Located on a spit of land near the NILE RIVER delta, Alexandria is the second largest city in EGYPT and the country's main port. It was founded in 332 B.C. by Alexander the Great and quickly emerged as the leading city of the Mediterranean region. Renowned in the ancient world as a center of learning, Alexandria possessed the greatest library of the time and attracted scholars from near and far. Although the city remained a major port and trading center after the Arab conquest of Egypt in A.D. 642, it slowly declined over the next several hundred years.
The French occupied Alexandria from 1798 to 1801. Then in the early 1800s the Ottoman viceroy Muhammad Ali brought new life to the city by building a canal to the Nile River and by encouraging foreign traders to settle there. Alexandria thrived as a result of the newly established cotton trade. After the SUEZ CANAL opened in 1869, the city once again became a major trading post between Europe and Asia. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the population expanded and came to include many nationalities, cultures, and religions.
When Gamal NASSER became Egypt's leader in 1952, however, most of the foreign residents left the city. In recent years Alexandria has developed into a major center of industry and commerce. It is currently home to more than 3 million people.