Introducing Rosetta (Ar-Rashid)
It’s hard to believe that this dusty town, squatting on the western branch of the Nile 65km northeast of Alexandria, was once Egypt’s most significant port. Locally known as Ar-Rashid, Rosetta was founded in the 9th century and outgrew Alexandria in importance during that town’s 18th- and 19th-century decline. Alas, as Alexandria got back on its feet and regained power in the late 19th century, Rosetta was thrust once again into near irrelevance.
Today Rosetta is most famous as the discovery place of the stone stele that provided the key to deciphering hieroglyphics. It strikes a contrast with the modern turmoil of nearby Alexandria – the streets are packed with donkeys pulling overloaded carts, basket-weavers artfully working fronds and blacksmiths hammering away in medieval-looking shop fronts.
Rosetta’s main draw is its striking Islamic architecture, in the form of beautifully crafted Ottoman-era merchants’ houses. There are at least 22 of them tucked away along the streets but unfortunately most are undergoing renovation and are not open to visitors.
The Beit Killi museum on the main square is also closed, and at present there’s no official reopening date.