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The Citadel of Saladin

Islamic Cairo contains many monuments from different periods starting from the Arab Invasion on 641 till the modern era of Mohamed Ali's Royal Family terminated in 1952 shifting from Monarchy regime to a Republican one.

The Citadel, Cairo 

Before Saladin came along, the local rulers of Cairo had overlooked the strategic value of the hill above the city. But within a few years of his arrival in Cairo in 1168, Saladin began making plans for the defense of the city with al-Qala'a - the Citadel - as the key element. In the 12th century, Saladin and his successors built an impenetrable bastion in the Citadel, using the most advanced construction techniques of the age. For the next 700 years, Egypt was ruled from this hill. 

What to See at the Citadel 

1- Muhammad Ali Mosque 

It is the most noticeable in all of Cairo; for more than 150 years it has dominated the skyline. Ottoman law prohibited anyone but the sultan from building a mosque with more than one minaret, but this mosque has two. This was one of Muhammad 'Ali's first indications that he did not intend to remain submissive to Istanbul. 

When the Ottoman Muhammad 'Ali assumed power of Cairo in the 1800s he had all the Mamluk buildings of the Citadel razed and the complex entirely rebuilt. 

The Citadel's appearance today is the vision of Muhammad 'Ali, particularly the mosque that bears his name. It was built between 1824 and 1848; the domes had to be rebuilt in the 1930s. 

The mosque is classically Turkish in style, reflecting its Ottoman origins. The cascading domes, slender minarets, constellation of hanging globe lamps, richly decorated ceiling and spacious interior all recall the great mosques of Istanbul. 

The interior also reflects some French rococo influences, and is finished with ornate lines of red, green, and gold. There is a gold-scalloped Mihrab and two Minbars (pulpits) 

Muhammad Ali is buried beneath a white marble mausoleum on the right of the entrance behind a bronze grill. 

In the courtyard is an ornate clock given by Louis Philippe in exchange for the obelisk that stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. It has never worked. 

Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad.  

The beautifully crafted masonry, the elegant proportions, the ornate but controlled work on the minarets all indicate that the building is a Mamluk work of art. The conquering Ottomans carried much of the original interior decoration off to Istanbul, but the space is nevertheless impressive. The supporting columns around the courtyard were collected from various sources including ancient Egyptian structures. During the 1330s al-Nasir Muhammad, who ruled on three different occasions for a total of 42 years (AD 1293-1340) and was considered the greatest Mamluk sultan, tore down most of the Ayyubid buildings to make room for his own needs, which included several palaces and a mosque in addition to barracks for his army.


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