Qaitbay Citadel Alexandria | History | Facts
Qaitbay Citadel Alexandria indeed is one of the most important Islamic defensive strongholds not only in Egypt but also, along the Mediterranean Sea coast. The castle was built on an area of 17,550 square meters, surrounded by the sea on three sides.
Moreover, it was an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria during the Mameluke era. Now it is one of the most important historical monuments that cannot be missed during the Day tours in Alexandria. Together with Pompey’s Pillar, and the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa could be a perfect Day trip to Alexandria.
Where is the Qaitbay Citadel?
Qaitbay Citadel Alexandria is situated at the western end of Alexandria at the entrance of the eastern harbor on the eastern point of Pharos Island. The fortress is located on the Mediterranean Sea coast, in Alexandria, Egypt, At Sayalah Sharq, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria Governorate.
Who built the Qaitbay Citadel?
Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay is one of the greatest sultans of the Burji Mamluk state (Circassian Mamluk) and the Mamluk state in general, and he ruled Egypt for 28 years from 1468 to 1496.
The founder of Qaitbay Fort Alexandria Sultan Al-Ashraf Abou Anasr Saif El Din Qaitbay was born in about 1423 AC. Moreover, he was a Mameluke, less than 20 years When he came to Egypt.
He was bought by Sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay. He remained among his attendants until Al-Ashraf Barsbay died. Then Sultan Djaqmaq bought Qaitbay and later gave him his freedom. Qaitbay then went on to occupy various posts. He became the Chief of the Army during the rule of Sultan Tamar bugha.
When the Sultan was dethroned, Qaitbay was appointed as a Sultan. He titled Almalek Al-Ashraf on Monday 26th Ragab, 872 H. (1468 AC). He was one of the most important and prominent Mameluke Sultans, ruling for about 29 years.
Ibn Ayas mentioned that the building of this fort started in Rabi Alawal in 882 H. Qaitbay was to visit the site of the old Alexandria lighthouse. During this visit, he ordered the building of Qaitbay Fort Alexandria. In Shaban 1449.
Sultan Qaitbay traveled again to Alexandria. It was when the construction finished. He provided the fort with a brave legion of soldiers and various weapons. He also dedicated several waqfs from which he financed the construction works. It was besides the salaries of the soldiers.
Qaitbay Fort was well maintained by all the rulers who came after Qaitbay. It was due to its strategic location. Sultan Qansoh El Ghoury gave Qaitbay Fort Alexandria special attention. He visited it several times and increased the strength of the garrison.
When the Citadel was built?
Building the citadel of Qaitbay started in Rabi Alawal 882 H (1477 AD) and it ends in Shaban 884 H (1479 AD). It Costs more than a hundred thousand Dinars for the work on Qaitbay Fort Alexandria.
What was the reason behind the building of the Qaitbay Citadel?
The reason for the construction of the Qaitbay citadel is to fortify the city of Alexandria and protect it from external aggression, specifically from the Ottoman Empire. which began to change the direction of its conquests from Europe to the East, so Sultan Qaitbay tried to fortify the Egyptian frontiers
Citadel of Qaitbay facts
- It was built in the place of the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria, which was destroyed in the year 702 AH following the devastating earthquake that occurred during the reign of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad bin Qalawun.
- It cost 90,000 pounds to build
- Death by hanging was the penalty for those who steal their weapons
- The construction work took about two years between 1477 – 1479
- Alexandria Lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest.
- During the French campaign against Egypt in 1798 AD, the French took an interest in the city of Alexandria, renovating its walls, forts, and towers, and working to arm it.
- During the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, he took great care of the castle, so he worked on restoring it, securing it, increasing the number of soldiers in it, arming it with cannons, and constructing some rooms that currently overlook the courtyard
- Qaitbay Fort Alexandria functioned during most of the Mameluke period, Ottoman period, and Modern period. After the British bombardment of the city of Alexandria in 1883, it kept out of the spotlight
- In 1882 AD, after the revolution of Ahmed Orabi, the Qaitbay citadel was vandalized until some cracks occurred in it.
- In 1904 AD the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Antiquities ordered that it be re-repaired.
Description of the Citadel of Alexandria
- Qaitbay Citadel takes the shape of a square with an area of 150 m x 130 m, surrounded by the sea on three sides. The castle’s exterior includes defensive towers on the four sides that rise to the level of the wall, except for the eastern wall, which contains defensive slots for soldiers
- The citadel has a main entrance on the southwest side in the form of two towers
- Fort Qaitbay consists of three-square floors, and in the four corners of the tower there are semi-circular towers that end at the top with prominent balconies, and these towers include openings for throwing arrows on two levels.
- The first floor is occupied by the Citadel Mosque, which consists of a courtyard, four iwans, and defensive corridors that allow soldiers to pass easily during the operations of defending the citadel. This mosque had a minaret, but it collapsed recently
- The second floor, contains corridors, halls, and internal rooms
- the third floor includes a large room, “the seat of Sultan Qaitbay”, where he sits to see ships on a day’s journey from Alexandria covered by a cross vault
- The castle has a large cistern to store fresh water for the use of the residents of the castle
- This ground floor also includes one of the ovens for preparing wheat bread, as well as a mill to grind grain for the soldiers residing in the castle
Opening hours of the Qaitbay Citadel
The Qaitbay Citadel is open daily between 08.00 am and 17.00 pm.
Citadel of Qaitbay entrance fee
You can purchase an Entrance ticket for Qaitbay fort from the Ticket window which is by the entrance
Adult: EGP 60 (3 $)
Students with valid cards: EGP 30(1.5 $)
Children aged 6-12 years: EGP 30 (1.5 $)
Children under 6 years: FREE
Things to do when visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay Alexandria
You can enjoy the view of the sea that surrounds the Citadel on three sides and the walls and the main tower from the northwest.
Watching and knowing the history of the castle walls, as these walls are divided into an internal and an external wall, while the interior includes former soldiers’ barracks and weapons stores, and the outer wall on the four sides includes defensive towers that rise to the level of the wall.
You can see the art of building this strategic castle, as the citadel consists of three-square floors, and the first floor is occupied by the castle mosque, and the mosque had a minaret, but it collapsed recently.
Visit the second floor of the citadel, which contains corridors, halls, and internal rooms, as well as a large room representing Sultan Qaitbay court.
Hotels near the Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria
Steigenberger Cecil Hotel Alexandria is one of the best 4-star hotels in Alexandria, less than 10 minutes driving from the Citadel of Qaitbay in Alexandria.