Located on the eastern harbor of the small island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt, was a lighthouse that dated back to ancient times and is known today what used to be the Pharos, or Lighthouse of Alexandria. This lighthouse was built during the third century of our common era by the Roman general Ptolemy. The Pharos was once considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and even though Ptolemy did not complete the building of it, his son Ptolemy Philadelphos took up that task. The unique architecture of the lighthouse was created by Sostratos of Cnidos who made the top of the tower resemble a minaret which was later a common feature of many a mosque in the Islamic world. At the very top of the lighthouse stood a figurine of Poseidon, while on the lower level of the dome were four triton figures, one at each corner. By the end of Roman rule, however, the statue was gone. The lighthouse was made of limestone while the friezes, ornaments, and columns were made in marble and bronze. Sostratus managed to inscribe his name on the lighthouse, against the wishes of Ptolemy, but cleverly concealed it so it was not made visible until much later after some of the plaster wore away due to weathering.
The Pharos had three stories, with the ground story being the tallest. Inside the lighthouse are almost three hundred rooms used for storing fuel, fresh water, and living quarters for workers. At the top of the first story is an inscription which says “Sostratos of Cnidos, son of Dexiphanes. To the Savior Gods, for sailors.” The savior deities might be a reference to the Greek Castor and Pollux, who watched over sailors in Greek mythology. The exterior of the first floor was square, the second story was octagonal, and the third story was circular in shape. On the third story was a lantern that would provide light for incoming ships.
Not long after it was built, the lighthouse started to fall into disrepair. The lantern fell down from the third story in 700 C.E., then in 956 an earthquake damaged the second story, causing it to fall down. Restoration was attempted to the lighthouse but in 1303 and 1323, another earthquake hit, severely damaging the lighthouse. Accounts of what the Pharos looked like was recorded by Mohammad el-Andalousi, an Arab who traveled to Egypt when the lighthouse still stood in its original form and gave a full description of it. In 1480 the Sultan Qa’it Bay built a fort on top of where the lighthouse once stood. This fort borrowed some of the old parts that fell from the lighthouse and reused them in the masonry.
While the Pharos no longer stands, some of the ruins are visible from the bottom of the ocean floor where the earthquakes once occurred.
Guide to the Alexandrian Mounuments, Henri Riad et al. Alexandrian Tourism Guide, Balagh Press, Cairo, n.d.