Egypt Cairo Citadel


Egypt Cairo Citadel


Cairo Citadel

The Citadel is one of Cairo's most popular tourist attractions. It houses several museums, ancient mosques and other sites, situated on a spur of limestone that had been separated from its parent Moqattam Hills through quarrying.
One of history’s greatest medieval monuments, the Citadel is a highly prominent landmark on the capital’s eastern skyline. When viewed from the north, the Citadel reveals a very medieval “look”.
The place where the Citadel is now situated has its origins not as a great military base of operations, but as the pavilion created by Hatim Ibn Hartama, a former governor, who built it in 810 known as the "Dome of the Wind" pavilion. Even now, this place was well known for its unusually cool breeze.

Not realizing the area’s strategic importance, these early governors just used the pavilion primarily for its view of Cairo.


During 1176 and 1183, the Abbasid Ruler Salah ad-Din (Saladin to Westerners 1171-1193 AD), secured the area to protect it against attacks by the Crusaders, and from that time on it has never been without a military fort. Originally it served as both a military fortress and a royal city.

As legend would have it, Salah ad-Din chose the area for its healthy air. The story goes that he hung pieces of meat up all around Cairo. Everywhere else the meat spoilt within a day, except the ones at the Citadel area where it remained fresh for many days. 


But in truth this area gives a strategic advantage both to take over Cairo and to repel outside attackers. Salah ad-Din hailed from Syria where each city had some kind of fortress to serve as a stronghold for the local ruler so it was only logical that he would practice this custom in Egypt.




Salah ad-Din employed the most modern fortress building ways of that time to build the original Citadel. Great, round towers were built jutting out from the walls so that soldiers could shoot fire on those who might climb the walls. The walls were ten meters (30 ft) high and three meters (10 ft) thick.

Citadel in Cairo

The Bir Yusuf (Salah ad-Din's Well) was dug in order to supply the residents of the fortress with continuous supply of potable water. About 87 meters (285 ft) deep, they cut though solid rock until they reached the water table. It is not simply a shaft. There is a ramp big enough so that beats could go down into the well in order to power the machinery that brought the water.

Unfortunately, the well is off limits to tourists these days. Most of the structure was built after Salah ad-Din's rule. It was added to by almost every invader including the British, some of whom replaced much of what existed before them.


After Salah ad-Din’s death, Al-Kamil, his nephew, strengthened the Citadel by enlarging several of the towers. He specifically encased the Burg al-Haddad (Blacksmith's Tower) and the Burgar-Ramlab (Sand Tower) making them more than three times larger.



The narrow pass of the Muqattam hills and the Citadel were controlled by these towers. He also built several great keeps (towers) surrounding the walls, three of which overlook the modern Citadel parking area.



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