The Salah El Din Citadel
The Salah El Din Citadel in Islamic Cairo holds significant historical importance. It was established in the 12th century by the famous Arabian king and army leader, Saladin El Ayouby, to protect Egypt from invaders throughout history. This citadel is one of the most impressive forts constructed in the Middle Ages and also served as a royal residence and administrative center during different periods. Today, it is a symbol of the enduring Islamic heritage, and almost any travel package to Egypt would include a visit to the Cairo citadel.
Saladin Cairo Citadel Location
The location of the citadel in Cairo was carefully chosen by Saladin. The reason for this was the fear of repetitive attacks from crusaders in the Middle East. Saladin opted for a defensive position under the Mokattam Mountain in Cairo city, on a high cliff that provides a commanding view of Cairo and its surroundings. This made it difficult for attackers to penetrate the fortified walls of the citadel.
The Saladin Citadel is near other famous landmarks and historical sites in Cairo, like the Alabaster Mosque, the Sultan Hassan Mosque, and the Rifai Mosque. It's also close to the Khan el-Khalili market, a popular bazaar for shopping and experiencing Cairo's culture. Tourists often include it in their Egypt vacation package to make the most of their historical time.
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Historical Story of the Salah El Din Citadel in Cairo
The Salah El Din Citadel, also known as the Citadel of the Mountain (Qala'a Al-Jabal), was built by Sultan Salah El-Din in Egypt to protect against potential Crusader attacks. Its strategic location on the hills near the center of Cairo made it difficult for enemies to mount an attack, making it a stronghold against violence. Throughout Egyptian history, the Citadel also served as the governmental center for many dynasties, including the Ayyubids, the Mamluks, and some Ottomans. However, when Khedive Ismail took over as ruler of Egypt, he relocated the seat of government from the Citadel to Abdeen Palace.
The Cairo Citadel was built in 1176 AD by Sultan Saladin Al Ayouby's vizier, Bahaa' El Din Karakosh. The location was chosen strategically between the two old capitals of Egypt, and an artificial tunnel was dug to increase its difficulty to reach. Saladin also dug a water well for the soldiers, which was challenging to achieve. Saladin passed away before viewing the establishment, and his vizier completed it in 1204. Today, the castle is known by its Saladin name.
What to see inside the Salah El Din Citadel
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali
The mosque of Muhammad Ali is considered to be the main attraction of the Saladin Citadel in Cairo. It is often mistaken for the citadel itself due to its significance. The mosque is widely recognized as one of the most renowned mosques in Egypt. The Muhammad Ali Mosque was built between 1830 and 1849 using Ottoman architectural styles. It features marble-lined walls and a golden Mihrab and Minbar.
Qasr El Jawhara
Qasr El Jawhara, also known as the Jewel Palace or Bijou Palace because of its architectural styles and the opulence of the interior decor,. It is situated in the southwest section of the citadel and named after the wife of Mohamed Ali, Jawhara. consists of two floors with simple designs, except for two large golden-coated floors on the second floor. The palace has an important hall where Mohamed Ali ruled the country, and his golden chair is located there. The palace also witnessed the infamous massacre of all the Mamluks, who were invited for dinner and then killed inside the palace.
The Panorama of Cairo
The southern section of the citadel of Saladin is elevated and provides a stunning view of the city 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 and find this to be the most attractive part of the Salah ed-din citadel.
The Citadel Museums and Mosques
The Citadel offers a plethora of fascinating attractions for travelers to explore during their vacation in Egypt. One such attraction is the Military Museum, which provides a comprehensive overview of Egypt's military history from ancient times to the late 1970s. Many schools organize trips to this museum to help students gain a deeper understanding of their country's military heritage. Additionally, the Police Museum showcases intriguing exhibits, including photographs of the notorious serial killers Raya and Sekina, who were active in Alexandria during the early 20th century.
Beyond these museums, the citadel also houses the charming small royal carriage museum, tucked away in a secluded area, where visitors can admire the remarkable carriages used by Muhammad Ali and his royal family members. The citadel is also home to the historic Mosque of El Nasser Mohamed, the first mosque constructed within the fortress, and the Mosque of Suleiman Pasha, a testament to Egypt's Ottoman period. Cairo is known as the city of a thousand minarets and features some of the most magnificent mosques in Egypt.
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Facts and information to know before visiting Cairo Citadel
- There are three mosques inside the Cairo Citadel, as well as three museums.
- Since 1979, the citadel has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- When visiting a Muslim location, it's important to be mindful of the dress code. Avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless T-shirts if you are a woman. It's recommended that women cover their heads with a scarf while inside mosques, although it's not compulsory. Showing respect through appropriate attire is appreciated.
- Remember that wearing shoes inside any mosque is not permitted. If you do not like to walk barefoot, bring a pair of socks.
- Friday prayers start at 12:00 p.m. You can still visit the citadel, but it is not recommended. The place is quite busy, and you may disturb the people wandering around.
- The Citadel is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. But on Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- There are toilets located near the Al-Nazir Muhammad Mosque.
- As you enter the Salah El Din Citadel, there will be two security checks to pass through. The first one is a body scanner located at the entrance gate on the main road. The second one is a body check that will take place near the ticket counter.
Plan your trip to Cairo and embark on a mesmerizing journey through the Saladin Citadel, where history comes alive amidst the towering walls and stunning architecture. Experience the magic of this UNESCO World Heritage site and witness the grandeur of Egypt's Islamic legacy.