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From the late 18th century, Alexandria became a major center of the international shipping industry and one of the most important trading centers in the world, both because it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and the lucrative trade in Egyptian cotton.Among famous neighbourhoods in Alexandria are: Loran, Miami, Azareeta, Somouha, Shateby, Ras-El-Teen, Bahary, El-Mandara, Sidi-Bishr, Asafra, Mansheyya and Abu-Kir. Alexander's chief architect for the project was Dinocrates.Just east of Alexandria (where Abu Qir Bay is now), there was in ancient times marshland and several islands.As early as the 7th century BC, there existed important port cities of Canopus and Heracleion. An Egyptian city, Rhakotis, already existed on the shore and later gave its name to Alexandria in the Egyptian language (Egyptian *Raˁ-Ḳāṭit, written rˁ-ḳṭy.t, 'That which is built up').Alexandria is an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. Alexandria was founded around a small, ancient Egyptian town c. It became an important center of Hellenistic civilization and remained the capital of Ptolemaic (Greek) Egypt and Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641, when a new capital was founded at Fustat (later absorbed into Cairo).Hellenistic Alexandria was best known for the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world; now replaced by a modern one); and the Necropolis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.

On 21 July 365, Alexandria was devastated by a tsunami (365 Crete earthquake), The Islamic prophet Muhammad's first interaction with the people of Egypt occurred in 628, during the Expedition of Zaid ibn Haritha (Hisma).

Alexandria was intended to supersede Naucratis as a Hellenistic center in Egypt, and to be the link between Greece and the rich Nile valley.