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The global cosmopolis. Past, present and future of the city of Alexandria

Thursday 20 January 2022 - Friday 21 January 2022

Founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria developed into the economic and cultural centre of the ancient world during the third century BCE. In the final two centuries BCE, Alexandria truly was a world city, a cosmopolis full of people and objects from all over Afro-Eurasia. As such it generated a remarkable amount of innovations. It seems that, throughout its long life and until the present day, Alexandria never completely lost its cosmopolitan character. 

This public symposium presents a (selective) overview of the development of the city in these cosmopolitan terms. The first day will focus on the period of Antiquity; the second on the era after Antiquity and Alexandria’s future.

This symposium is meant to present, for a general audience, some of the results of the Leiden VICI project ‘Innovating objects’ that was carried out in close cooperation with the Centre d’Études Alexandrines. It is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union in the framework of the international project “Alexandria: (Re)activating Common Urban Imaginaries”, that explores the relations between art, heritage and urban life for the city and aims at using Alexandria’s cosmopolitan past to build a better (urban) future.

Thursday January 20 2022

Alexandria in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: urban image and cultural identity
Join via Zoom

  • 9.00-9.30 Alexandria: the global cosmopolis. Welcome and introduction (Miguel John Versluys - Leiden)
  • 9.30-10.00 Egyptians and Greeks at Nelson Island, Aboukir: a contribution to the archaeology and history of the coast of Alexandria (lecture in French) (Paolo Gallo - Torino)
  • 10.00-10.30 La crémation dans l’Alexandrie hellénistique et romaine: pratique élitiste ou marqueur socio-culturel d’une identité communautaire? (Cécile Harlaut – Alexandria & Leiden)
  • 10.30-11.00 Coffee/tea
  • 11.00-11.30 The tombs of Alexandria: cultural identity beyond ethnicity (Eleni Fragaki – Paris & Leiden)
  • 11.30-12.00 The palace(s) of the Ptolemies – royal architecture as mirror of (elite) cosmopolitanism? (Stefan Riedel – Bochum, Münster & Leiden)
  • 12.00-12.30 Current archaeological research in and around Alexandria (Marie Dominique Nenna – Paris & Alexandria)
  • 12.30-13.00 Alexandria in Dakleh Oasis (Olaf Kaper - Leiden)

Friday January 21 2022

Alexandria after Antiquity: urban image and cultural identity
Join via Zoom

  • 9.00-9.30 Awaiting destruction? Alexandria in the Medieval Muslim imagination (Jelle Bruning - Leiden)
  • 9.30-10.00 Kavafis and Alexandria: an idealized relationship (Frederick G. Naerebout – Delft & Leiden)
  • 10.00-10.30 Alexandria: The far eastern capital of the Maghreb (Amro Ali – Cairo & Berlin)
  • 10.30-11.00 Coffee/tea

Alexandria now: Global heritage, art and development

  • 11.00-11.30 Building urban imaginaries and their discontents: cultural Globalisation and Heritage politics (Asma Mehan – Delft & Leiden)
  • 11.30-12.00 Claiming Alexandria’s past: imaginaries of Cleopatra’s identity and race (Daniel Soliman – Leiden RMO)
  • 12.00-12.30 Exhibition Alexandria “Past Future”: brief presentation on the ongoing work by curators Edwin Nasr (Amsterdam & Beirut) and Arnaud Quertinmont (Mariemont)


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