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Qaitbay Citadel was built on the same site as one of the Seven Wonders of the World (the Lighthouse of Alexandria), to serve as a fortress against the Ottoman aggression against Egypt, by Sultan Al-Ashraf Abu Al-Nasr Qaitbay Al-Mahmoudi of the Mamluk era.
Sultan Qaytbay Abu al-Nasr Ibn Abdullah al-Jarkasi al-Mahmudi al-Zahiri, the nineteenth and longest ruling Mamluk sultan, as he ruled for a period of 29 years, is one of the greatest rulers in the Mamluk era and the history of Egypt, due to the existence of many challenges during his era, as the plague disease spread during his era and it is said that his wife and some of his sons died because of it, and he confronted the Ottoman threat by building the Qaitbay Citadel, located in the same headquarters as the old Lighthouse of Alexandria, on the eastern end of Pharos Island, in Alexandria.
The construction of the Qaitbay Citadel
Sultan Qaitbay ordered the construction of the citadel during his visit to Alexandria, which took two years to build from 882 AH / 1477 AD to 884 AH / 1479 AD, and he chose the site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria (which was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World), that was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 702 AH, to build the citadel on top of it, he also used the stones of this lighthouse in the construction process, so some of the stones with which the citadel was built are the oldest stones used in the buildings of Alexandria. The citadel enjoys a distinguished strategic location, as it is surrounded by water on three sides, and it was designed in the form of a square on an area of 17,550 square meters, and there is a tower in each of the four corners. The citadel consists of three floors, the first floor includes a mosque that is considered the oldest in Alexandria, in addition to defensive corridors that were used by soldiers during defensive operations against attacks, the second floor includes corridors and 4 rooms that were used for meetings of the commanders of the soldiers, and the third floors includes the seat of Sultan Qaitbay to monitor ships and many rooms to defend the citadel in addition to an oven that was used to prepare bread from wheat. The citadel is characterized by the presence of several openings that were used for protection and the use of spears (they were used for cannons in the era of Muhammad Ali). The citadel also includes 4 towers that were used to monitor and see ships a full day away from sailing towards the port of Alexandria, the citadel consists of two walls of huge stones, the outer wall includes defensive towers, and the inner wall includes stores for weapons and barracks for soldiers, there is a wall on the eastern side of the citadel that includes openings that were used to throw spears and defend against attacks, and on the northwest side is the main tower of the citadel, which was built of limestone.
Sultans interest in the Qaitbay Citadel
The sultans who ruled Egypt cared a lot about the citadel and made it a military fortress for them, during the Mamluk era, Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri increased its protection, weapons and equipment, during the Ottoman era they provided it with groups of infantry, soldiers, cavalry and artillery, and Muhammad Ali Pasha carried out renovations to the walls of the citadel and provided it with cannons that were used through openings for defense, after which the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Antiquities carried out further renovations and repairs to the citadel, with its walls and three floors.
The significance of Qaitbay Citadel
Besides the importance of the citadel since its construction and throughout the ages to protect the Egyptian state against external attacks that might threaten Egypt from the northern side through the Mediterranean Sea, it is now an important tourist attraction, reflecting the ancient Egyptian history since the Mamluk state, the citadel attracts on a daily basis hundreds of visitors from inside and outside Egypt, and it is very famous for being one of the most important landmarks of the city of Alexandria, the bride of the Mediterranean. The citadel is distinguished by its construction in the Egyptian style and the history of the spot on which it was built, in addition to its attractive location directly on the Mediterranean Sea.