Skip to main content
Log in

Ooids from Turkey and Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean and a love-story of Antony and Cleopatra

  • Published:
Facies Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Cleopatra’s beach is one of the most famous in Turkey for its distinctive white sand, composed largely of ooids. Legend has it that the Roman leader, Mark Antony, had this sand shipped from Alexandria in Egypt to create a beach for his lower Cleopatra, on Sedir Island in Gökova Bay, SE Aegean Sea. This study examines the reality of this leagend from a comparison of the oolitic sand from Cleopatra’s beach in Turkey with oolitic sand from the coast west of Alexandria in Egypt, the home city of Cleopatra, and only place in the Mediterranea where Holocene ooids occur in abundance.

The ooids on Cleopatra’s beach gave a pale browncreamy colour and dull surface texture. Most grains are spherical, with nuclei of terrigenous grains, peloids and bioclasts. The Cleopatra ooids have all the features typical of high-energy, shallow-marine ‘classic” ooids, but they occur in a very low energy bay and shown evidence of being out place there (microborings, discolouration, dull surface). In terms of size, shape, cortex fabric and mineralogy, the Cleopatra ooids show great similarities to those from the northern coast of Egypt, west of Alexandria. The Alexandria ooids examined have a white-cream colour with a high polish, although there are fewer silicate nuclei compared to the Cleopatra ooids. On the basis of textures and microfabrics, the hydrographic conditions at Gökova bay, the relatively small quantity of oolitic sand in this tiny pocket beach and the absence of this type of sand any-where else in Turkey, it is concluded that the oolitic sand was brought to Cleopatra’s beach from somewhere else, and that the northern Egyptian coast was the most likely source. This lends credence to the Antony and Cleopatra story. Calculations suggest that some 15 Roman corn barges would have been required to transport the quantity of sand now present on the beach in Turkey.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Anwar, Y.M., El-Askary, M.A. and Nasr, S.M. (1981): Petrography and origin of the oolitic carbonate sediments of Arab's Bay, western part of the continental shelf of Egypt.—Neues Jahrbuch Geol. Paläont. Mh.,1981/2, 65–75 Stuttgart.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bathurst, R.G.C. (1986): Carbonate sediments and their Diagenesis (2nd Edition), 658 pp. Amsterdam, (Elsevier).

    Google Scholar 

  • Carozzi, A.V. (1960): Microscopic Sedimentary Petrology.— 485 pp. New York, (Wiley).

    Google Scholar 

  • El-Asmar, H.M. and Wood, P. (2000): Quaternary shoreline development: the northwestern coast of Egypt.—Quaternary Science Reviews,19, 1137–1149, Amstzerdam.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • El-Sammak, A.A. and El-Sabrouti, M.A. (1992): Cortical fabrics in the coated grains of the shelf sediments between Sidi Ab del Rahman and Matruh, Egypt.—Rapp. Comm. int. Mer. Mediterranean,33, p. 130.

    Google Scholar 

  • El-Shaikh, H. (1987): Studies in History of the Egyptian, Roman and Greek Civilizations.—181 pp., Alexandria, Egypt (Marefa Publications,in Arabic).

    Google Scholar 

  • Eseller, G. (1990): Modern ooids from Sedir Island (Cleopatra Beach). South Aegean Sea.—International Earth Sciences Congress on Aegean Region, p. 101–102, Izmir-Türkiye.

  • Flügel, E. (1982). Microfacies Analysis of Limestones.—633 pp., Berlin, (Springer-Verlag).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hilmy, M.E. (1951): Beach sands of the Mediterranean coast of Egypt.—J. Sediment. Petrology,21, 109–120, Tulsa.

    Google Scholar 

  • Millero, F. and Sohn, M. (1991): Chemical Oceanography.—350 pp., Florida, (CRC Press Inc.).

    Google Scholar 

  • Özhan, E. (1990): The legend of Cleopatra Beach: May it be true? —Eurocoast, 98–103, Marseilles.

  • Parker, A.J. (1992): Ancient Shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and the Roman Provinces.—547 pp. Oxford (Hadrian Books Ltd).

    Google Scholar 

  • Rickman, G. (1980): The corn Supply of Ancient Rome.—280 pp., Oxford (Clarendon Press).

    Google Scholar 

  • Said, R. (1993): The river Nile: Geology, Hydrology and Utilization.— 250 pp., Oxford (Pergamon Press).

    Google Scholar 

  • Sass, E, Weiler, Y. and Katz A (1972). Recent sedimentation and oolite formation in the Ras Materma Lagoon, Gulf of Suez. In: Stanley, D. (Ed) The mediterranean Sea, p. 279–192. New York (Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross Inc).

    Google Scholar 

  • Selim, A.A. (1974): Origin and lithification of the Pleistocene carbonates of the Salum area, western coastal plain of Egypt.— J. Sediment. Petrology,44, 70–78. Tulsa.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shukri, N.M., Philip, G. and Said, R. (1956): The geology of the mediteranean coast between Rosetta and Bardia. Part II. Pleistocene sediments, geomorphology and microfacies. Bull. Inst. Egypt37, 395–433, Cairo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stanley, D.J. and Hamza, F.H. (1992): Terrigenous-carbonate sediment interface (Late Quaternary) along the northwestern margin of the Nile deltam, Egypt. J. Coastal Res.,8, 153–171. Fort Lauderdale.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strabo, 7BC. Geography, book 14, chapter 5, section 3.

  • Strasser, A., Davaud, E. and Jedouni, Y. (1989): Carbonate cements in holocene beachrock: an example from Bahirit el Biban, southern Tunisia. Sedimentary geology,62, 89–100, Amsterdam.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tucker, M.E. and Wright, V.P. (1990): Carbonate sedimentatology. —482 pp., Oxford (Blackwell Science).

    Google Scholar 

  • Üsenmez, S., Varol, B., Friedman, G. and Tekin, E. (1993): Modern ooids of Cleopatra beach, Gökova (South Aegean Sea) Turkey: results from petrography and scanning electron microscopy.— Carbonates and Evaporites,8, 1–8, New York.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wali, A.M.A., Brookfield, M.E. and Schreiber B.C. (1994): The depositional and diagenetic evolution of the coastal riges of northwestern Egypt.—Sedimentary Geology,90, 113–136, Amsterdam.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warne, A.G. and Stanley, D.J. (1993): Late Quaternary evolution of the northwest Nile Delta and adjacent coast in the Alexandria region, Egypt. J. Coastal Res.,9, 26–64, Fort Lauderdale.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

El-Sammak, A., Tucker, M. Ooids from Turkey and Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean and a love-story of Antony and Cleopatra. Facies 46, 217–227 (2002).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: