About the Saladin Citadel in Cairo
Established in the 12th century by the famous Arabian king and army leader, Saladin El Ayouby, the citadel is one of the most impressive forts constructed in the middle ages. The Saladin Citadel became even more important when it became the seat of the ruler of Egypt for a period that exceeded five decades. Today almost any travel package to Egypt would include a visit to the citadel.
Geographical Location of the Saladin Citadel in Cairo
Saladin carefully elected the location of his citadel in Cairo. Fearing the repetitive attacks of the crusaders on the Middle East, Saladin constructed his citadel on a high cliff under the Mokattam Mountain in Cairo. This defensive position made it quite hard for any attackers to break through the fortified walls of the citadel.
The citadel can be easily be reached by a taxi in Cairo. It is situated near many attractions like the Sultan Hassan Mosque and the Egyptian Museum. However, many tourists who spend their vacation in Egypt prefer to go book a travel package in Egypt so that they get the best out of their holidays.
The History of the Saladin Citadel in Cairo
The construction of the Citadel started in 1176 AD when Sultan Saladin Al Ayouby ordered his Vizier; Bahaa’ El Din Karakosh to demolish the buildings and the tombs that were occupying the location of the citadel at the time.
The builders had to dig an artificial tunnel between the Mokattam Mountain and the cliff that hosted the citadel in order to increase the difficulty to reach it.
Saladin even had to dig a large water well so that the soldiers can find their supply of water inside the citadel. This was among the hardest missions to be accomplished as the men had to dig for more than 90 meters deep inside hard rocks which took a long period of time to be achieved.
One of the reasons Saladin chose this exact location to construct his citadel is that it was situated between the two old capitals of Egypt at the time; El Fustat and Cairo. It provided a link between the citadel and the city in case of siege, and it would be the last place to resort to in case the enemies took control of Cairo.
However, the builder of the citadel, Saladin, didn’t have the chance to view the greatness of his establishment as he passed away in 1193 and his Vizier, Karakosh, is the one who completed it in 1204 and his brother, El Malek El Adel was the first king to take the citadel as his residence.
The Description of the Saladin Citadel in Cairo
The Saladin Citadel was constructed to consist of two sections; the Northern section which was a military stronghold with large fortified walls sounding it from the Northern and Eastern directions. These walls have small openings carved inside them to enable the soldiers to protect the citadel in the case of any attack.
The second section of the Saladin Citadel, the Northern section, was specified as the residence for the ruler of Egypt and it contained a large palace that many of the kinds of Egypt lived in. However, this section was changed completely afterwards and nothing really survived from the original constructions.
The Saladin Citadel had many gates in many of its walls in order to facilitate the entrance and exists of soldiers and different people visiting the citadel. One of the most important gates of the citadel is the Mokattam Gate which was established during the Ottoman era. It is now called the Salah Salem gate in reference to the name of the street where it is located today. This is the main entrance to the citadel nowadays.
Another important gate in the Saladin Citadel is the New Gate that was established by Mohamed Ali in 1827 to enable larger military cars and canons to enter the citadel. This gate is located near Dar El Mahfozat, the national records office of Egypt, situated to the Western section of the walls of the citadel.
One of the most astonishing features of the Saladin Citadel is the Josef water well as it is a unique piece of architectural art as it consists of two deep holes in the ground. This was why some historians thought that the citadel has two water wells. One of the halls is actually big enough to enable bulls to enter deep under the ground to move the waterwheel situated in the deeper section of the well in order to elevate the water to upper levels.
Since the Saladin Citadel became the residence of the rulers of Egypt for a long period of time, many of these kings and Sultans had many establishments constructed inside the citadel.
The Mosque of Mohamed Ali
The most important highlight of the Saladin Citadel in Cairo would is surly the Mosque of Mohamed Ali to the extent that some people think that the citadel is actually the mosque of Mohamed Ali.
The construction of the mosque of Mohamed Ali started in 1830 and it was finished in 1849. The mosque was constructed following the Ottoman style and outlines of architecture, as Mohamed Ali wanted to compete with the mosques of Istanbul. The mosque is featured with its wonderful marble which coats almost all of its entire inner walls and grounds. This is besides the golden-coated wonderfully ornamented Mihrab and Minbar of the mosque.
The mosque also hosts the mausoleum of its builder; Mohamed Ali, which consists of a huge body of marble with a copper golden coated gallery surrounding it. It was designed in a mixture between the Ottoman and Islamic outlines and Mohamed Ali was buried there when he passed away.
Qasr El Jawhara
Qasr El Jawhara or the Jewel palace is situated in the Southern West section of the Citadel and it was named after the name of the wife of Mohamed Ali; Jawhara. The palace consists of two floors featured with their simple designs except for two large golden-coated mirrors in each floor.
The most important section of the palace is the hall where Mohamed Ali ruled the country and it contains his golden chair. The most important feature of the palace is that it witnessed the famous massacre Mohamed Ali had when he got rid of the all the Mamluks when he invited them for dinner and then ordered his men to kill them.
The Panorama of Cairo
The Southern section of the citadel is characterized by being situated upper than any other section of the citadel offers magnificent views of Cairo. Situated near the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, tourists from all over the world who spend their tours in Egypt enjoy watching wonderful monuments like the Mosque of Sultan Hassan and the Mosque of El Refaie from this superb area. Many of the children who spend their holidays in Egypt find this as the most attractive part of the citadel.
Other attractions in the Saladin Citadel
The citadel hosts a large number of interesting places to explore for travelers during their vacation in Egypt. This includes the Military Museum that demonstrates the military history of Egypt since prehistoric times and until the late 1970s. There is also the Police Museum with many interesting displays like the photos of the real Raya and Sekina, the famous serial killers that lived in Alexandria in the beginning of the 20th century.
There is also the wonderful small royal carriage museum, which is situated in an isolated part of the citadel and featured with hosting some of the remarkable carriages of Mohamed Ali and his royal family members. There are the Mosques of El Nasser Mohamed, the first mosque to be constructed in the citadel and the Mosque of Suleiman Pasha that was erected in the Ottoman period in Egypt.