Find out more about it, and the unique way it was rediscovered, in this blog! If you’re ready to see it for yourself, speak to our Travel Specialists. This incredible site is included on our Egyptian Discovery and Egypt & Jordan Discovery small group tours, or can be added as an extension to your Middle East small group tour.
- What are the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa?
- The history of the Catacombs
- Who built the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa?
- Why are the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa famous?
- Explore the Catacombs yourself
Located in Alexandria, Egypt, the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa are an ancient burial site that was built under Roman rule in the 2nd Century AD. They were initially intended to be used by just one wealthy family, but later expanded to include more families and individuals. The Catacombs are carved out of bedrock, and stretch for three levels below the city.
The main hall, known as the Triclinium, is a spacious chamber where funeral banquets were held. It contains stone benches and alcoves where mourners would gather to pay their respects to the deceased. The Triclinium is adorned with ornate reliefs depicting Egyptian deities, Greek mythological figures, and Roman motifs, showcasing the blending of cultural influences.
The Catacombs also include a central shaft, which was likely used for lowering bodies and conducting funeral processions. There is a spiral staircase that leads to an upper level, believed to have served as a viewing platform for visitors paying their respects.
The central shaft in the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa by Dennis Bunnik
The design and layout of the Catacombs reflect the architectural style of the time. The chambers and passageways are interconnected, creating a complex underground network. The overall structure combines elements of Roman architecture, such as arches and columns, with Egyptian influences seen in the use of hieroglyphs and depictions of Egyptian deities.
The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa were built in the 2nd Century AD and are thought to have been in use for several centuries. Eventually the site was abandoned and fell into disuse. It wasn’t until 1900 that the Catacombs were rediscovered in a most unlikely fashion - when a donkey fell into a shaft leading to the underground chambers. Since then, the site has been excavated and extensively studied, providing valuable insights into ancient burial practices and the cultural history of Alexandria.
A tomb within the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa by Dennis Bunnik
Today, the Catacombs are open to the public as a popular tourist attraction, allowing visitors to explore the underground chambers, admire the intricate artwork, and learn about the rich history of Alexandria and its diverse cultural heritage.
The specific individuals that built the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa remain anonymous, however it is believed to have been built under Roman rule. They feature a combination of Egyptian, Greek and Roman architectural and artistic influences, reflecting the diverse culture of Alexandria at the time. They are a true testament to the craftsmen and artisans of the era who created this remarkable underground burial complex, blending various cultural traditions into a unique architectural marvel.
There are many reasons that the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are famous; its historical significance, the uniqueness of the burial site, its impressive architecture and its artistic splendour. Many tourists come from all over the world to visit this well preserved blend of Roman, Egyptian and Greek cultures.
Inside the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa by Dennis Bunnik
If you’re keen to explore the Catacombs for yourself, you can do so on our Egyptian Discovery and Egypt & Jordan Discovery small group tours. If you’re interested in any of our other Middle East small group tours, it can also be added as an extension before or after the tour, with our Alexandria and Alexandria & El Alamein extensions. Speak to our friendly team of Travel Specialists at the time of booking to find out more.
How much does it cost to visit the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa?
The entrance fee to the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa is included in a selection of our Middle East small group tours and extensions. If you wish to book a visit separately, please contact our team of Travel Specialists to find out more, as the prices can vary.
Who was buried in Kom El Shoqafa?
The exact identities of those buried in the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa aren’t known, however it is believed to have been a collective burial site for people from various social backgrounds. This could be members of the local elite, merchants and possibly some middle-class individuals, however no inscriptions or records have been found to provide any certainty.
How big are the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa?
The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa reach a depth of 30 metres across three levels, and it had the ability to accommodate up to 300 corpses.