Is it Salah ad-Din Ci­tadel or Muham­mad Ali Ci­tadel?

The Daily News Egypt - - Local Destinations -


The Ci­tadel of Salah ad-Din is some­times known as the Ci­tadel of Muham­mad Ali; this is a com­mon mis­take. Be­cause of this mis­take, many be­lieved that the fortress was built by Muham­mad Ali Pasha, who ruled Egypt dur­ing much of the first half of the 18th cen­tury. Oth­ers think it was named af­ter him be­cause he was the last to live in it.

In fact, nei­ther ex­pla­na­tion is true. The ci­tadel was built by the or­der of the first sul­tan of Egypt and founder of the Ayyu­bid dy­nasty, Salah ad-Din (also known as Sal­adin), in 1176, and was com­pleted in 1183. It took seven years to build un­der the lead­er­ship of three gov­er­nors, Salah ad-Din, his brother, who also be­came sul­tan, Al-Adil I, and Salah ad-Din’s son, the fourth Ayyu­bid sul­tan,Al-Kamil. Sul­tan AlKamil was the first per­son to live in the ci­tadel as its con­struc­tion was com­pleted dur­ing his reign.

The ci­tadel in­cludes, within its walls, sev­eral palaces, mosques, a pri­son, and a military fortress.

The ci­tadel was used for about 677 years as the res­i­dence of all the rulers of Egypt, from the era of the Ayyu­bids to the era of Muham­mad Ali Pasha and his dy­nasty un­til the era of Khe­dive Is­mail.Thus, the khe­dive is said to be the last ruler to live in the ci­tadel, not Muham­mad Ali.

The Mosque of Muham­mad Ali

The Mosque of Muham­mad Ali is the rea­son why peo­ple get con­fused and call the ci­tadel af­ter Muham­mad Ali; it is one of the largest mosques in Egypt and also the only build­ing that peo­ple can see from out­side the walls of the ci­tadel.

Muham­mad Ali Pasha wanted to com­bine be­tween the Mam­luk and Ot­toman styles in the con­struc­tion of the mosque. So, the mosque con­sists of the main cen­tral mosque and four por­ti­cos, which rep­re­sents the Mam­luk style, though the fourth por­tico was made into a closed mosque, which is an el­e­ment of the Ot­toman style.

The mosque was ded­i­cated ex­clu­sively for the royal fam­ily.The sec­ond floor was re­served for the ci­tadel’s women, in­clud­ing its princesses.

Al-Gawhara Palace

Al-Gawhara Palace is the largest one within the com­pound’s walls. It was the royal res­i­dence, with a throne room, re­cep­tion, and de­crees room. This palace is where Muham­mad Ali seized power. Forces loyal to him sur­rounded the Mam­luks and fired at them as they ap­proached, re­sult­ing in a mas­sacre which ce­mented Muham­mad Ali’s em­i­nence in Egypt, with pos­si­bly only one man es­cap­ing un­scathed.

This man was Mu­rad Bey, who was lucky enough to ar­rive late to the party. So, when the shoot­ing started, he took a horse and jumped over the ci­tadel’s wall.The jump was very high, and the horse’s leg was bro­ken,but Mu­rad Bey man­aged to es­cape from death twice; once from the shoot­ing, and the sec­ond from the high jump.

Be­cause of the mas­sacre, the clos­est street to the ci­tadel was cov­ered in blood, so it was called Al-Darb Al-Ah­mar (The Red Path).

Next came Muham­mad ibn Qalawun Mosque

An-Nasir Muham­mad ibn Qalawun is a ruler who reigned over Egypt three times; he was well­known as a just king, so when he was de­posed, the peo­ple once again brought him back to power. Then came his son, Sul­tan Has­san, who was also known for his jus­tice, hence the Egyp­tians came up with the id­iom “who­ever has a child won’t die”.

Muham­mad ibn Qalawun built a mosque and named it af­ter him­self in the ci­tadel.The mosque was built twice; he did not like the first one and or­dered it re­built.In that era,the artists were not al­lowed to sculpt.

There­fore, the pil­lars of the mosque were not made, but they were pur­chased from mar­kets. So, the pil­lars in the mosque are not sym­met­ri­cal. Some of them were taken from tem­ples or de­stroyed churches, so peo­ple can see a cru­ci­fix on one of the pil­lars and there are oth­ers sim­i­lar to the pil­lars of Ro­man and Greek tem­ples.

If­tar can­non, also known as Ha­jja Fa­timah can­non

In the minds of Mus­lims in Egypt, the sound of a can­non is as­so­ci­ated with the time of break­ing their fast (if­tar in Ara­bic) dur­ing the holy month of Ra­madan.

The rea­son is, in the era of Muham­mad Ali, they bought a new can­non and wanted to test it and it so hap­pened that they did so at the time of the sun­set prayer when peo­ple were break­ing their fast, so peo­ple thought it was a new tra­di­tion for Muham­mad Ali to an­nounce the time of break­ing the fast and they love it.When Muham­mad Ali learned that peo­ple loved it, he con­tin­ued with the prac­tice that would be­come tra­di­tion. It has since be­come a yearly oc­cur­rence each Ra­madan.

This can­non is also known as Ha­jja Fa­timah can­non, be­cause the guard who is re­spon­si­ble for the can­non has a wife whose name is Fa­timah. She used to bring the food to him at if­tar time. Be­cause he loved her so much, he named the can­non af­ter her, and when she died, he used to say that the can­non is the only thing he has left as a mem­ory of her.

In the ci­tadel, peo­ple can also see the pri­son where for­mer pres­i­dent An­war Al-Sa­dat was con­fined.

Fi­nally, the harem palace be­came the head­quar­ters of the Bri­tish military ruler un­der the Bri­tish oc­cu­pa­tion of Egypt and it has since been turned into the Na­tional Police Mu­seum.

In this mu­seum, peo­ple can see the uni­forms of police of­fi­cers from the era of the pharaohs to the modern era. There are also pho­tos of the most famous crim­i­nals, such as Raya and Sak­ina, and the story of their lives and how they were caught. In ad­di­tion, there are also dis­played weapons that were used in po­lit­i­cal as­sas­si­na­tions, in­clud­ing ones used in an at­tempt on for­mer pres­i­dent Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser’s life and the as­sas­si­na­tions of Ahmed Pasha Ma­her and El­nokrashy Pasha.

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