The citadel is located at the bottom of Moqattam' Hills, Saladin in 1176 started to build it, and he is said to have used stones from the small pyramids of Giza.
The only things remaining from the original structure are outer walls of the east side, qand a few towers in the interiors.
For a long time the citadel was controlled by militaries and closed to the public, now it is opened.
If the exterior of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali is not Ottoman enough, then the interior will certainly convince the visitor. Resting on four half-domes is a large central dome, from which hangs an enormous chandelier that faintly illuminates the space. The domes and ceiling are richly decorated in Ottoman motifs and contain medallions, similar to those seen in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, inscribed with the names of God (Allah), the Prophet Mohammed, and the first four Caliphs. Muhammad Ali, who died upon the completion of his mosque in 1848, is buried in a white marble tomb within the mosque.
The courtyard of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali is surrounded by arcaded porticoes and has a domed ablution fountain at its centre. The porticoes follow Ottoman Baroque lines, a style that was fashionable in Constantinople in the 19th century, and consist of a series of domes and arches resting on columns with lotus capitals, which is perhaps the only obvious nod to Ancient Egypt in this mosque. The central ablution fountain is almost identical to those seen in Istanbul, with a painted domed roof resting on arches and fluted columns with Corinthian capitals. Another interesting feature in the courtyard is the Gothic clock tower, a gift from King Louis-Philippe in 1848 as a gesture of appreciation for the Obelisk now standing at Place de la Concorde in Paris. It is said that clock has never properly worked.
Completed in 1848 by Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt, his namesake mosque magnificently dominates the Cairo skyline from the Citadel, with multiple silver domes and two 82-metre pencil-style minarets. Egypt's ruler commissioned a Greek-Ottoman architect, Youssef Bushnaq, to design this mosque in an undeniable Ottoman imperial style, probably as a challenge the Empire's capital, Constantinople, in much the same way he was challenging the Sultan's authority. Although Cairo had been under Ottoman rule for centuries, its mosque architecture had remained mostly faithful to the style attributed to the previous dynasty, the Mamlukes, who had held nominal power under the Ottomans until the arrival of Muhammad Ali. The new ruler ruthlessly executed any remaining Mamluke descendants in order to ensure the permanent extinction of their dynasty. Thus with the construction of his mosque, in a purely Ottoman style, he not only had challenged the Empire's authority, but also signalled the end of the Mamluke period. It is probably not a coincidence that the structure was erected on the site of the ancient Mamluke royal palaces. The mosque is sometimes referred to as the Alabaster Mosque, recalling the alabaster used in its construction, which is not considered the highest quality building material (it was chosen by the ruler to boost the local alabaster industry). In fact, in the 1930's, the domes of the mosque were completely reconstructed because of cracks in the original structure. In the early 2000s, the mosque underwent an extensive restoration and cleaning project that rendered it as glorious as ever.
Up until the construction of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali in the 19th century, this mosque was the grand mosque of the citadel. It was constructed in 1318 AD and enlarged in 1335 AD by the Mamluke Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad who was responsible for building numerous structures inside and outside the Citadel, though within the Citadel only his mosque has survived. Although plain on the outside, the interior of the mosque was once exquisitely decorated, but soon after the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, Ottoman Sultan Selim removed the marble panelling and shipped it off to Constantinople for reuse. The interior consists of a spacious courtyard surrounded by a columned portico, with cusped arches and ablaq alternating stripes, and a hypostyle prayer hall containing an inlayed marble mihrab (prayer niche) in the direction of Mecca. The columns and their capitals, which vary in height and style, were recycled from abandoned Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine structures. The green dome is a 1935 reconstruction of the original collapsed dome. The mosque has two different minarets in a style not seen anywhere else in Egypt. They are said to have been designed by an architect from Tabriz, Iran, hence the Central Asian/Turkic/Persian influence (i.e. the zigzag decorations and the blue and green tiled onion domes). Although itself an architectural treasure, this mosque is often overshadowed by the much grander Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
When Saladdin established the Ayyubid Sultanate in 1171, and eliminated the Fatimid dynasty, he was still fighting the Crusaders in the Levant. It was thus crucial to strengthen the defences of Egypt, which had suffered repeated attacks by the European invaders. Saladdin commissioned the construction of a fortress to protect Egypt's capital, and the natural spot for it was a hill overlooking all of Cairo, where the Citadel still stands today. Referred to locally as Saladdin's Castle, it is Cairo's most visited non-Pharaonic historic structure and is considered one of the world's most impressive Mediaeval defence fortresses. In addition to a military complex, it had served as Egypt's rulers' residence from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and it is therefore dotted with ancient mosques, palaces, and other structures, constructed in different periods, several of which now house different museums. However, the most distinctive and recognisable edifice is the Ottoman-style Mohammed Ali Mosque, with its multiple domes and two pencil-like minarets, built in the 19th century by the founder of modern in Egypt, Mohammed Ali.
The largest well maintained park in Cairo. if you are visiting the Citadel you might want to go to this park too.
Entrance tickets are 7 Egyptian pounds for adults. ( 2011).
Avoid national holidays though it can be too crowded.
My kids and I enjoyed lunch at the restuarant next to the lake.
The Citadel was fortified by Saladin between 1176 and 1183, to protect it from the Crusaders.Only a few years after defeating the Fatimid Caliphate, Saladin set out to build a wall that would surround both Cairo and Fustat, and the Citadel would be the centerpiece of the massive walls.
The wall surrounds the whole citadel complex.
The courtyard of the mosque is laid out in alabaster with the ablution structure right in the middle like most mosques in Cairo, and Istanbul as well.
Entering the mosque you will immediately feel the solemnity of the place, the whole ambience of the place commands piety and silence. There's this strange feeling that makes you feel like you want to just sit down at the carpet and be quiet and wonder how it was during those days.
I find the interior to be one of the best ones I've seen in Egypt. Dark, red, blue, yellow, every colour in dark hues and the massive chandelier is similar to what they have in the Blue Mosque in IStanbul. Its so beautiful inside, I even laid my back on the red carpeted floor and stare for several minutes up on the ceiling.
Something that you should never miss if you're in Cairo.
Commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848, built in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali's oldest son, who died in 1816.
Built on the highest point of The Citadel, this Ottoman mosque is built by Yusuf Bushnak from Turkey and was patterned to the Mosque of Sultan Valide or the New Mosque in Eminonu, Istanbul.
This is the most visible mosque in Istanbul because of its elevation, and you can see it from afar or approaching Cairo.
For me, this is the most beautiful mosqueue both inside and out in the whole of Cairo.
Check the beautiful interior of the mosque on the next tip...gooooo.
If you want to see the whole old Islamic Cairo and beyond, then head on to the panorama viewdeck right at the back of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
Not only to see the panorama view but to watch the sunset too, though you can't stay beyond 5:00pm in the Citadel complex.
Built by the Mamluk sultan Al-Nasr Muhammad in 1318 as the royal mosque of the Citadel, where the sultans of Cairo performed their Friday prayers, the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque is the first mosque on your right side when you passed by the entrance and walk your way up to the second ramp.
Big courtyard on it's entrance that can accommodate about 5000 people during Jumaa prayers. The caretaker pointed to me a somewhat interesting stuff on one of its column -- a cross with a number 7, I dunno really what it means.
During the renovation in 1335, the mosque was heightened, its roof rebuilt and a dome of plastered wood covered with green tiles was added over the maqsura (prayer niche). For centuries the Qala'un Mosque was considered the most glamorous mosque in Cairo until the dome over the prayer niche collapsed in the sixteenth century and the high marble dado was carried off to Istanbul by the Ottoman conqueror Sultan Selim I. The present dome is modern, carried by granite columns taken from ancient Egyptian temples.
Now, proceed to the next tip, the wonderful mosque of Muhammad Ali which is just beside this mosque on the upper side facing the panorama view deck.
Cairo Citadel or locally known as Qala'at Salah ad-Din is a medieval fortified promontory built by and during the Ayyubids rule under it's famous ruler Saladin, 1176-1183CE. It was built to protect Cairo from Crusaders attack.
Just beneath the Mokattam hill, the Citadel commands a panoramic view of the city of Cairo. There afre 3 mosques within the promontory and 3 museums. The panorama deck is located at the back entrance of the Muhammad Ali Pasha Mosque. Stay there and watch the sunset -- then again, it closes early, I remember vividly because they started clearing the area of visitors about 15 minutes before 5:00pm... and I've just arrived! Like, I've never even spent an hour and half in the area, or did I?
So I would suggest visiting the Citadel morning or not after 3:00pm, so you'll have enough time to wander around, visit the museums and enter the impressive mosques....and watch pranoramic Cairo behind the big mosque.
Take a taxi from the downtown to the Citadel, fare would be about EGP20 - 30.
One of the highest points in a plane city, this is the best place to have a general look over town.
Looking closer, the military constructions and specially the alabaster mosque have precious details.
The Military Museum in Cairo is famous for its rich collection and historical building which was originally a palace during the reign of Mohamed Ali, the founder of the royal family that ruled Egypt from 1805 through 1952. (www.sis.gov.eg).
Since my kids will be studing this at some point in history lessons,,I thought it would be a good idea to see the museum.
It was very exiting for them.
check my military albums for more pictures.