The Citadel of Qaitbay, also known as Qaitbay Fortress, is a historic monument located in Alexandria that showcases architectural beauty and heritage. Although it may look like a small sandcastle from a distance, it is actually an impressive fortress and an important icon of Alexandria. A visit to the Citadel of Qaitbay is typically included in almost every tour of Alexandria, and tourists are treated to stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.
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The History of Qaitbay Citadel
The Qaitbay fortress was constructed in 1477 by Sultan Abu Al-Nasr Sayf ad-Din Al-Ashraf Qaitbay at the same location where the Alexandria Lighthouse once stood. The lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake after undergoing substantial restoration work to protect Alexandria from the Ottoman Empire.
Despite Sultan Qaitbay's efforts, the Ottomans eventually gained control of Egypt in 1512. The fortress still stands today and is situated on a narrow stretch of land extending from the corniche into Alexandria's harbour.
The fortress served as a crucial outpost in the Mediterranean Sea and went through multiple restorations. However, it suffered significant damage during its occupation by British troops from 1879 to 1882. In 1952, ownership of the fortress was transferred to the Maritime Museum. Since 1984, the government has been conducting large-scale restoration work to preserve its historical significance.
During the Mamluk period, the citadel was well-maintained by various sultans. Later, in the Ottoman era, it was used as a defensive gate until their power weakened. In 1798, Napoleon's French forces took over Alexandria and the rest of Egypt. In the 19th century, Mohamed Ali Pasha renovated the citadel to match modern military developments. However, the castle was destroyed during the English occupation. It was later renovated by the Arabian Antiques in 1904.
The current fortress is not the original. It was constructed on the foundation of the legendary Pharos Lighthouse. The lighthouse was in ruins by the 14th century due to repeated damage by earthquakes.
It served as a defensive fortification during different periods and was neglected after the British bombing of Alexandria. Later, it was restored and turned into a marine museum. Today, the citadel no longer has any military function. Instead, it houses a small naval museum. It might be worth a visit to explore the inside of the fortress and imagine the huge structure that once stood on its foundation.
The peninsula leading to the citadel is a popular area with fishermen and families alike. It is usually crowded with a pleasant crowd enjoying the sea views, restaurants, and ice cream shops that line the street up to the fortress.
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The important rule of Qitbay Citadel
The Citadel played an important role in protecting the northern coasts of Egypt during the rule of the Ottomans. At that time, soldiers were divided into infantry, cavalry, and artillery. In 1798, the French invaded Egypt and took control of the Citadel as a starting point to dominate the country.
Mohamed Ali, the ruler of Egypt, recognized the importance of the Citadel and he restore1d the walls and added cannons to preserve this strategic point. However, the Citadel faced damage during the Revolution of Ahmed Orabi when the British Navy bombed the city of Alexandria, causing cracks in the walls that were left unfixed for 25 years.
In 1904, renovations were carried out by the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Monuments based on studies conducted by French scientists and academics during the occupation of Egypt. Today, the Citadel of Qaitbay is one of the most popular historical sites in Egypt and is frequently visited by travellers on tours in Alexandria.
Experience the awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece that stands as a guardian of Egypt's maritime legacy. Don't miss the chance to visit the Citadel of Qaitbay along with other Alexandria attractions and step into the enchanting world of history. Plan your visit now with Afro Asian Travel and make the most of your trip.