Introducing Rosetta (Ar-Rashid)
It’s hard to believe that this dusty town, squatting on the western branch of the Nile 65km from Alexandria, was once Egypt’s most significant port. Also 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 its power in the late 19th century, Rosetta was thrust once again back into near irrelevance.
Today Rosetta is most famous as the discovery place of the stone stele that provided the key to deciphering hieroglyphics. The town makes a great detour from the modern turmoil of nearby Alexandria. The streets, though mostly unpaved, are packed with market stalls selling all manner of produce, and donkey carts outnumber cars in the nearly impassable, windy dirt streets. Rosetta is dotted with attractive Ottoman merchant houses, several of them restored and accessible to tourists. A boat trip is another reason to visit, as the Nile is particularly beautiful here, wide and full, with boat builders along the Corniche and loads of palms on the far bank.
Note that it’s best to avoid Rosetta within days of any significant rain when the unsealed streets become one big, messy mud bath.
There is currently no tourist office in Rosetta, though the eager staff at the tourist police (Museum Garden) can point you in the right direction for the town’s majors sights.