(+2) 01117005089 contact@cairoprivatetours.com

Login

Sign Up

After creating an account, you'll be able to track your payment status, track the confirmation and you can also rate the tour after you finished the tour.
Username*
Password*
Confirm Password*
First Name*
Last Name*
Birth Date*
Email*
Phone*
Country*
* Creating an account means you're okay with our Terms of Service and Privacy Statement.
Please agree to all the terms and conditions before proceeding to the next step

Already a member?

Login

Login

Sign Up

After creating an account, you'll be able to track your payment status, track the confirmation and you can also rate the tour after you finished the tour.
Username*
Password*
Confirm Password*
First Name*
Last Name*
Birth Date*
Email*
Phone*
Country*
* Creating an account means you're okay with our Terms of Service and Privacy Statement.
Please agree to all the terms and conditions before proceeding to the next step

Already a member?

Login
(+2) 01117005089 contact@cairoprivatetours.com

Login

Sign Up

After creating an account, you'll be able to track your payment status, track the confirmation and you can also rate the tour after you finished the tour.
Username*
Password*
Confirm Password*
First Name*
Last Name*
Birth Date*
Email*
Phone*
Country*
* Creating an account means you're okay with our Terms of Service and Privacy Statement.
Please agree to all the terms and conditions before proceeding to the next step

Already a member?

Login
Citadel of Saladin Cairo

The Citadel of Saladin | Cairo

From Its rocky raised platform on the edge of the city, the Citadel dominates Cairo’s eastern skyline. It was begun in 1176 by the famed Muslim general Saladin, who had its muscular walls and towers constructed with stones stripped from the Pyramids at Giza. The fortress served as Egypt’s seat of power for the next 700 years, remodeled in the image of each successive dynasty.

Egypt’s rulers moved out of their medieval quarters in 18703 to the newly built Abdeen Palace (see p. 84), but the Citadel retained its military role until the 1970s. Soldiers still have a foothold and some areas are out of bounds, but today most of the complex is open to visitors and it is quite possible to spend half a day visiting the various mosques, museums, and other monuments enclosed within its walls. There are a couple of cafés for pit-stop refreshments.

By far the best reason to visit the Citadel is for the views from its Western Terraces. On a clear day, it is possible to pick out such ‘ vertical landmarks as the Ramses Hilton on the edge of the Nile, the Cairo Tower on Gezira, and right on the horizon, marking the westernmost edge of the city-the distinctive zigzag of the Pyramids. It’s a panorama that alone almost justifies the admission fee. The Citadel’s next biggest draw is the Muhammad Ali Mosque, a relatively late addition to the fortress, but one that by virtue of its prominent site and bulk-it is the most visible monument in Cairo-serves to symbolize the Citadel in the minds of most visitors. Ironically, the mosque is designed wholly along Turkish lines and owes nothing to the architectural traditions of Egypt. Muhammad Ali was the Albanian mercenary who, after a bloody contest with rival claimants, seized power in 1806 and went on to rule for 43 years, founding a dynasty that would last until it was removed by the revolution in 1952. His mosque was begun in 1839 and took 18 years to complete. Modeled on the great mosques of Istanbul, it sadly lacks their elegance and grace, and the best thing about the interior is that it is at least cool. Muhammad Ali lies iii the marble tomb to the right as you enter. Out in the courtyard, the iron clock was a gift from King Louis-Philippe of France in exchange for the obelisk that stands on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The clock was damaged during transit and has never worked. To make room for his own monuments and palaces, Muhammad Ali tore down a great many earlier buildings in the Citadel, but one structure that escaped the demolition was the AI-Nasir Muhammad Mosque, completed in 1335. Considering it was only spared full use as stables, it is still in a good state of repair. The courtyard is attractive, with an arcade supported on a variety of pharaonic and Roman-era columns, and the minarets are unusual in that they are decorated with blue and green mosaics in a style more usually associated with Persia.

When you leave the mosque, across the plaza you’ll see a pastiche Gothic gate that leads to another terrace with fine views and to the Police Museum. There is little interest inside, but at the base of the staircase is a frieze of carved stone lions, evidence of the 13th-century Lions Tower on top of which the museum is built. If you step across to the terrace wall from here, you look directly down upon the lower enclosure of the Citadel and a narrow defile of a roadway, which on March 1, 1811, was the site of one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of Cairo.

The greatest challenge to Muhammad Ali’s rule came from the Marnluks, former overlords of Egypt and still figures of power and influence. On the occasion of a celebration for his son, Muhammad Ali invited 500 of the leading Mamluk lords to the Citadel. They arrived with great pomp, feasted, and enjoyed the pasha’s hospitality. As they departed, bellies full, in a mounted procession down toward the lower gate, the doors were slammed shut and Muhammad Ali’s soldiers opened lire from the surrounding rooftops. Penned in and panicked, with no room for maneuver and no way to retreat, all 500 were slaughtered. Their heads were exhibited on stakes outside the city gates. According to an often recounted tale, a Mamluk by the name of Amin Bey survived by jumping his horse over the Citadel walls (a famous painting of the equestrian leap hangs in Manyal Palace). In fact, Amin Bey did survive the infamous massacre, but only because he failed to turn up for the feast that day.

The buildings adjacent to the Police Museum are part of the former Military Prison, established in the late 19th century by the British, whose forces were garrisoned here until as recently as 19408. The twin rows of small cells were in use until 1983. An imposing gate opposite the north side of the Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque leads through into a large open area with well-tended lawns.

Directly ahead is the former Harem Palace, built in 1827 as the residence of Muhammad Ali and his family, and since 1949 home to the National Military Museum. Uniforms and ceremonial weaponry account for the bulk of the exhibits, but some of the rooms themselves are notable for their decorative excesses.

Two more small museums in this part of the Citadel are devoted to ceremonial carriages and t0 recovered stolen antiquities. More worthwhile than either is the beautiful little Suleyman Pasha Mosque, which, constructed in 1528, was the first mosque to be built in Cairo following the imposition of rule from Istanbul in 1517. Like Muhammad Ali’s great mosque, this one is built along wholly Turkish lines, but with its graceful tumble of domes and half domes, it is far more successful. It’s a very introverted structure half hidden behind a wall, with fine delicate decoration in the prayer hall and a particularly attractive, leafy central courtyard. The elderly guardian of the mosque often encourages visitors to sit and take tea, which makes for a very relaxing break from sight-seeing.

The solid walls that wrap around this part of the Citadel are the oldest elements in the whole complex. They were constructed under the command of Saladin himself around 1183 and strengthened 25 years later by his nephew Al-Kamil, using captured European Crusaders as labor. Walk across the concrete amphitheater to enter the twin half-round towers, known as the Burg al-Haddad (Blacksmith’s Tower) and Burg alRamla (Sand Tower), which controlled the pass between the Citadel and the rocky hills behind. Al-Kamil felt they were too small in their original form, so he had them totally encased in new towers; Saladin’s original window slits were broken open to serve as doorways into the new rooms. Look for the above doorway, which was painted by Napoleon’s troops in 1798; they numbered all the towers to avoid using unfamiliar Arabic names. It is possible to ascend the stairs to the upper levels but at the present time, you cannot walk around the ramparts and have to return the way you came.

 

Leave a Reply