Citadel of Salah El Din

Representing a formidable symbol of Islamic military architecture in the medieval era, the Citadel of Salah El Din still stands today as one of the world's most visited tourist centers. Visitors across cultures and religions come to have a feel of this iconic historic site. This great architecture was founded and named after the renowned Muslim military leader Salah El Din. We can't deny the fact that this historic citadel has played a crucial role in impacting Egypt's cultural and architectural landscape. We shall explore the necessary details regarding this important site.

Meet the Brain Behind the Citadel of Salah El Din

The citadel was established by Salah El Din Al Ayoubi who came into power through a coup where in 1171 AD, he overthrew the Fatimid dynasty. He was forced to build the citadel—that is, a wall—in order to fortify his city against the European crusaders. The Crusades were a major challenge to Egypt during that time. His intervention played out to Egypt's advantage. There are several records of his many victories against the European crusaders who came to attack Egypt during what is known as the “The Crusades”. His leverage was on his military skills and the wall he built which brought him several victories.

He began the construction of the citadel and continued until his death. He died before the citadel was completed and inaugurated. However, the citadel was named after him to honor his visionary effort.


The Citadel Through History

We've seen that the construction of the citadel began with Salah El Din. Over time, the citadel was completed in 1183 AD which became Egypt's seat of government spanning a period of 700 years. Later on, the Khedive Ismail transferred the seat of government to the Abdeen Palace.

It is important to note that the citadel has three major areas worth considering. First is the main fortress and the walls on the east. These were built by the great Saladin El Ayyoubi in 1176. Second, you'll find the southern enclosure which was strategically built with walls in the 19th century. Third, a western wall consisting of the main gate right before the Sultan Hassan mosque.


Not to forget, there are three gates that protect the area of the citadel. These gates are El Mokatam Gate, the Middle Gate, and El Hadeed Gate. They served as major fortresses against invaders. 

Sights To Explore Within the Citadel

The citadel is comprised of several incredible sights to keep you at the best of your tour. Let's explore the citadel:


The Muhammed Ali Mosque

This mosque was built in the 19th century, precisely, during the first half of the same century. It is beautifully decorated with alabaster coating and a variety of shiny plaster. In this 52-meter tall edifice, you'll find the remains of Muhammed Ali, deposited in a marble tomb of white color.



The Military Museum

You can guess from the name that this museum houses items related to war and the military. It was established in 1827 where the royal family resided, until 1874. During World War II, this museum served as a military hospital during British control. In 1946, Egypt took over the control of it. It has an incredible political décor that will leave you mesmerized. Be sure to check it out, if you can.


Gawhara Palace

Gawhara Palace is a renowned palace named after the wife of the governor, Gawhara Hanem. Originally, the Bijou Palace, as often called by people, was built to serve as the personal residence of Muhammed Ali. In Cairo, today, you can't skip this great edifice when counting the best assembly of Ottoman architecture. Do well to check it out when you get to Egypt.


Al-Nasir Muhammed Mosque

Another amazing composition of the Citadel of Salah El Din is the Al-Nasir Muhammed Mosque. This mosque is said to be the only Mamluk building that still stands in Cairo. As a remarkable palace built in 1318 and 1335, it is said to be one of the oldest buildings that's close to the Muhammed Ali Mosque. In this mosque, you'll find two entrances, each designated for the sultan and the soldiers. It also has a courtyard and towers. You can easily spot these features whenever you are within the vicinity of the citadel.

Dervish Theater


This incredible theater was built in the 19th century with remarkable features including a garden, a patio, and a beautiful façade. The theater stage is made of circular waxed wood effect which is very suitable for Sufi dancing. For the record, the dervishes stem from Sufis who are true followers of the spiritual branch of Islam. These people believe that their swirling dance is a spiritual exercise that allows them to be united with Allah.

Religious and Cultural Significance

The Citadel of Salah El Din isn't only relevant for its military and architectural importance. We can see that throughout history, the citadel had served as a seat for government; a center of administration. A couple of governmental administrations ruled from the Citadel, making it an important seat of power. By being the center of administration and the seat of power, the citadel became a hub for cultural and religious decision-making.

In addition, the presence of the various mosques within the citadel is a clear testament to the fact that it played a significant role in shaping the religious life of the locals. You'll agree that religion plays a major role in shaping the beliefs and ideologies of people. The citadel was instrumental to this fact. People come to the citadel to make their prayers, and beckon unto God.




We've seen that the citadel is a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from across the globe. You'll get to explore its architectural wonders, explore its vast ground, and immerse yourself in the rich history that provides a breathtaking experience. So, when next you visit Egypt for your adventure, you should consider visiting the Citadel of Salah El din. 

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