Egypt's ancient sunken ruins of Alexandria to become world's first underwater museum

by Tom Anstey | 27 Oct 2015

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has said it is reviving ambitious US$150m (€136m, £97.8m) plans to develop 'the world’s first underwater museum', which will showcase the submerged ancient ruins of Alexandria.

Announced by minister of antiquities Mamdouh al-Damaty, the plans have been in the works for more than seven years after the government decided to turn the ruins, which date back to 365 AD, into a tourist attraction.

According to Youssef Khalifa, chair of the Central Administration of Lower Egypt Antiquities, the revived museum will be similar to the original design provided by French architect Jacques Rougerie, which was shelved in 2011 following the Egyptian Revolution.

Rougerie – whose work is inspired by bionic architecture and marine forms – had proposed the use of fibreglass tunnels which would connect new above-ground waterfront galleries to an underwater facility on the sea floor, where the antiquities would be visible in their sunken state.

The site, in the Alexandria Bay, covers an area of around 25,000sq m (269,000sq ft). It contains more than 2,500 pieces of stonework from the sunken section of Alexandria, and is protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

One of the most notable structures included is the Lighthouse of Alexandria on the Island of the Pharos – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – which was submerged along with the rest of the city following a series of earthquakes in the Middle Ages.

The museum plan originally came about in 2008, when the government was looking at a way to prevent parts of the ancient monuments and relics being pilfered by thieves – who are selling to private collectors – and damaged by water pollution.

Speaking to CLAD about the revived plans, Khalifa said: “The museum will reshape the Arab region, as it will be the first of its kind in the world. Undoubtedly it will revive tourism and boost the Egyptian economy after a long recession.”

The architects for the revived project have not yet been revealed. CLAD has contacted the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities for confirmation.

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Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has said it is reviving ambitious US$150m (€136m, £97.8m) plans to develop 'the world’s first underwater museum', which will showcase the submerged ancient ruins of Alexandria. Announced by minister of antiquities Mamdouh al-Damaty, the plans have been in the works for more than seven years after the government decided to turn the ruins, which date back to 365 AD, into a tourist attraction. According to Youssef
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Jacques Rougerie's original designs featured a central underwater hub connected by a series of underwater walkways / Jacques Rougerie Architect
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