When I was in Alexandria, we visited the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, an ancient necropolis during Ptolomaic and Roman times. Due to the time period, many of the features of the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa merge Roman, Ancient Macedonian, Greek and Egyptian cultural points; some statues are Egyptian in style, yet bear Roman clothes and hair style while other features share a similar style. The catacombs were named Kom El Shoqafa, meaning Mound of Shards, because the area used to contain a mound of shards of terra cotta which mostly consisted of jars and objects made of clay. These objects were left by those visiting the tombs, who would bring food and wine for their consumption during the visit. However, they did not wish to carry these containers home from this place of death so they would break them. At the time of the discovery, heaps of these broken plates were found.
You are not allowed to take pictures beyond the gate and to be honest, why bother. The tombs are sort of interesting but cramped and outside there are broken up fragments of columns, and miscellaneous artifacts. The Egyptian government seems intent on driving away tourists and this is yet another example that they have succeeded. A circular staircase, which was often used to transport deceased bodies down the middle of it, leads down into the tombs that were tunneled into the bedrock during the age of the Antonine (Roman) emperors (2nd century AD). The facility was then used as a burial chamber from the 2nd century to the 4th century, before being rediscovered in 1900 when a donkey accidentally fell into the access shaft. Since you cannot take photos beyond the gate, the photos below are from the internet.
The necropolis consists of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues and archaeological objects of the Pharaonic funeral cult with Hellenistic and early Imperial Roman influences. The catacombs lie on the western necropolis of Alexandria and consist of three levels cut through solid rock, the third level being now completely underwater. The catacombs have a six-pillared central shaft which opens off the vestibule. A stone staircase descends to the second level, an area eerily alive with sculptures. In the lobby of the building two pillars are topped by the papyrus, lotus, and acanthus leaves of ancient Egypt and two falcons flanking a winged sun decorate the frieze. Visitors can reach the first level through a breach in the rotunda wall, which was made at an unknown date. This leads to the Hall of Caracalla which contains the bones of young Christian men massacred by order of the emperor Caracalla in 215 AD.
They had a nice little garden next to the catacombs, filled with ancient sarcophagi and some interesting plants. In fact, you may be better off visiting the garden than the catacombs.
The Ombú (Phytolacca dioica) is a massive evergreen tree native to the Pampa of South America. It has an umbrella-like canopy that spreads to a girth of 12 to 15 meters (40 to 50 feet) and can attain a height of 12 to 18 meters (40 to 60 feet). Because it is derived from herbaceous ancestors, its trunk consists of anomalous secondary thickening rather than true wood. As a result, the ombú grows fast but its wood is soft and spongy enough to be cut with a knife.
Ficus sycomorus, called the sycamore fig or the fig-mulberry (because the leaves resemble those of the Mulberry), sycamore, or sycomore, is a fig species that has been cultivated since ancient times. Remains of Ficus sycomorus begin to appear in predynastic levels and in quantity from the start of the third millennium BCE. It was the ancient Egyptian Tree of Life. Zohary and Hopf note that “the fruit and the timber, and sometimes even the twigs, are richly represented in the tombs of the Egyptian Early, Middle and Late Kingdoms.
Ficus benjamina, also known as the Benjamin's fig, or just Ficus tree and often sold in stores as just ficus, is a species of flowering plant in the family Moraceae, native to Asia and Australia. In tropical latitudes, like Egypt, the weeping fig makes a very large and stately tree for parks and other urban situations, such as this museum. Ficus benjamina is a tree reaching 100 feet (30 meters) tall in natural conditions, with gracefully drooping branchlets and glossy leaves 6–13 cm (2–5 in), oval with a pointed tip.
Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is a member of the ancient and now disjointly distributed family Araucariaceae. As its name Norfolk Island pine implies, the tree is endemic to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. It is sometimes called a star pine, triangle tree or living Christmas tree, due to its symmetrical shape as a sapling, although it is not a true pine. It is related to the Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucaria). It does not seem to be doing well in the extreme heat of Alexandria.
Cascabela thevetia (Thevetia peruviana) is a poisonous plant native to central and southern Mexico and Central America, and cultivated widely as an ornamental (identification thanks to Vera from Dave's Garden). Cascabel, cascavel or cascabela is Spanish for a small bell, a snake's rattle or a rattlesnake itself. The allusion may also be to the plant's toxicity comparable to the venom of a rattlesnake. The specific name 'thevetia' commemorates André de Thevet (1516-1590), a French Franciscan priest and explorer, who explored Brazil. ornamental. It is a relative of Nerium oleander, giving it a common name yellow oleander. It can be shaped into a bush or small tree as seen above.
Delonix regia is a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. It is noted for its fern-like leaves and flamboyant display of flowers in early summer. In many tropical parts of the world it is grown as an ornamental tree and in English it is given the name Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant. In Arabic it is known as the goldmore. In Egypt, flowers appear in April with the first leaves and last for several months.
The Pencil Tree, Euphorbia tirucalli (also known as aveloz, firestick plants, Indian tree spurge, naked lady, pencil tree, pencil cactus, sticks on fire or milk bush), is a succulent shrub that grows in semi-arid tropical climates (identified thanks to Vera from Dave's Garden). It has a wide distribution in Africa, being prominently present in northeastern, central and southern Africa. It may also be native in other parts of the continent as well as some surrounding islands and the Arabian peninsula and has been introduced to many other tropical regions. The plant basically consists of a stem or trunk and lots of branches that end in stiff, tubular pale green growth about as big around as a pencil- hence the common names. Though most of the year this plant is leafless, growing points are often tipped with a few small, lancelote leaves only really noticeable if one looks closely.
If you visit the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa in Alexandria, be sure to visit the garden. As always I hoped you enjoyed, please leave a comment.
Biblical Plants: http://www.bbgsusa.com/photo-gallery.php
Ficus Leaves: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/arbimg10b.htm
Euphorbia tirucalli: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2957/#b