Who is Salah El-Din Al Ayoubi?
Salah El-Din Al Ayoubi (known to European historians as Saladin) overthrew the Fatimid dynasty in 1171 AD and established the new caliphate Ayyubide.
Given the threat of invasions by the Crusader armies coming from Europe, Saladin decided to fortify the city and in 1176 A.D. he started the construction of a wall that would include both Al Qahira (the present Islamic part) and Fustat (old Cairo).
Nasr Saladin or famous under the name of “Salah El Din El Ayoubi” was a very historical and famous person in ancient Islamic history and he achieved many victories against the crusaders who had made many attacks against Egypt and are called “the Crusader campaigns” and thanks to his skill and the fortress he built to protect the country against any enemy, his name became linked to victory.
The Saladin had requested to build a citadel on the Moqatam hill but the construction of the citadel was not completed and he died before the inauguration and came after the sultan “El Kamel Ebn El Adel” to resume the construction of the fortress and lived there as an official seat of government and considers himself the first person who chose the citadel as a seat and after this citadel, the sultan “Muhammad Ali” had also chosen this citadel as a seat for his government.
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Salah El Din Al Ayouby Citadel facts
- Built by Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi.
- The Cairo Citadel was originally built in 1176.
- Since 1976, it has been protected as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Cairo.
- It contains three mosques inside: Alabaster Mosque; Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque; and the Mosque of Sulayman Pasha.
The history of Cairo Citadel (Saladin Citadel)
Cairo Citadel is one of the world’s greatest medieval attractions which houses the illustrious Khedive Muhammad Ali mosque, as well as numerous museums and sites. Among these are the National Police Museum and the Royal Carriage Museum.
The citadel was built on a spur of the hills of Mokattam and was once the seat of power in Cairo for later caliphs, sultans, ministers, and pasha during the Muhammad Ali period in the 19th century.
The citadel has three main areas:
- The main fortress and the eastern walls, which were built by the great Salahedin El-Ayyoubi in 1176.
- The southern enclosure with 19th-century walls and the lower enclosure that extends along the western wall of the hill, with its main gate in front of the Sultan Hassan mosque.
In addition to the walls and towers, the area was protected by three gates:
- El Mokatam Gate or Salah Salem Gate
- Iron Gate or Bab El Hadeed Gate
- Middle Gate
The Citadel of Saladdin became the fulcrum of this imposing fortification work, which protected the city from the heights that surmounted it. Completed in 1183 AD, the Citadel of Saladin became the seat of government in Egypt for 700 years, until the khedive Ismail had it transferred to the Abdin Palace, within the then-recent Downtown complex, in the 1870s.
Today the Citadel appears very different from the original fortress built to defend the Crusader armies. It was later enlarged and remodeled by various governments.
In the 14th century, Sultan Al Nasir Muhammed had a mosque built there that still bears his name, and an enclosure to the south of the fort, next to the original walls due to Saladin.
The most obvious changes were made in the 10th century when Muhammed Ali came to power. He was determined to eradicate the Mamluk influence, which had controlled the country for six centuries, and had the palaces inside the fortress demolished.
He also had one of the best-known buildings, the Alabaster Mosque, built-in memory of his late son, which dominates the entire complex. Its profile is one of the characteristic forms dominating the entire city panorama.
What to see inside the Saladin Citadel?
Saladin always thought of his soldiers and always took into consideration the security and welfare and economic development for his country and for this reason he built a well of 90 meters, very deep from the ground level of the fortress to serve the soldiers to drink in case of siege and this certainly is not easy to do.
Saladin built a large walled fortification in Cairo that helped protect the city for centuries. Inside there are mosques, palaces, museums, and historic public buildings. The ancient mosque of Al-Nasir Muhammad is a beautiful example of Arab architecture.
It shares the religious space with the great Mosque of Mohammed Ali, from the 19th century, the biggest attraction in the interior of the Citadel.
1- Mohammed Ali Mosque at Saladin Citadel
Officially it receives the name of Mohammed Ali Mosque. It was built in the first half of the 19th century, taking advantage of the privileged position of the hill above the city of Cairo.
It owes its name to its alabaster coating, a crystalline variety of plaster that shines in the sunlight. Above all, the 52-meter high dome stands out, flanking it two minarets rise to 85 meters.
Inside rest, the remains of its founder, Mohammed Ali, kept in a sumptuous white marble tomb.
2- Gawhara Palace
Also of great beauty is the Gawhara Palace or Bijou Palace, built to be the personal residence of Mohammed Ali. It is currently one of the best displays of Ottoman architecture that can be seen in Cairo. It is named in honor of the Governor’s wife, Gawhara Hanem.
3- Military Museum at Cairo Citadel
The building erected in 1827 served as the residence of the royal family in Egypt until 1874. It was a military hospital in the British occupation of World War II and returned to Egyptian control in 1946. The palatial decor is impressive, be sure to check it out.
4- Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque
The mosque is the only Mamluk building still in existence at the Citadel in Cairo. It was built between 1318 and 1335 and is close to the Mohammed Ali Mosque. The attraction has two entrances: one was used by soldiers and the other exclusively by the sultan.
During your visit, be sure to notice the courtyard and towers during your visit.
5- Dervish Theater
The 19th-century theater has been restored and has a patio, garden, and a beautiful facade. The stage is a circular waxed wood effect, perfect for Sufi dancing. The dervishes are Sufis who follow a spiritual branch of Islam and believe that their swirling dance leads them to unity with Allah.
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