Abu Qir Bay

Last updated

Coordinates: 31°18′N30°10′E / 31.300°N 30.167°E / 31.300; 30.167


Abu Qir Bay
Satellite view of Abu Qir Bay
Egypt relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Abu Qir Bay
Abu Qir Bay in Egypt
Location Beheira Governorate
Coordinates 31°18′N30°10′E / 31.300°N 30.167°E / 31.300; 30.167
Type Bay
Native name Arabic: خليج أبو قير
EtymologyAbu Qir is Arabic for "Father Cyrus", a martyr of the Coptic Church.
Part of Mediterranean Sea
Primary inflows Rosetta mouth of the Nile, Lake Idku
Surface area500–600 km2 (190–230 sq mi)
Average depth10–12 m (33–39 ft)
Max. depth18 m (59 ft)
Water volume5–6 km3 (1.2–1.4 cu mi)
Surface elevationSea level
ReferencesEutrophication: causes, consequences and control. [1]

The Abū Qīr Bay (sometimes transliterated Abukir Bay or Aboukir Bay) (Arabic : خليج أبو قير; transliterated: Khalīj Abū Qīr) is a spacious bay on the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria in Egypt, lying between the Rosetta mouth of the Nile and the town of Abu Qir. The ancient cities of Canopus, Heracleion and Menouthis lie submerged beneath the waters of the bay. In 1798 it was the site of the Battle of the Nile, a naval battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the Navy of the French First Republic. The bay contains a natural gas field, discovered in the 1970s.


Abu Qir Bay lies approximately 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Alexandria, bounded to the southwest by the Abu Qir headland, on which lies the town of Abu Qir, and to the northeast by the Rosetta mouth of the Nile. The bay is a highly fertile Egyptian coastal region but suffers from acute eutrophication and pollution from untreated industrial and domestic waste. [1] The ABU QIR Fertilizers and Chemicals Industries Company, a large producer of nitrogen fertilizer, is located on the bay.


Map of Nile Delta showing ancient Canopus, Heracleion, and Menouthis Canopus menouthis herakleion.jpg
Map of Nile Delta showing ancient Canopus, Heracleion, and Menouthis

In ancient times Abu Qir Bay was surrounded by marshland and contained several islands. As early as the 7th century BC, port cities were established on the bay. The bay now contains the underwater archaeological sites of three cities from the pre-Hellenistic, Hellenistic and Roman periods. [2] The Eastern part of ancient city of Canopus is submerged in the bay, [3] along with the remains of Menouthis [4] and its sister-city Herakleion–Thonis which now lies 7 kilometres offshore. [5] They were excavated by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio.

In July 2019, a smaller Greek temple and ancient granite columns, treasure-laden ships, along with bronze coins from the reign of Ptolemy II, pottery dating back to the third and fourth centuries BC were found at the sunken city of Heracleion, known as Egypt's Atlantis. The investigations were conducted by Egyptian and European divers led by the underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio. They also uncovered an absolutely devastated historic underwater temple (city's main temple) off Egypt's north coast. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

A number of sunken ships have been excavated from the bay, including a ceremonial boat (Neshmet boat) dedicated to Osiris and several Roman era ships. [11] [12]

Classical sources indicate that the Canopic branch of the Nile delta once entered the sea in the vicinity of Heracleion or Eastern Canopus. A combination of Islamic texts and investigation using geoarchaeology suggest that this branch was still in existence in the eighth century, when a major inundation caused Eastern Canopus to sink into the bay. The Canopic branch subsequently declined and eventually became closed. [13]

Battle of the Nile

British ships attacking French ships at Abukir Battle of the Nile, Whitcombe2.jpg
British ships attacking French ships at Abukir

On August 1, 1798, Horatio Nelson fought the naval "Battle of the Nile", often referred to as the "Battle of Aboukir Bay". (Not to be confused with the Battle of Abukir (1799) and the Battle of Abukir (1801).)

On 1 March 1801, some 70 British warships, together with transports carrying 16,000 troops, anchored in Aboukir Bay near Alexandria. The intent was to defeat the French expeditionary force that had remained in Egypt after Napoleon's return to France.

Bad weather delayed disembarkation by a week but, on 8 March, Captain Alexander Cochrane of HMS Ajax deployed 320 boats, in double line abreast, to bring the troops ashore. French shore batteries opposed the landing, but the British were able to drive them back and, by the next day, all of Sir Ralph Abercromby's British army was ashore. The British then defeated the French army at the Battle of Alexandria. The Siege of Alexandria followed, with the city falling on 2 September 1801.

L’Orient , Napoleon's flagship, was destroyed by Nelson's fleet and lies in the bay on the sea bottom. It was carrying five million francs in gold and one million in silver plate taken from the Knights Hospitaller in Malta. Between 1998 and 1999, French archaeologist Franck Goddio led an expedition that carried out an underwater archaeological study of the wreck-site. [14]

Nelson's Island

Nelson's Island, also known as Aboukir Island, is a 350 m (1,150 ft)-long island in Abu Qir bay that is used for picnics and recreation. The island has been reduced considerably in size since antiquity as a result of erosion and sandstone quarrying. When it was a part of Ancient Egypt it was probably connected to the mainland at what is now the Aboukir naval base. In Pharaonic times the island lay on a primary commercial route to the Nile River and became a major religious and commercial centre. There is archaeological evidence that a high-status necropolis was sited on the island. During the Ptolemaic Kingdom the island was fortified. [15]

Following the Battle of the Nile in 1798, a number of British dead were buried on the island. Their graves were discovered in 2000. As they were in danger of sea erosion, thirty bodies were reburied at Chatby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Alexandria in 2005. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

Alexandria Metropolis in Egypt

Alexandria is the second-largest city in Egypt and a major economic center. With a population of 5,200,000, Alexandria is the largest city on the Mediterranean, the sixth-largest city in the Arab world and the ninth-largest in Africa. The city extends about 40 km (25 mi) at the northern coast of Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria is a popular tourist destination, and also an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez.

Lighthouse of Alexandria Ancient lighthouse in Egypt

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria, was a lighthouse built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom, during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, which has been estimated to be at least 100 metres (330 ft) in overall height. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, for many centuries it was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world.

Abu Qir Place in Alexandria Governorate, Egypt

Abu Qir, formerly also spelled Abukir or Aboukir, is a town on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, near the ruins of ancient Canopus and 23 kilometers (14 mi) northeast of Alexandria by rail. It is located on Abu Qir Peninsula, with Abu Qir Bay to the east.

Egyptology Study of Ancient Egypt

Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, architecture and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the 4th century AD. A practitioner of the discipline is an "Egyptologist". In Europe, particularly on the Continent, Egyptology is primarily regarded as being a philological discipline, while in North America it is often regarded as a branch of archaeology.

Nile Delta Delta produced by the Nile River at its mouth in the Mediterranean Sea

The Nile Delta is the delta formed in Lower Egypt where the Nile River spreads out and drains into the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the world's largest river deltas—from Alexandria in the west to Port Said in the east, it covers 240 km (150 mi) of Mediterranean coastline and is a rich agricultural region. From north to south the delta is approximately 160 km (99 mi) in length. The Delta begins slightly down-river from Cairo.

Nelson's Island is an island located in Abū Qīr Bay, off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. It is a local site for picnics and recreation, and is the location of a group of British graves dating from the Napoleonic Wars. It was named after Horatio Nelson, the famous British admiral.

Battle of Abukir (1799) first battle of the French campaign in Egypt and Syria to be fought at Abu Qir

The Battle of Abukir was a battle in which Napoleon Bonaparte defeated Seid Mustafa Pasha's Ottoman army on July 25, 1799, during the French campaign in Egypt. It is considered the first pitched battle with this name, as there already was a naval battle on August 1, 1798. No sooner had the French forces returned from a campaign to Syria, than the Ottoman forces were transported to Egypt by Sidney Smith's British fleet to put an end to French rule in Egypt.

Canopus, Egypt Ancient Egyptian town

Canopus, also known as Canobus, was an ancient Egyptian coastal town, located in the Nile Delta. Its site is in the eastern outskirts of modern-day Alexandria, around 25 kilometers (16 mi) from the center of that city. Canopus was located on the western bank at the mouth of the westernmost branch of the Delta – known as the Canopic or Heracleotic branch. It belonged to the seventh Egyptian Nome, known as Menelaites, and later as Canopites, after it. It was the principal port in Egypt for Greek trade before the foundation of Alexandria, along with Naucratis and Heracleion. Its ruins lie near the present Egyptian town of Abu Qir.

The Decree of Canopus is a trilingual inscription in three scripts, which dates from the Ptolemaic period of Ancient Egypt. It was written in three writing systems: Egyptian hieroglyphs, demotic, and Greek, on several ancient Egyptian memorial stones, or steles. The inscription is a record of a great assembly of priests held at Canopus, Egypt, in 238 BCE. Their decree honoured Pharaoh Ptolemy III Euergetes; Queen Berenice, his wife; and Princess Berenice.

Rhacotis was the name for a city on the northern coast of Egypt at the site of Alexandria. Classical sources from the Greco-Roman era, in Greek and in hieroglyphics, give Rhacotis as an older name for Alexandria before the arrival of Alexander the Great.

Articles related to Modern Egypt include:

Four ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Aboukir, after Abu Qir Bay, the site of the Battle of the Nile:

Franck Goddio is a French underwater archaeologist who, in 2000, discovered the city of Thonis-Heracleion 7 km off the Egyptian shore in Aboukir Bay. He led the excavation of the submerged site of Eastern Canopus and of Antirhodos in the ancient harbour of Alexandria. He has also excavated ships in the waters of the Philippines, significantly the Spanish Galleon San Diego.

French ship <i>Orient</i> (1791)

Orient was an Océan-class 118-gun ship of the line of the French Navy, famous for her role as flagship of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798, and for her spectacular destruction that day when her magazines exploded. The event was commemorated by numerous paintings and poems.

Heracleion Ancient Egyptian city

Heracleion, also known by its Egyptian name Thonis and sometimes called Thonis-Heracleion, was an ancient Egyptian city located near the Canopic Mouth of the Nile, about 32 km northeast of Alexandria. Its ruins are located in Abu Qir Bay, currently 2.5 km off the coast, under 10 m (30 ft) of water. A stele found on the site indicates that it was one single city known by both its Egyptian and Greek names. Its legendary beginnings go back to as early as the 12th century BC, and it is mentioned by ancient Greek historians. Its importance grew particularly during the waning days of the Pharaohs.

Decree of Nectanebo I

The Decree of Nectanebo I was issued by Pharaoh Nectanebo I of the 30th dynasty of Ancient Egypt. It regards payments to the local temple, and was recorded on two steles.

The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA) is a specialist research group within the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford in England.

Antirhodos Former island in the eastern harbor of Alexandria, Egypt

Antirhodos was an island in the eastern harbor of Alexandria, Egypt, on which a Ptolemaic palace was sited. The island was occupied until the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla and it probably sank in the 4th century, when it succumbed to earthquakes and a tsunami following an earthquake in the eastern Mediterranean near Crete in the year 365. The site now lies underwater, near the seafront of modern Alexandria, at a depth of approximately five metres (16 ft).

Aurélia Masson-Berghoff is a French Egyptologist and exhibition curator in the department of ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum.

A baris is a type of ancient Egyptian ship, whose unique method of construction was described by Herodotus, writing in about 450 BC. Archeologists and historians could find no corroboration of his description until the discovery of the remains of such a ship in the waters around Thonis-Heracleion in Aboukir Bay in 2003.


  1. 1 2 Ansari, Abid A.; Singh, Gill Sarvajeet; Lanza, Guy R.; Rast, Walter (2010). Eutrophication: causes, consequences and control. Volume 1. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 174. ISBN   9789048196258.
  2. Mirsky, Steve (31 January 2010). "Cleopatra's Alexandria Treasures". Scientific American. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  3. Rothstein, Edward (3 June 2010). "Cleopatra's Underwater Kingdom". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  4. Shwartz, Mark (11 December 2000). "Scientists, archaeologists and historians will unravel the mystery of Egypt's sunken cities" (Press release). California: Stanford University. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  5. "Lost underwater city explored in documentary". Νεος Κοσμος. 3 May 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  6. Topics, Head. "Archaeologists discover a sunken ancient settlement underwater". Head Topics. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  7. EDT, Katherine Hignett On 7/23/19 at 11:06 AM (2019-07-23). "Ancient Egypt: Underwater archaeologists uncover destroyed temple in the sunken city of Heracleion". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  8. Santos, Edwin (2019-07-28). "Archaeologists discover a sunken ancient settlement underwater". Nosy Media. Archived from the original on 2019-08-17. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  9. cowie, ashley. "Subaquatic Temple and Countless Treasures Discovered in Egypt's Sunken City of Heracleion". www.ancient-origins.net. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  10. History, Laura Geggel 2019-07-29T10:37:58Z. "Divers Find Remains of Ancient Temple in Sunken Egyptian City". livescience.com. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  11. "Archeologists discover three Roman-era shipwrecks in Egypt's north coast". Daily Sabah . Istanbul. AP. 23 November 2017. Archived from the original on 24 November 2017.
  12. Khalil, Emad; Mustafa, Mohamed (2002). "Chapter 31: Underwater archaeology in Egypt". In Ruppé, Carol V.; Barstad, Janet F. (eds.). International Handbook of Underwater Archaeology. New York: Kluwer Academic. pp. 519–534. ISBN   978-0-306-46345-7.
  13. Cooper, John (2014). The Medieval Nile: Route, Navigation, and Landscape in Islamic Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press. pp. 30, 58–59, 74. ISBN   9789774166143.
  14. "Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet". Franck Goddio. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  15. Philippe Bohstrom (26 July 2016). "Graves Found Shows Women Fought With British in the 1798 Battle of the Nile". Haaretz.
  16. "Reburial for Nelson's comrades". BBC News. 18 April 2005.