Currently Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in April 331 BC as Ἀλεξάνδρεια (Alexandria), or al-Iskandariyyah (الإسكندرية) in Arabic. Alexandria was intended to supersede Naucratis as a Hellenistic center in Egypt, and to be the link between Greece and the rich Nile valley. It became the intellectual and cultural center of the Hellenistic civilization, remaining the capital of Hellenistic and Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1000 years until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641. Hellenistic Alexandria was best known for the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world); and the Necropolis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Alexandria was the second most powerful city of the ancient world after Rome. The city and its museum attracted many of the greatest scholars, including Greeks, Jews and Syrians. Today, Alexandria is a major economic center due to its seaport and natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. The city extends about 32 kilometers (20 miles) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798. French troops stormed the city on 2 July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of a British expedition in 1801. The first known handstamps from Egypt were introduced during this Napoleonic period from 1798-1800 with single-line postmarks known from ALEXANDRIE, LE CAIRE, BENESOUEF, and SIOUTH. The British won a considerable victory over the French at the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801, following which they besieged the city, which fell to them on 2 September 1801. Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman governor of Egypt, began rebuilding and redevelopment around 1810, and by 1850, Alexandria had returned to something akin to its former glory.
Egypt turned to Europe in their effort to modernize the country. The first postal system in Eygpt was organized in 1821 by Carlo Meratti of Italy and utilized handstamps inscribed in Italian. This was a private enterprise and named Posta Europea. It received government permission to carry all inland postal services in 1857; the Egyptian government purchased and took control of this service on January 1, 1865, and issued its first postage stamps exactly one year afterwards. The second issue, released in August 1867, depicted the Sphinx and Pyramids, becoming the first stamps in the world to portray a historical subject.
Following Egypt joining the Universal Postal Union in 1875, a number of foreign post offices began operating in Egypt, particularly in Alexandria and Port Said. These included British, French, Italian, Austrian, Russian, and Greek post offices. The French released their first stamps for the offices in Egypt in 1899, overprinting the current French stamps with the post office name (ALEXANDRIE or PORT-SAID) in red, blue or black. The first stamps inscribed for these post offices were the French designs of 1900 modified to include the post offices’ names. The 15 values appeared in 1902 and 1903. Scott #27 was a part of this latter issue, denominated 50 centimes and printed in bister brown and lavender. The last of the stamps issued for the French office at Alexandria were semi-postals released in 1930.