Citadel of Saladin

Citadel of Saladin

Table of contents

  1. The history and purpose of building the Citadel of Saladin
  2. Buildings inside Saladin Citadel
  3. Castle massacre

Citadel of Saladin is one of the most important landmarks of the historical and Islamic city of Cairo and one of the most luxurious military castles. It was established in the Middle Ages, specifically the Ayyubid era, by order of Nasser Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, to be the seat of the rulers of Egypt throughout the ages until the construction of Abdeen Palace. The castle witnessed several important historical events in Egyptian history, and it is strategically located in the center of Cairo, on top of the Mokattam Mountain, with a complete view of Cairo’s landmarks.

The history and purpose of building the Citadel of Saladin

After Nasser Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi took over the rule of Egypt, confronted the Crusades, continued his jihad for the sake of God, and gradually eliminated the Shiite sect that was invading Egypt during the Fatimid state and spread the Sunni doctrine, a new era began in Egypt (the era of the Ayyubid state).

Salah al-Din refused at that time to live in any of the Fatimid palaces because of the spread of things that were contrary to his principles, and Egypt had not completely eliminated the danger of the Crusaders, so he decided to choose a suitable place to build an impregnable fortress through which he could supervise Cairo and manage the affairs of the country, and to be a majestic barrier against the attacks of the Crusaders and the Fatimids, it is said that in this headquarters he placed a piece of animal meat that did not spoil for several days, so he chose the place that is located in the neighborhood of the castle to build it on one of the hills separated from the Mokattam Mountain.

The castle remained the residence of the rulers of Egypt over the years until the Abdeen Palace was built.

Buildings inside Saladin Citadel

Saladin Citadel stands out among other castles in that it is not just a traditional castle or fort to fend off attacks and enemies only, but has become a complete city that includes numbers of mosques, factories, palaces, museums, schools and many other facilities.

This majestic castle includes 4 palaces, namely the “Al-Gawhara Palace”, the “Palace of the Haram”, both of which were built during the rule of (Muhammad Ali Pasha), the “Palace of Sari al-Adl”, and the “Palace of Al-Ablaq”, which was built by Al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun.

There are 3 mosques, “Muhammad Ali Pasha Mosque”, the “Suleiman Pasha Mosque”, and the “Nasser Muhammad Mosque”, which is known as the Mamluk Mosque as it was constructed during the Mamluk era.

The castle also includes a well that was dug by Al-Nasir Salah al-Din, which is known as “Joseph’s Well”, its depth reaches about 90 meters, 85 meters of which were dug into the rock. This well consists of two parts that are not in a straight line, so some historians call it “two wells”. The area of the well from the bottom is about 2.3 m², the area from the top is 5 m², and it was operated by oxen.

The castle has 4 doors:

  • The old door: which was called the Mokattam Gate, and is now called the Salah Salem Gate. This door went through many events that hid its features until it was reopened by the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
  • The new door: It was built by Muhammad Ali Pasha to use it for the passage of military cannons because the main door was not suitable for this matter.
  • The Wastani Gate: it was named by this name because it mediates both (Diwan El Ghoury) and (Diwan Qaitbay), or because it separated the marine vestibule of the castle and the yard that includes the Nasir Muhammad Mosque.
  • Bab Al-Azab: It is similar to Bab Zuweila in its composition, and there is a ratchet in it that was used to pour hot oil on those who try to break into the door and open it by force. This door was renovated by Khedive Ismail, it witnessed the massacre of the castle.

There are 3 museums, namely the Transport Museum, which includes royal antique cars dating back to the era of Khedive Ismail and even King Farouk, El Gawhara Palace Museum, which includes the throne of Muhammad Ali Pasha, and the Military Museum.

In addition to 13 towers, which are Mokattam, Al-Saffa, Kerkilan, Al-Maqsur, Al-Qarafa, Alwa, Al-Murabba, Al-Ramla, Al-Sahra, Al-Matar, Al-Mublat, Al-Tarfa, and Al-Haddad.

The castle is divided into two courtyards by two walls, one of these two walls is called (Saladin Citadel) or (Citadel of the Mountain) which is located in the north, and the other, which called (the Citadel), is located in the southern side.

Castle massacre

One of the most famous incidents that was mentioned in Egyptian history, and it is called the massacre of the castle or the massacre of the Mamluks, it occurred in 1811 AD, when Muhammad Ali Pasha prepared a huge party to appoint his son, “Ahmed Tusun Pasha,” to take over the leadership of the army going to Najd in Saudi Arabia, he invited the senior officials of the state and the Mamluks, of whom 470 Mamluks attended, and during the course of the procession, his soldiers besieged them at Bab El Azaband and shot them until most of them fell dead, and the rest were slaughtered, only one person (Amin Bey) survived by escaping with his horse.

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