Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt, and the largest city on the Mediterranean coast. Founded in c. 331 BC by Alexander the Great, Alexandria grew rapidly and became a major center of Hellenic civilization, eventually replacing Memphis, in present-day Greater Cairo, as Egypt’s capital. During the Hellenistic period, it was home to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which ranked among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the storied Library of Alexandria. Today, the library is reincarnated in the disc-shaped, ultramodern Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Its 15th-century seafront Qaitbay Citadel is now a museum. Called the “Bride of the Mediterranean” by locals, Alexandria is a popular tourist destination and an important industrial center due to its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez.
The city extends about 40 km (25 mi) along the northern coast of Egypt and is the largest city on the Mediterranean, the second-largest in Egypt (after Cairo), the fourth-largest city in the Arab world, the ninth-largest city in Africa, the ninth-largest urban area in Africa, and the 79th-largest urban area by population on Earth.
Rhacotis, an Egyptian settlement, gave rise to the original city nearby (where the Egyptian quarter of the city later developed). The city remained the capital for almost a thousand years under Roman and Eastern Roman rule until the Muslims conquered Egypt in 641 AD and founded a new capital at Fustat (which Cairo later absorbed).