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Citadel Of Qaitbay – An Old Islamic Fortress

Citadel Of Qaitbay Fort Alexandria indeed is one of the most important defensive strongholds. It is not only in Egypt. but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. Moreover, it formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria. It was in the 15th century AC . Qaitbay Fort Alexandria situated at the entrance of the eastern harbor on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Citadel Of Qaitbay

Alexandria Lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest. Several disasters occurred and the shape of the lighthouse changed to some extent. But it still continued to function. Restoration began in the period of Ahmed Ibn Tulun in 880 H . During the 11th century an earthquake occurred, causing damage to the octagonal part. The bottom survived, but it could only serve as a watchtower. A small Mosque built on the top. In the 14th century there was a destructive earthquake. The whole building completely destroyed. Sultan Al Ashraf Qaitbay fortified the place as part of his coastal defensive edifices.

Today it is one of the popular Alexandria tourist attractions. The Qaitbay Citadel is located on the northeast part of Pharos Island, on the exact spot that was once home to the famous lighthouse of Alexandra. The Citadel was original established by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay in 1544 as a fortress.

Citadel Of Qaitbay

The original structure was further fortified towards the end of the 15th century to make it more capable of protecting the city against the Turks who at the time were threatening to invade. Many historians consider it to have been one of the most strategically important strongholds along the entire Mediterranean coastline at that time. The citadel continued to act as a military stronghold throughout the Mameluke period as well as the Ottoman period, and also for most of the Modern period.

The Citadel Of Qaitbay And The Ottoman Invasion

Later during the reign of The Sultan Qansoh El-Ghoury, the threat of an Ottoman invasion became ever more likely, and Sultan Qansoh El-Ghoury began moving troops and weapons to the citadel in order to be prepared for battle. During this time, the Sultan also had a prison constructed in the Citadel of Qaitbay.

Citadel Of Qaitbay

The Sultan would regularly travel to the citadel with other princes of the time in order to watch and troops being trained on how to use the weapons he had sent there. When he later felt that the Turks were about to attack, he issued a military decree in order to prevent anything from being stolen from within the grounds of the citadel.

The decree stated that if anyone was caught stealing weapons ammunition or anything other object from the citadel, they would be sentenced to death. Those found guilty would be hanged at the tower gate. Despite an immense effort, the Turks did attack and were able to invade Egypt.

However, like other citadels that fell into their hands, the Citadel of Qaitbay was well maintained and actively used throughout their rule.

Alexandria Falls To The French And Then The British

By 1748 the strength of the Ottoman armies had deteriorated significantly and the French were able to seize control of the citadel with relative ease. With a weak military and a weakened garrison at the fort, the heavy weapons of the French were simply too much for the Turks. Interestingly, when French troops entered the citadel they found Crusader weapons dating all the way back to the time of King Louis IX.

Citadel Of Qaitbay
The British fleet bombarded Alexandria violently on 11 July 1882 and damaged a large part of the city, especially in the area of the Citadel. This attack cracked the fortress, causing great damage. The north and western facades were severely damaged as a result of cannon explosions, aimed directly at the structure. The western facade was completely destroyed, leaving large gaps in it. Unfortunately, the Citadel then remained neglected, until 1904 when the Ministry of Defense restored the Upper floors. After the revolution of 1952 the Egyptian Naval troops turned the building to a Maritime Museum. The biggest restoration work dates back to 1984, when the Egyptian Antiquities Organization made ambitious plans to restore the fort.

Modern Day Restoration Of The Citadel of Qaitbay

In 1904 King Farouk of Egypt decided he wanted the fortress to be converted into a rest house for royalty, and subsequently issued orders to have it restored immediately. The Ministry of Defense were tasked with overseeing a rapid restoration project, and within a very short time all the upper floors had been fully restored.

Citadel Of Qaitbay

Following the 1952 Egyptian revolution, the Citadel was further restored by the Egyptian navy, and later converted into a maritime museum. In 1984 the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities launched an ambitious restoration project which took several years to complete, with the end result being what visitors to the Citadel of Qaitbay see today.

Learn more about the history of the citadel here.

Most Egypt tour packages that include spending time in Alexandria will include a visit to the Citadel of Qaitbay, but it is something you should still confirm when making your tour reservation.

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