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pha.ros \'fa(*)r-.a:s, 'fe(*)r-\ n [Gk, fr. Pharos, 
   island in the bay of Alexandria,  Egypt,  famous  
   for its lighthouse] :  a lighthouse or beacon to 
   guide seamen.

The world's first lighthouse, the Pharos was built to warn sailors of the treacherous sandbars off Alexandria, one of the busiest ports of the ancient world. It consisted of a three-stage tower, decorated with sculptures of Greek deities and mythical creatures, atop which stood a lantern with a giant bonfire whose light may have been focused by mirrors, perhaps made of polished bronze, into a beam visible 35 miles out to sea. More than 300 feet tall, it was among the tallest man-made structures until the completion of the 1,050-foot Eiffel Tower in 1889. The lighthouse was still functioning when the Arabs conquered Alexandria in A.D. 642, but the lantern was damaged by an earthquake about 50 years later. The Pharos was hit by another earthquake in 1303, and by 1349 it was in ruins; in 1480 Qait Bey's fortress was built on the site.

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Created on: January 03, 1996
Updated on: December 21, 2005 
Maintainer: Azer Bestavros