Baedeker's Archaeology: A Historical Tourist in Alexandria


The capital of the Ptolemies in Egypt has not received the same attention from archaeologists or tourists that Cairo and Luxor have enjoyed for centuries. Alexandria was a major port city and educational center–a jewel of the ancient world–with temples, palaces, the lighthouse of Pharos, and the Library. But in the modern period, tourists and archaeologists alike simply passed through it on their way to the Pyramids of Giza and the richly decorated desert tombs farther to the south. In fact, as late as 1938, E. M. Forster could argue: "The 'sights' of Alexandria are in themselves not interesting, but they fascinate when we approach them through the past…"2 This paper aims to examine both sides of Forster's sentiment by analyzing the history of archaeology in Alexandria in the early decades of the 20th century. Using Baedeker's Travel Guides for Egypt and travelers' memoirs from the time of the opening of the Greco-Roman museum in 1892 until the 1940s, I will trace what tourists were seeing in Alexandria. I will compare this with the archaeological development of the sites through the work of Italian archaeologists Botti and Breccia. My goal is to analyse the popular archaeology tourism in Alexandria in the early 20th century in the context of scholarly reports of its importance. This will bring to light the important Greco-Roman sites in Alexandria that too often still go unnoticed in traditional histories of archaeology.

Meeting Name

2016 Histories of Archaeology Research Network and Swedish Institute Conference (2016: Oct. 20-21, Rome, Italy)


History and Political Science

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 2016 Histories of Archaeology Research Network, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2016