The catacombs of Kom el-Shuqafa in western Alexandria are sometimes counted among the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages (a notion put forth by 19th-20th century historians), although their origins hark back to circa 2nd century AD. But beyond misplaced chronological provenance, this Roman-made subterranean structures undoubtedly boast their fair share of historical legacy. And the good news for history enthusiasts is that the catacombs have been now successfully restored after hundred years of their discovery back in early 20th century.
The restoration project was fueled by a $5.7 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with part of the money also channeled to other avenues like maintenance of the structures and training of the preservers. Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said –
The antiquity underwent many restoration projects, the most important of which was in the mid-nineties, which was an ambitious project supervised by the Supreme Council of Antiquities. But unfortunately, the water returned once again and complaints rolled in from parliamentarians, tour guides and archaeologists, which is what pushed us to act in cooperation with USAID.
As for the visual side of affairs, the catacombs of Kom El-Shuqafa fuse native Egyptian, Hellenistic Greek (Ptolemaic) and Roman design motifs, thereby exhibiting a syncretic scope that rather mirrored the culture of Roman Egypt during the era. The structural marvel rather complements this ‘fusion’ style with the rock-carved catacombs being built in three levels.
And lastly, talking of restorations, the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry had previously collaborated with USAID for groundwater removal endeavors focused on famous sites at Cairo, Giza, Luxor, and Aswan. More importantly, the organizations will also unveil their new restoration project at the Kom Ombo site in Aswan governorate on March 25th.
Image Credits: Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters