Citadel of Salah Al Din

Salah Al Din Citadel in Cairo | Egypt Tour Packages

Hagar Asal

Department of Civilization and History

  • 26 Dec, 2023

Cairo Citadel

Saladin El Ayouby constructed the Citadel Of Saladin in the late 12th century. He was a renowned king and military commander, and also established the Ayyubid Dynasty. The Citadel has been a witness to various significant events in Egyptian history. It served as the residence of the king and his administration in Egypt for many centuries. The citadel saw the rule of different dynasties such as the Ayyubids, the Mamluks, and even some Ottomans. Throughout various periods in Egyptian history, the citadel has consistently held a crucial position in Egyptian politics. At times, a king would govern Cairo while another Sultan or ruler would oversee the citadel. In reality, the Citadel has successfully protected Egypt from numerous aggressive assaults over the years. The Citadel, a medieval fortress, was started by Salah ed-Din in 1176 to protect the city from the crusaders. The walls of the original fortress can be seen from Salah Salem Avenue on the eastern side. The oldest remains are at the western gate (Bab el-Azab), which was built in 1754. Salah ed-Din and his successors lived in the southern half of the fort, while the northern half served as a military garrison.

Citadel of Salah Al Din

The Salah El-Din Citadel in Cairo is a famous historical site in Egypt. We know a lot about the structure, but who was the mastermind behind it and what made him special in history? His full name is El-Nasir Salah El-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub, and he is known as one of history's most famous knights. He founded the Ayyubid dynasty and became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria. At the age of 14, he began his military training. After honing his skills, Salah El Din led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states. His most significant victory was conquering Jerusalem and establishing it as an Islamic state. Despite his power and success, he was a charitable and kind religious leader. Salah El-Din passed away at the age of 56 in Syria and was buried in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

Citadel of Saladin

The Citadel served as the residence for the rulers of Egypt for approximately seven centuries. During this time, each ruler constructed mosques and palaces within its walls. One of the final rulers, Mohammed Ali, came into power by massacring 470 prominent Mamluke citizens. In March 1811, Mohammed Ali invited many influential individuals from the Citadel to a lavish feast. However, he cunningly trapped them in the narrow rock-cut passage known as the Bab el-Azab on their way to the banquet and had them mercilessly slaughtered. This event marked the downfall of Egypt's Mamaluke rule.

Citadel of Salah El Din

Saladin, after taking control of Egypt, saw the need for a fortified citadel in Cairo to defend against future foreign attacks, especially during the threat of the crusaders. Inspired by the strong citadels in Syria and Lebanon, he allocated all his resources to construct a massive citadel. After careful consideration, Saladin chose to build the citadel on Mokatam Hill, providing a strategic advantage with its high position overlooking the entire city of Cairo.

Saladin Citadel

Saladin constructed a water well within the citadel for the soldiers to use in case of a siege. This well, which was dug inside the toughest rocks of the Mokatam Mountain, was an impressive feat of engineering during the 12th century. It reached a depth of 90 meters and was considered a remarkable achievement. The Citadel of Saladin in Cairo, known for its strategic position and commanding view of Fustat and Cairo, is regarded as one of the most beautiful fortresses built in the medieval era.

Citadel Saladin

The Citadel of Saladin's Gates
The El Mokatam Gate got its name because it was built near the Mokatam monitoring tower of the citadel. During the Ottoman period, this gate was known as the Salah Salem Gate, named after the street where it is now located. The Mokatam Gate was built within a strong wall made of hard rocks, situated to the south of the Mokatam Tower. In 1785, during the reign of Mohamed Yakan Pasha, a wall with balconies was added to the gate. Mohamed Yakan Pasha also built a palace near the gate, but unfortunately, it fell into ruin over time. When Mohamed Ali became the ruler of Egypt, he carried out numerous restoration and renovation projects in the Citadel of Saladin. He also constructed a pathway between Bab El Mokatam in the citadel and the road below, which stretched for 650 meters. Over time, the El Mokatam Gate suffered damage and a significant portion of the surrounding walls was lost when the Egyptian government built the Salah Salem Road in 1955. As a result, a new entrance door was established for guests entering the citadel today.

Salah Al Din Citadel

Mohamed Ali began building the Iron Gate in 1822. This gate was intended to be the primary entrance to the Citadel of Saladin, as it could accommodate larger cannons and equipment. Additionally, Mohamed Ali constructed a road that connected the gate to the rest of Cairo, which is now called the Street of Bab El Hadeed.

Salah El Din Citadel

The Middle Gate has been a subject of debate among historians regarding its name's origin. Some argue that it was named so because it stood between the administration buildings of Sultan El Ghoury and Sultan Qalauan. Others believe it was called the Middle Gate simply because it was positioned between the Iron Gate and El Mokatam Gate, the two main gates of the citadel. In 1826, Mohamed Ali restored the Middle Gate as part of his extensive renovation works in the Citadel of Saladin. The surrounding walls were also included in this restoration project. During Mohamed Ali's reign, several other notable monuments were added to the Citadel, including the magnificent alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali, which is highly recommended for visitors.

saladin Citadel

The Citadel of Saladin is a significant attraction in Cairo that should not be missed. Exploring the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, the Military Museum, admiring the stunning architecture of the citadel, and enjoying the panoramic view of Cairo are some of the top things to do while visiting the Egyptian capital.

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