalifa listed the additional benefits of the intended museum saying, “The museum will reshape the Arab region, as it will be the first of its kind in the world. Undoubtedly it will revive tourism and boost the Egyptian economy after a long recession.”

Featured Image: The ambitious proposed design of the planned underwater antiquity museum set for the Bay of Alexandria, Egypt. Image Credit: © UNESCO/Rougerie

By: Liz Leafloor      

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