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Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

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Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

  • An exclusive article in Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1, which was One Of The Seven Wonders In the Middle Ages.


  • It's location in one of the most popular areas in Alexandria called Karmouz, it's close to the ancient Serapeum temple, and pompey pillar.
  • It located on the borders of the western cemetery in ancient Alexandria.
  • In the ancient time Alexandria was divided into 3 parts, part for the Greeks, part for the Egyptians and part for the Jews, the part in which the Egyptians lived was the village of Raqouda, which is now Kom el Shoqafa.

Importance of  Catacomb

  • It had a great importance due to its vastness, abundance of the decoration and the complexity of its planning.
  • It represented the intermingling of two cultures and traditions that are EgyptianGreek, and Roman.
  • It considered to be one of the finest and clearest examples of the intermingling of ancient Egyptian art and Roman art.
  • It is considered to be one of the finest examples of funerary architecture in Alexandria.
  • In addition to that it is the oldest unique Roman, and the largest general Roman cemetery that was found in Alexandria.

why this site called Kom el Shoqafa 

  • The word (Kom-El-Shoqafa) it's an Arabic word, which mean (Mount of the Shards).
  • In this area there were many cemeteries, the ancient Egyptians had a Pharaonic habit of holding a banquet for the visitors of the deceased in the cemetery after the burial of the deceased.
  • But there was a custom they took it from the Romans, that they did not take the pottery vessels in which they used in the cemeteries to their homes, where  they believed that this was bringing evil spirits into their homes, and it would change their lives into worse.
  • So they were broken these pottery vessels in this site.
  • Due to the large number of funeral banquets in this place, there were large number of broken vessels, cleaning this place from shards took three years, so this area was called Kom Al-Shuqafa which mean  the mount of the broken shards.

why this site called Catacomb

  • The name of catacomb  is a term used for graves excavated under the earth's surface, as the word Catacomb (cta meaning below, compe meaning cavity).
  • Due to the similarity in planning between it and the Christian catacomb tombs in Rome it called catacomb.
  • It was a private tomb, but later it converted to public cemetery.

The Discovery  story

  • This tomb was found by an chance on September 28, 1900, While the excavation had begun in this area since 1892.
  • This coincidence was made by a donkey, as the donkey fell into the main hole of the tomb at a depth of 12 meters.
  • Thus, they knew that there are monuments in this area, while they were looking for the cause of the donkey's fall.
  • The site was opened to the public in 1995, after groundwater was withdrawn from the second floor.

History of the place 

  • It was designated for an aristocratic Roman family living in Alexandria in the middle of the second century AD, not designated for a royal family, and because it was a wealthy family they spent lavishly on designing the cemetery in the Pharaonic style.
  • So, they used engineers to dig the tomb and build the well, and professional painters to paint in it walls with Pharaonic and Roman drawings.
  • The cemetery continued to be used later until fourth century AD, by adding many corridors and halls to it, until it became one of the largest mass graves in Alexandria.

Description of Catacomb


  • Its Dug into the solid rock to a depth of about 35 m (about 115 ft).
  • The cemetery consists of three floors including the first and second floors are opened to visit, while the third  are flooded with ground water.

The entrance

A circular staircase

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

  • It consists of a spiral staircase with 91 steps, connected to three floors.
  • The steps of the lower staircase are higher than the steps of the upper staircase, as the height of the steps gradually decreases until they almost disappear when approaching the surface of the earth.
  • This was a genius design from the engineer  to make the visitors of the deceased not feel tired while climbing the stairs.
  • As for lighting the stairs, it came through small rectangular openings in the wall on the sides of the stairs.

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

  • From the rectangular openings,  family and friends of the deceased stands, to see the farewell process of the deceased.
  • It is about 30 meters deep with a vaulted ceiling.
  • Which was used to transport deceased bodies from it, as they used ropes to leads down into the tomb, that were tunneled into the bedrock.
  • The mummy was transported across the well to prevent any damage to it, as the stairs were too narrow to allow a mummy to pass through it.

          The staircase leads to 

A vestibule with two niches on both sides.

Catacomb of Kom el Shoqafa 1

  • The top of each niche take the shape of a seashell, as it symbolizes to the beauty god Aphrodite, as it is believed that she was created in a seashell.
  • While the inferior part contains a half round bench, cut into the rock which was used by the visitors to take some rest after descending the stairs of the tomb. 

                 《To be CONTINUED part 2