The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa
The Catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa are reached through a spiral staircase encircling a shaft down which the bodies of the deceased were lowered.
This staircase leads to a large central shaft that mainly functioned both for transporting the dead bodies to their graves and ensuring there is good ventilation in the burial chambers.
The central shaft links, through a passageway, to a circular courtyard that leads in turn to another important hall of the catacombs that was used for the funerary rituals carried out in the honor of the deceased which occurred in some special days that were considered sacred by the cult.
This hall also hosts three benches that have the letter “U” shape and were cut out of rock and positioned in the middle of the hall where a wooden table must have stood during the Greco Roman period but it was never found afterwards.
Situated to the west of the rotunda, there are is a complex of galleries where the bodies of the deceased used to be buried in different locations around the catacombs.
To the East of the rotunda there is a tomb that is totally isolated and independent from the rest of the tombs located inside the catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa.
In the same section, there is the Hall of Caracalla which is named, according to the traditions, after the remains of the young Alexandrian Copts who were killed due to the orders of the Roman Emperor in 215 AD and they were buried in this location of the catacombs.
It is worth mentioning here that the traditions concerning this tomb has no historical basis because the bones that were found here belonged to some horses that were buried in the same location probably intentionally.
The Tombs of the Catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa
Afterwards a staircase leads to the main tomb of the catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa and the most interesting section of this remarkable historical necropolis.
The tomb dates back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, when the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan ruled over Egypt and a large section of the expanding Roman Empire at this period of time.
This section is featured with distinctive ancient Egyptian Pharaonic bas reliefs and statues that were modified to suit the Greco Roman style of decoration and design.
Some characteristics of the ancient Egyptian design like the winged sun disk of the god Horus or the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt are combined together with Greek symbols like the thyrsus that is associated with to the Dionysian cult.
This tomb has a wide antechamber with a tunnel in the middle of it that takes the guests to the third level of the catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa, which became inaccessible lately due to the flooding of the underground water.
At the end of this tomb, there are two large pillars with capitals decorated with lotus and papyrus motifs. Above these pillars there is the scene of the sun god, Horus, who guards the tomb from any threats according to the traditions of the ancient Egyptians.
The door to the burial chamber has, to the left and to the right of it, some bas reliefs of the holy cobras who also protected the tombs as a sign of divine power.
The side walls of the antechamber host two niches that include no inscriptions or records with two statues of a man, to the right, and a woman, to the left. These figures may represent the couple, for whom this tomb was originally dug, or maybe their children or relatives.
Afterwards, towards the center of the second floor of the catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa there is a burial chamber that hosts a sarcophagus in the middle that most probably belonged to a woman who lived in the 2nd century AD during the Roman reign in Egypt and two other sarcophagi.
The three sarcophagi are ornamented with floral shapes and located above them; there is a relief that clearly demonstrates the common mixture in the catacombs between the Greco Roman and the ancient Egyptian Pharaonic styles of design and decorations.
Another example of this mixture between the Roman and the ancient Egyptian style of decoration lies inside the door of the tomb with the god Anubis, which was mainly associated with the burial traditions in ancient Egypt, dressed like a Roman legionary.
The Tomb of Tigrane
Situated a few meters away from the main entrance to the catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa, the Tomb of Tigrane is famous for its wall paintings with Pharaonic funerary motifs mixed with some Greek symbols and executed in the typical Alexandrian Hellenistic style.
The Tomb of Tigrane dates back to the 1st century AD and it was discovered in the year 1952 inside a necropolis that was located in Tigrane Pasha Street that is now called the Portsaid Street, one of the most important routs of Alexandria nowadays, and then transported to its present location today.
The Tomb of Wardian
Located a few meters away from the Tomb of Tigrane, the Tomb of Wardian got its name from the district of Wardian in Alexandria in the western necropolis complex.
The Tomb of Wardian was reconstructed in this present location and it consists of a small painted chapel that once hosted a marvelous statue of an ancient Egyptian goddess, which was most probably a statue of the famous Egyptian goddess, Isis.