Washington, September 17 : Soon, visitors to Alexandria, Egypt, may be able to see the remnants of Cleopatra's palace, with plans underway for the construction of the world's first underwater museum in the city.
According to a report in National Geographic News, a site for the museum has been proposed near the New Library of Alexandria, where the famed queen of Egypt is believed to have sheltered herself with her lover Marc Antony before taking her own life.
If built, the museum could display treasures and monuments of her palace, which once stood on an island in one of the largest human-made bays in the world but were submerged by earthquakes from the fourth century A.D. onward.
The bay is filled archaeological sunken treasures.
In the 1990s, archaeologist-divers found thousands of objects: 26 sphinxes, statues bearing gifts to the gods, blocks weighing up to 56 tons, and even Roman and Greek shipwrecks.
The proposed museum could include pieces believed to be from the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
Archaeologists have mapped more than 2,000 submerged objects in the area of the bay where they believe the lighthouse once stood.
"The wealth of this area is quite impressive," said Naguib Amin, the site-management expert from Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "Sort of the whole ancient city of Alexandria is lying under the water, just meters away from the shore," he added.
The proposed museum would be both inland and underwater.
The dual nature is intended to create an experience like that of a traditional museum, while also allowing visitors to witness artifacts in their submerged states.
The larger, inland museum will have underwater fiberglass tunnels to structures where visitors can view antiquities still lying on the seabed.
But, the bay's murky waters could obscure the views of submerged monuments. The builders of the museum will either have to clean the water or replace it entirely with an artificial lagoon.
The proposed museum is planned to be underwater not only for aesthetic value but also because it follows the 2001 UNESCO convention for the preservation of underwater heritage.
The convention decided that submerged artifacts should ideally remain on the seabed out of respect for their historical context and, in some cases, because water actually preserves artifacts.
Once complete, Egyptian authorities hope, the museum will transform both Alexandria's tourism industry and the city's current landscape.
"It will not simply be a museum as such. It is part of a whole vision to revitalize the whole city and its heritage," Amin said.