Amazing Catacombs at Kom El Shoqafa, Alexandria
Breathe taking I am telling you! If you feel attracted to explore the silence and the darkness of a passed era go on walking descending those stairs at Kom EL Skoqafa (Mound of shards) and enter deep inside of one of the most amazing catacombs in the world. Don’t stop as darkness opens in front of you, the light of the grave itself will show you the path.
Take a deep breath and step down into the tiny entrance. If you look to the place from the distance and even close you think there is nothing to see there , looks old and rusty as it’ shape look at the surface as a cylinder, a silo maybe only smaller. The entrance and the roof are like a hat that simply covers a tiny piece of earth. But what is under it will blow your mind. Bricks and steps, dozens of steps are going around and around down surrounding an empty pillar right in the heart of a unique grave. Stick your head on the walls; you might hear the creaking of the ropes pulling down a coffin. Oh no, don’t think it’s creepy. Is just the circle of life. The empty pillar was used to let down the coffins because the passage to walk in is really small and in spiral shape. Once you reach to the end of the stairs you will find a totally different horizon. Thinking you are about to enter in a grave can give you chills but once you are there you feel a warm embrace and breathe a different air. You feel peaceful and serene even thinking of the death itself. Before you enter in the labyrinths you will find in the center of the first level a fountain that leads to the next 3 levels, unfortunately not accessible because they are under water. But if you look down the fountain or rotunda as they like to call it you may see some chambers and the floating water walking freely between them. How I wish I dive in to see what wonders lay submerged in that world! Getting back to this first level as you enter there is a very small and short vestibule with 2 small seats right and left made on alabaster which really look good even today. You can take a moment actually; despite other interdiction you may take a sit here, it purpose was then and now the same – resting while grieving the death ones. As you enter you find in the left a chamber named triclinium used as a dining room for the people who were participating to the funerals. You can find inside stone table with chairs surrounding it and a collection of pots and plates used for the table. It was bad luck to bring them back to the living world so in here were discovered a big amount of dishes dating that era. Going farther on another few stairs and down a wood board little unbalanced you will find the main tomb chamber. But before stepping down the board take a look at the tomb entrance.
There is the beautiful Medusa with her crawling snakes on her hair. Take a look, do not afraid, she is just a carving on the wall and her eyes will not turn you into stone. I was pretty much amazed to find her here guarding the entrance of a tomb. But that’s why this tomb is unlike others, unique and magnificent. So on the façade of the chamber you will find an astonish combination of Greek elements, Roman architecture and Egyptian style. The three unique architectural adornments mix together to give birth to such a unique style. Most likely you will not find something similar to it in the entire world. The shield of the Goddess Athena lays above on the top right in the middle of the 2 pillars from the entrance. Right and left is flanked by 2 Egyptian falcons. Under each falcon there is a disk with the head of Medusa that Greeks believed she will petrify anyone who was looking into her eyes there for they used it here for the protection of the tomb against thieves. Under Medusa you will see huge cobra serpents with double crown, wigs and swords. The serpents belong to the Greek mythology while the double crown belongs to the Egyptian Pharaohs. You may step down now and look to your left and right before actually enter. You will see inside two vertical niches, in one side a man and the other side a woman with bizarre decorations. The statues were sculpted in the Egyptian way but their features are purely Greek art. The pillars surrounding are Roman- Greek style but yet their capitals are blooming in the shape of the Lotus flower. On the very entrance walls you will find left and right 2 carved representations of God Anubis. So Anubis is well known as Egyptian God of the Deaths and design with a head of a jackal. But did you ever imagine how this Egyptian God will look like wearing a Roman uniform?? Well you can see it all here. On one side you will find Anubis wearing a very tight Roman uniform and in the other side you will find the same Anubis but with no legs, still wearing the uniform but with a tail of a snake. Pretty unique! The explanation of my guide for this mix features on the iconography is that on those times they were living all civilizations in peace and understanding and respecting each other believes, traditions and religion. There for they combined their unique styles to fit for each one of the civilizations. The Greeks were depicting their Gods with human faces mean time the Egyptian were drawing them with animal figures. So they basically mix their art creating a new and interesting one.The tomb chamber was cut into bedrock and was design in a unique style never seen before. The tomb contain 3 burial places, sarcophagus, but their covers are meant to never be opened. You stay and contemplate on how the mummies were arranged inside, how did they do it? Magic dust spread inside this very particular room? Well there is no wonder about it why this place is listed as being one of the wonders of the Middle Ages. The mummies were arranged in the sarcophagus by a secret passage located behind the chamber. The iconography in this tomb is very complex. You will find Anubis, Serapis, Isis, Ptah , all of them in different rituals, around a mummification table with canopic jars containing the viscera. An emperor or ruler with a crown on his head is represented on the carved drawings offering a necklace to the Serapis Bull.Is this the reason why the tomb is considered a royal one. In time thou the citizens carved many more places of burial called loculi. Hundreds of niches on the walls that were once filled with bodies. At this level you can see some galleries/ labyrinths with tiny loculi but be aware on your steps because you are walking on wooden boards.Please note that you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the tomb.The picture attached is not from the personal archive.
Another interesting story about the place is that it was discovered by a donkey. Well one unfortunate donkey who felt in a pit, the access shaft, was actually our hero. Believed to be built in the first century AD on Antonine Emperors, it was discovered just about one hundred years ago. To be exact in 1900, 28th September. The area located in a very poor neighborhood called Karmouz in Alexandria is actually one very rich in history. Only God knows what it is under the earth on this area still waiting to be discovered. The excavation on this area were going on in search for another ancient monuments like the tomb of Alexander the Great but they never found anything else except the archeological place from the Roman Theater and the Pompey Pillar. But that will be the subject of another story.