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The Roman Amphitheater

Roman Odeum at Kom El-Dikka

This is fortunately situated very close to the central train station. It’s only a short walk of about a kilometer from downtown.

A lot of tour directories have a general notion that Kom el Dikka known as Mound of Rubble, has not many things to see, but we have a different opinion. Apart from The archeological work that has been on since 1960 and is still going on here, one can spend hours at Kom el Dikka gazing at the city’s ruins. The lovely mosaics in the Villa of the Birds, or even take a break from modern Alexandria’s buzzing and traffic.

The Discovery

The Roman amphitheater was first found here in 1959 when developers started unearthing for a new block of homes. The excavated area is now very wide, as archaeological work has spread well beyond the initial discovery. It was a Polish team that handled the digging. They have placed detailed signposts around the site, making it very easy to have a mental picture of what this area of the city was like from the third to the fifth centuries, CE.

The entire ancient city is way below the contemporary street standard and is situated in Alexandria’s busy area. Upon entering the site, it will be stunned to realize that Kom el Dikka is right across from the train station, where many visitors purchase tickets to Cairo.  From the street, you can barely see anything of the ancient city except beautiful plantings in the fence of the immediate neighborhood.

It feels like walking into a new world when you enter the theater. The amphitheater automatically catches your attention with the gleaming white floor beneath your feet. It’s almost a complete structure with the original stylish seating curve and a few wings attached to various angles of both sides. Even though the amphitheater is not a big one, it’s an amazing thing to see when you’re standing on the ancient ground level and staring up at the seats.

Tourists are not permitted to climb up the seats or stairs, but from a series of steps above, you can enter the amphitheater and get the impression of looking down from the upper seats and watching a show under the blue sky of Alexandria.

Smaller Amphitheaters

A number of smaller amphitheaters extend to a side of the bigger amphitheater. The signboards indicate that twenty-two smaller amphitheaters had been so far located, and this building was either a university or something very similar. It has plenty of lecture halls and the much bigger facilities for large crowds. This complex of universities could host 600 to 700 students, according to Grzegorz Majcherek, a Polish academic.

Alexandria was an influential country at the time it was founded in 4th Century AD, and it would make logical sense to have a large educational center. For more information about this academic center and how it compares to other educational institutions in the Roman world, read Majcherek’s article, The Auditoria on Kom el-Dikka: A Glimpse of Late Antique Education in Alexandria!

Other Stuff That Worth Seeing

There is a large bath complex behind the amphitheater and lecture halls, where there were steam rooms and fitness rooms and the baths themselves. It could be compared to a typical gym where people would go to exercise and socialize with their friends while enjoying a sauna and massage.

At a corner of the site, behind the steam bath, is a cluster of small houses, which are the remains of massive luxurious houses constructed in the second century CE and called the Villa of the Birds. It housed lovely sculptures of different birds that remain amazingly almost unchanged from their original form, given that this house was supposedly remodeled four times.

It is quite surprising how the very fragile mosaics here seem to survive in some areas. It is assumed there are great techniques employed in positioning the tiny stones in such that they remain unmoved.

It’s relaxing to walk around Kom el Dikka as there is too much detail to find as you stroll through the site. You get to realize how comprehensive this piece of the ancient Roman city is.

Tunneling under the apartment and industrial blocks of this site gives you a chance to discover and experience much more of the centuries-old Alexandria, lesser than the cars, buses, billboards of the regular modern day-to-day life.

Evidently, there is a park in Kom el Dikka called The Park of Pan, where the people of Alexandria could relax. Kom el Dikka remains an enchanting and calming place. Beautiful plantings are located above the archeological site itself, at the level of modern city streets, which transform this ancient site into a quiet escape from the city’s noise and traffic buzzing.

A few large fragments of the Pharaonic town of Alexandria, which were removed from the sea, are also exhibited at this point, reminding you that no matter how old the Roman town might be, there was an Alexandria town that was much older, dating back centuries.

Updated On April 30, 2020