The 7 Wonders of The World (2) : The Lighthouse of Alexandria

The lighthouse of Alexandria or the “Pharos Lighthouse” was constructed by order of the governor Ptolemy I Soter who was one of the generals of Alexander the Great and the first ruler of Greek origin. The designer and constructor was the Alexandrian Architect called ‘Sostratus’, however he was forbidden to put his name on his work, nonetheless, he wrote an inscription on one of the bas walls of the Lighthouse, putting his name on it. The Lighthouse of Alexandria worked its way by 15 centuries and it was the last of the six lost wonders of the ancient world that disappeared; it was an architectural phenomenon.

The Lighthouse was constructed on an Island just off the coast of the City of Alexandria, Pharos Island.  This historical monument used to help seafaring ships to find the harbour safely, it also served as a military lookout for approaching enemy ships and it had a tourist balcony, as it had two observation platforms.

At night a great bonfire made the light and during the day a great mirror made with a concave disc of polished metal, reflected and directing the sun rays.  The exterior of the Lighthouse was vividly described by the Arab traveller Abou El Haggag Al Andaloussi: “The Lighthouse was constructed in three phases, each section built on top of the lower. The lowest part was a square measuring 55.9 m  high with a cylindrical core. The middle part was an octagonal shape with a side length of 18.30 m and a height of 27.45 m. The third part was circular measuring 7.30 m high. The total height of the building including the foundation base was about 117 m.”  According to ancient stories the lighthouse could be seen from up 56 Km away!

Unfortunately two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323 damaged seriously the tower; according to the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta, went to see the ruins and said that it was badly destructed. In 1480 the remains of the Lighthouse finally disappeared, since the Sultan of Egypt Qaitbay, used several stones of the Pharos to build a fort, therefore several stone blocks of the Lighthouse can be seen in the walls of the Fort Qaitbey, these stone blocks are clearly visible because of their big size compare to the other blocks of the walls.

Between 1994 and 1996, the French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur found the exact location of the Lighthouse. He and his team went underwater and have found huge blocks of stones that should have been of the legendary monument.

So, why is it one of the 7 wonders of the world? This is because of it’s impossible height. How could at that time long ago they were able to build a building that was about 120 m tall? Not only that but it was also survived sea conditions such as wind and hurricanes; “This edifice is the symbol of the technical exploit shown by the Egyptians.” 

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