The Cairo Citadel is the heart of Cairo
The Cairo Citadel is the second most important landmark of Cairo after the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on Tahrir Square. Egyptian pyramids, we now do not take into account, as they are near the city of Giza, which so far is independent of Cairo.
The Cairo citadel is also called the "Saladin Citadel" named after its builder and one of the most famous rulers of Egypt - Sultan Saladin (Salah ad-Din).
It is also known as the "Citadel of Muhammad Ali" named after the famous ruler of the 19th century - Muhammad Ali of Egypt. In the citadel is the mosque of his name (pictured right), and in this mosque there is a sarcophagus with his body.
The Cairo citadel is very important for the Egyptians, since from the moment of its construction it was the residence of all the rulers of the country. On the importance for Egypt, it can be compared with the Kremlin in Russia. The difference is that the Kremlin still employs officials, and the Cairo Citadel has long been a landmark.
Only in 1874 Sultan Ismail-Pasha moved to the newly built Abdin Palace. Izmail-Pasha was a great reformer of Egypt and a very educated person, he logically believed that a good ruler does not need to be fenced off from the people by high walls.
Unfortunately, the reforms of Sultan Ismail-Pasha could not save Egypt from falling into complete dependence on European countries. From 1882 to 1922 Egypt was a protectorate of the British Empire, although it was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. At this time, the Cairo Citadel became the residence of the British and a symbol of their dominion over the country.
At the time of construction, this citadel was the embodiment of advanced military engineering thought. Large round towers, specially advanced forward, allowed the defenders to fire at enemies climbing on the walls. The walls themselves, 10 meters high and 3 meters thick, even now make an indelible impression.
The Legend of Choosing a Place for the Cairo Citadel
This hill has always been remarkable, it was blowing a nice cool wind. In 810 the governor of Egypt named Hatim ibn Khartima built here a small pavilion "Dome of the Wind", here he enjoyed a pleasant breeze and a magnificent view.
The hill is not high (in the photo on the left is the view from it to modern Cairo), but there was no better place for the central point of defense of the city.
Then they did not even think about the advantageous military-strategic location of this hill. Egypt was in the center of the Baghdad Caliphate (formed on the site of the Arab Caliphate), and Cairo did not threaten anything. Everything has changed since the beginning of the Crusades. When in 1099 the Knights-Crusaders took Jerusalem, it became clear - Egypt became a border state with the threat of invasion.
But to build high walls in Cairo did not hurry. The Arab states of that period constantly fought for power with each other, and in Egypt there was no strong leader.
In 1169, such a leader appeared, he became Sultan Salah ad-Din, better known as Saladin. He planned to build a long wall and one big fortress. He said: "By this wall I will turn two cities into a unique whole; I believe that you need to surround it with a single wall from the shore of the Nile to the shore of the Nile . " Under two cities, Saladin meant Cairo and Fustat. Subsequently, the city of Fustat became part of Cairo.
It was necessary to choose a place for the citadel. Saladin became famous as a wise man, and he chose the method very elegant. He ordered the hanging of meat all over Cairo. The next day the meat began to rot in all places in the city, except for one hill, and it was here that the Cairo citadel was built.
Saladin's wisdom can only be admired. Indeed, with a long siege, the safety of food and hygiene inside the fortress is very important, so that defenders will suffer less from illnesses.
Unfortunately, the Sultan Salah ad-Din did not see his grandiose fortification. The Citadel was built from 1176 to 1183, and managed to finish it during his lifetime, but the walls by the time of his death in 1193 had not yet been completed.
The walls were completed for a long time - until 1238. In such a slow pace, there is nothing surprising, because in 1187 Saladin defeated the army of knights-crusaders in the battle of Hattin, and then seized Akra and Jerusalem. The threat of the Crusaders was eliminated, and the walls were no longer in a hurry.
What happened then
Saladin's son - Sultan Al-Aziz made the citadel his residence and the center of state administration. However, he became famous for another fact - he tried to disassemble the Egyptian pyramids, naturally, unsuccessfully, but the Micherine pyramid received a large "scar" on one of the faces, which is visible even now.
Each successive sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty founded by Saladin, and later the Mamluks, completed something in the Cairo citadel. The list of changes is so great that we can not even begin to talk about this on this page of meaning.
Serious restructuring of the citadel began in 1805 when Muhammad Ali of Egypt became ruler of Egypt. He tried to demolish all the buildings of the Mamluks, wishing to erase any memory of them.
Muhammad Ali demolished almost all the buildings inside and built in the center a mosque in honor of Tusun Pasha - his deceased beloved son. When in telecasts or the Internet it comes to the Cairo citadel, it is the photo of the mosque itself. Such a photo can be seen at the beginning of this article. It was the mosque of Muhammad Ali that became the "visiting card" of the citadel of Cairo.
The mosque is made in the Ottoman style with a large dome, which is not surprising, because Muhammad Ali was a protege of the Turkish sultan. Also, the Mameluke palaces were demolished in the northern part of the citadel, and a new residence was built in their place. Most of the interior of the citadel, which is now seen by tourists, was built by Muhammad Ali of Egypt.
But first you need to get here. The vast majority of tourists visit the citadel during an organized tour from the cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh .
Features of organized tours
For one day of the tour the tourists are taken to the pyramids in Giza, to the Cairo Museum of Antiquities and to the citadel. In addition, tours provide for visits to stores, from which the organizers have their percentage of sales. There is almost no time to look at the citadel, and tourists are allowed to walk around the yard and see the mosque of Muhammad Ali.
During the organized tour, you look no more than a third of the interesting in the citadel. This is regrettable. Another thing is an independent trip, when there is no time limit, and you can safely see all the mosques and museums.
How to get there
The Cairo citadel is located far from Cairo metro stations. But do not get upset, because a taxi in Egypt is inexpensive. It is better to get to Sadat station and get off at Tahrir Square, there are always a lot of free taxi cars. The distance from Tahrir Square to the Cairo Citadel is about 6 kilometers, the taxi ride will cost 10-15 pounds.
What's the cover charge
The entrance to the citadel costs 50 Egyptian pounds .
From 9-00 to 16-00. We do not recommend coming here on Friday, as you can not see the mosque of Muhammad Ali, it is closed on that day.
How much time to plan
It's easy to see all the fun - 2 hours will be enough. If there is a desire to walk around the museums and stay with interested exhibits, then plan 4-5 hours.
What to see - Mosque of Muhammad Ali
This is the "heart" of the citadel, a mosque with majestic domes and slender minarets.
Read the main review: " Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo ".
What to see - Yusuf well
Any fortress must have a source of water inside. Otherwise, it is no longer a fortress, but a tool for the suicide of its defenders.
The well in the Cairo citadel has a depth of 87 meters - to the most groundwater. He is called the "Yusuf well" in honor of the name of Salah ad-Din or simply "Saladin's well".
It does not look like a well in the usual sense of this construction. It is a deep mine, along which there is a ladder of 300 steps, wide enough for the passage of pack animals.
In the time of Saladin, a special mechanism was built here for lifting water upward. As an energy source in this system, donkeys and mules were used.
Unfortunately, now tourists are not allowed into the well because of security reasons, but time did not go to its benefit. You can see the well only from the outside. We really hope that it will be opened to visit.
What to see - the clock tower
This watch (see photo ) is made in France. In 1832, Muhammad Ali presented the French king an obelisk from Luxor Temple . This obelisk was later installed in Paris on the Place de la Concorde. And the watch is the reciprocal gift of King Louis Philippe. It's interesting that they do not work and they never worked.
What to see - view of Cairo
All the most beautiful photos of Cairo, which can be seen on the Internet or glossy magazines, are made from here. Admire the panorama of the city - an obligatory part of the tourist program.
What to see - Al-Gawhara Palace
It is located next to the mosque of Muhammad Ali. It was built in 1814 as the main residence of Muhammad Ali. It is believed that the palace is named after the beloved wife of the ruler.
Now here is a museum, which contains paintings and objects belonging to the rulers of Egypt. Outstanding exhibits are not here, but the interior decoration and decoration in the palace is admired by tourists.
What to see - Egypt Police Museum
Here are collected personal belongings of famous policemen, uniform, weapons. For tourists interesting exhibits, dedicated to famous criminals.
What to see - the Egyptian War Museum
A very interesting place, where a huge collection of weapons is collected - from the time of the pharaohs to the armament of the modern Egyptian army.
What to see - the museum of carriages
He is very fond of women. Here are gathered dozens of carriages, most of which were intended for the rulers of Egypt. Perhaps, this is the most romantic place in the Cairo citadel.
We wish you a successful walk through the citadel of Cairo, and read our other articles about Egypt ( links below ).
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