Catacombs! This sounds something strange. Well, this place is not so famous. The discovery of this place was also made accidently. It was in 1900, when a donkey’s cart fell in a pit, which made discovery to this hidden place. The name Catacombs seems a bit odd, but synonym of this word is ‘Tunnel’, which lies in the East of Alexandria. Today the place is known as ‘Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa’. Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is situated in the Karmouz district.
Now the question is, why it is called Catacombs? It is named by its design, which is very much similar like ‘Christain Catacombs in Rome’. After discovery of this historic archaeological site, according to the archaeologist this place was likely a private tomb. But then, this private tomb was converted to cemetery for public. This cemetery was constructed in three level made from rock. The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa had rotunda, staircase, triclinium, antechamber, vestibule and an entombment chamber with three breaks, in each break there is casket or sarcophagus.
On discovery of this place, it was in year 1995, 2nd level was opened to visitors. It is said the lowest level is still submerged deep down the earth. The entrance of Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa opens to a staircase with 99-steps. This steps goes in a shaft which was used to lower the body dead with help of rope, to avoid any damage to body. The shafts had few slits to pass the daylight. The entrance staircase opens up with two niches. The top of this niches are shape of shell, while the interior of this part is half round. This was then used by visitors to rest for some time on voyage of Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa.
The deep staircase then leads to ‘Rotunda’, which means hall. At the very centre of this hall is huge 2-storey tomb, with small wall around it called ‘Parapet’ and a dome above it with six pillars supporting. The pillar contains human head sort of figures, resembling Roman – Greco Museum, Alexandria.
The left side of hall leads to a cavity, which was called ‘Triclinium’.This area was for visitors who dined her. Then moving toward the main chamber, which had two corridors one in west and other in east. A statue of man is carved inside a niche in the east, while a statue of women in the west. These both statues depicts Egyptian style, with Greek art on it. The columns located features a combination of Roman-Greco and Egyptian style. The top chamber portrays an art with Egyptian elements of Falcon God Horus, Uraeaus, Winged Sun-disk and so.
After a glance one must say, the structure comprises more of Greek element. The main chamber of burial has also Greek elements around it, Goddess Athena, while on top is Medusa. The Goddess Medusa had power to petrify by a glance, who looked into her deep eyes. The Greek god Medusa as a Greek element also represent a story. The main notion of Medusa was to protect the tomb from others.
The lid of sarcophagus, and sarcophagus itself, was cut from single rock. The dead body was then placed into tomb through an opening, which was then blocked with block of stones. The sarcophagus or Coffin was decorated with flowers, Head of Goddess Medusa, other Greek mythical gods and God Dionysus. The surprising scene is front wall, which has a mummy laid on funerary bed. Side of this bed is God Anubis. ‘God Anubis’ holding a jar, supposedly the jar contain liquid which surely be used for mummification. The sculpture of God Anubis touch mummy.
The history and its hidden meaning of this cemetery is deep and deep. But the question of this Catacomb called Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is still unanswered it seems. The actual meaning of this word is ‘Embankment of Shards’. As the, area consist ruins of Terra cotta, mostly of objects. According to the archaeologist, these objects were left by people who visited tomb in ancient days. After the burial people used to break this jar and containers as they did not wished to carry it back to home from place of death. Hence while discovery pieces of glass plates too were found from this site place.
The secret of lowest level is still deep hidden in soil. The mysterious story is still hidden inside heap of soil it seems!