History Of Al-Quseir
The English translation of Al Quseir from Arabic would be roughly something like “The smaller version” However, both in size and influence during its heydays, Al Quseir is far from a small city. For more than 4 millennia, it has served as either a destination, setting out point, or a stop-over for voyagers- pilgrims, pleasure travelers, and trading merchants- travelling on the red sea.
Apart from the previously mentioned expedition sent by Queen Hatshepsut, many other less known adventurous voyagers also launched out from Al Quseir due to its being a centralized port city.
While the Romans held sway in Egypt, Al Quseir (Myos Hormos as it was then called by the Romans) was a thriving economic hub that provided the easiest passage to India and the East of Africa. It was estimated that Myous Hormos had an average daily passage rate of more than 100 ships transporting products like wine, glass, precious stones and carved pots to Egypt. In exchange, the ships would return with drugs, silk, spices and pearls from the Indian subcontinent.
Despite all the modernization and current trends, some part of Myos Hormos is still visible a short distance from the present day Al Quseir. There are also some relics from the Romans to be found at the site as well. Along the long road between Qift and Al Quseir, there are a lot of historical artefacts to view. A couple of other Wadis lie across this road and have their own share of interesting historical stuff to view too. The Wadi Hammamat in particular has up to 200 tablets with hieroglyphic inscriptions on them scattered in various parts of the cliffs. The walls of the canyon to the south also have their own set of hieroglyphic inscriptions as well. There are also remnants of buildings that used to be watchtowers and inns built by the Romans.
It wasn’t just under the Roman occupation that Al Quseir prospered. The city also bloomed during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan Selim fortress which was mentioned in the previous section was built during the Ottoman Empire and it was a bastion of security for the city against incursions from enemy forces. Al Quseir’s port was also a major take off point for pilgrims going to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
Another imprint of the Ottoman era over Al Quseir can be seen in some of the buildings around the city as they have the round architecture and mosaic designs that is characteristic of Islamic cultures. Even at the end of the Ottoman era, the port continued to play a vital role both economically and in warfare too. Napoleon Bonaparte’s army was known to use the port during the French occupation to prevent the leaders of Mameluke from receiving supplies being shipped in from the Arabian Peninsula. The British also occupied the port at some point because they understood how strategic it was.
However, the city lost its “economic hub” status beginning in 1869 when the Suez Canal was completed. The canal was an easier route through which to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Al Quseir and its port therefore became obsolete as merchants and other travelers could simply bypass it now.
The major economic activity in Al Quseir has become tourism with various Bazaars and tourist sites for viewing artefacts dotting the city. The old industrial activities which majorly centered on exports are now defunct. A mine where phosphate was produced in the past is currently closed down and it is being considered that an institute of hotel management may be created in its place. Many of the locals have also adapted, taking up jobs mostly in the hospitality industry in order to cater to the crowd of tourists who throng the city all year round.
Updated On April 28, 2020