Throughout the ages and under different reigns, Cairo
was the ideal place to build monuments. That's why you can find everywhere in Cairo constructions witnessing various eras lived there.
One of Cairo's top attractions is Salah El Din Citadel that goes back to the Middle Ages – 12th Century AC; it is considered a significant Islamic monument and a must-see in any Egypt tour.
Where is Salah El Din Citadel?
Standing tall on the Muqattam Hills in Islamic Cairo, you'll see the majestic fortress with a marvelous panoramic view over Cairo. Salah El-Din chose this strategic location for the Citadel as a defensive fortress against the threat of European Crusader armies at that time.
When was Salah El Din Citadel built?
The Citadel was built during the Medieval Islamic era during the Ayyubid reign, established by Salah El-Din. He started constructing the Citadel in 1176, it took about 6 years to be built, so it wasn't finished during Salah EL Din's lifetime.
Who is Salah El-Din?
You are probably wondering by now who Salah El-Din is; time for a quick story of a soldier who became a king. Salah El-Din was born in Iraq in 1171; his uncle was Assad El-Din Shirokh, a commander in the Zengid dynasty. During the Medieval Islamic era, Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid, and Salah El-Din was a soldier who was trained by his uncle.
Salah el-Din was a clever soldier with smart tactics; he led many military campaigns. His performance in the battles was extraordinary that he moved from being a soldier to a king of Egypt and Syria. He overthrew the Fatimid, who took control over Egypt at that time, took authority over Egypt, and established a new Sunni Ayyubid Caliphate.
Who Built The Ciatdel ?
The Citadel was built by Salah El-Din, inspired by a Citadel in Syria, completed during the reign of Sultan Kamel Ibn Al-Adel, who decided to take it as a residence, and its development continued by subsequent rulers later on. It became the seat of the government for over 700 years, starting from the 13th century until the 19th.
What Did Mohamed Aly Do in the Citadel ?
The Citadel faced major development in the era of a Mamluk Sultan, which later on in the first half of the 19th century, Mohamed Ali Pasha demolished most of it and built new palaces and monuments. Mohamed Ali pasha wasn't really on the best terms with the Mamluks; he hated them; the Citadel is even famous for the terrible massacre he did in the palace by slaughtering all the Mamluks in Egypt.
The Mamluks controlled Egypt for six centuries, so Mohamed Ali wanted to erase any influence they have on Egypt, and apparently, he couldn't think of a nicer way to that. Well, it did work, but it didn't only erase their influence; it erased their existence.
The end of an era
The Rule of Salah El Din Citadel as a seat of government ended in 1870 under Khedive Ismail, the grandson of Mohamed Ali. He moved the Royal residence to Abdeen Palace in downtown Cairo after 700 years Egypt was ruled from the Citadel.
Later during the 20th century, the Citadel became a military garrison by the British occupation and the Egyptian army after it, until it was opened to the public in 1983. As in 1976, Salah El Din Citadel was proclaimed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
What to see inside Salah El Din Citadel?
The space of the Citadel is enormous; there are several buildings inside that go back to different centuries. There are around three mosques inside; the most iconic of them is Mohamed Ali mosque that is taking a unique Ottoman style, making it an architectural masterpiece. The other two mosques are smaller, Sultan Muhammed Ibn Qalawun, built by the Mamluks in the 14th century, and Soliman Pasha Mosque, also built in an Ottoman style.
Besides the mosques, there are four museums inside the Citadel walls, the National Military Museum, the Police Museum, Jawhara Palace Museum, and the Royal Chariots Museum.