Beautiful Egypt- Citadel ! My first stop

I have arrived to Egypt, New Cairo in August, 2018. Once, I have sorted children out, settled in my new life style and realised how much it is to see and discover here, I decided to start my journey of discovering this wonderful country – Egypt.

As me and my family residing in New Cairo at the moment , I decided to start with the places closest to me.  It is still very hot to visit certain places, however considering how much is it to see here I felt like I needed to start somewhere and quick 🙂

My first stop in discovering Egypt fell on : Citadel – An Islamic Medieval Fortification in Cairo, Egypt

The location, on Mokattam hill near the center of Cairo, was once famous for its fresh breeze and grand views of the city. It is now a preserved historic site, with mosques and museums. In 1976, it was proclaimed by UNESCO as a part of the World Heritage Site Historic Cairo (Islamic Cairo) which was “the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century.

You will have to pay an entrance fee. For Egyptian nationalities – 20 EGP ( less that 1 GDP), for foreigners like me 120 EGP ( 5 GDP). 

The Cairo Citadel in Egypt is a medieval Islamic fortification constructed in 1183 CE around the ancient city to protect against the invading Crusaders.

The Citadel of Cairo is also called the Mohamed Ali Citadel or Saladin Citadel. It is today one of the most visited tourist attractions in Egypt, and it’s certainly one attraction you don’t want to miss during your vacation in Egypt. In fact, its extreme popularity is one of the reasons why we include it in many of our Cairo tour packages.

Saladin set out to build a wall that would surround both Cairo and Fustat. Saladin is recorded as saying, “With a wall I will make the two [cities of Cairo and Fustat] into a unique whole, so that one army may defend them both; and I believe it is good to encircle them with a single wall from the bank of the Nile to the bank of the Nile.” The Citadel would be the centrepiece of the wall. Built on a promontory beneath the Muqattam Hills, a setting that made it difficult to attack, the efficacy of the Citadel’s location is further demonstrated by the fact that it remained the heart of Egyptian government until the 19th century.

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Wall of Citadel

There are three main mosques at the Citadel:

The mosque was built between 1830 and 1848, although not completed until the reign of Said Pasha in 1857. The architect was Yusuf Bushnak from Istanbul and its model was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in that city. Muhammad Ali Pasha was buried in a tomb carved from Carrara marble, in the courtyard of the mosque. His body was transferred here from Hawsh al-Basha in 1857.

Built in 1318, during the early Bahri Mamluk period[9], as the royal mosque of the Citadel where the sultans of Cairo performed their Friday prayers, today this hypostyle mosque is still similar to how it looked in the 1300 though many repairs have been made. 

Built in 1528, it was first of the Citadel’s Ottoman-style mosques. It was built on the ruins of an old mosque of Abu Mansur Qusta.

The Citadel is sometimes referred to as Mohamed Ali Citadel (Arabicقلعة محمد علي‎ Qalaʿat Muḥammad ʿAlī), because it contains the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, which was built by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1828 and 1848, perched on the summit of the citadel.

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Outside of entrance to the Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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Prior to entry – Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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Prior to entry – Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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Mosque of Muhammad Ali – Other side

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Inside – Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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Inside – Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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Outside – Mosque of Muhammad Ali

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And the cherry on the cake is this breathtaking view once you exited the mosque. Make sure you see it ! 

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A must see view of the whole Cairo behind me . This view opens up to your on exit from Mosque of Muhammad Ali

This Ottoman mosque was built in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali’s second son who died in 1816. However, it also represents Muhammad Ali’s efforts to erase symbols of the Mamluk dynasty that he replaced. When Ottoman ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha took control from the Mamluks in 1805 he altered many of the additions to the Citadel that reflected Cairo’s previous leaders. One obvious change that Muhammad Ali enacted pertained to the uses of the Citadel’s northern and southern enclosures. During the Mamluk period the southern enclosure was the residential area, but Muhammad Ali claimed the northern enclosure as the royal residence when he took power. He then opened the southern enclosure to the public and effectively established his position as the new leader.

The mosque is the other feature of the Citadel that reflects the reign of Muhammad Ali. This feature, with its large dome and overtly Ottoman influenced architecture, looms over the Citadel to this day. Recently destroyed Mamluk palaces within the Citadel provided space for the formidable mosque, which was the largest structure to be established in the early 19th century. Placing the mosque where the Mamluks had once reigned was an obvious effort to erase the memory of the older rulers and establish the importance of the new leader. The mosque also replaced the mosque of al-Nasir as the official state mosque.

I would strongly advice on wearing a very appropriate closing. For ladies: loose trousers, long sleeve top or long dress with long sleeves covering your legs, arms etc. These are common rules for any mosques around the world.  Any kind of cleavage is no no and do not forget a headscarf. You will have to take your shoes off and cover your head before you are allowed to enter the Mosque. 

Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque

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And at the end of the tour you can find

The official museum of the Egyptian Army. The museum was established in 1937 at the old building of the Egyptian Ministry of War in downtown Cairo. It was later moved to a temporary location in the Garden City district of Cairo. In November 1949 the museum was moved to the Haram Palace at the Cairo citadel. It has been renovated several times since, in 1982 and 1993.

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No holiday in Cairo is complete without a visit to Cairo Citadel, even if only for the spectacular views it offers of the Nile River and modern day Cairo. The Citadel has long since been known by locals for the wonderfully cool breezes which are always a welcome break from the usual heat in the city. Many locals as well as tourists make their way to the area regularly in order to enjoy the cool fresh air and the truly splendid views.

I will leave you with more pictures from this amazing place and hope my article will encourage you to visit it. Leave comments with your thoughts and if you have visited, I would like to hear your opinion.

I would like to say a very special THANK YOU to my driver – Mohammad, for taking all these pictures.

Love, Samira xxx

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