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Citadel of Cairo

Citadel of Saladin or Citadel of Cairo, is visible from many areas of Cairo as it is situated above a hill. The citadel was built during the Ayyubids reign under auspices of the famous ruler Saladin 1176-1183 CE. It was initially built for a military purpose and is a typical early medieval fortress, and now it has become one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in Egypt.

Why Was the Citadel Built?

Citadel of Cairo
Citadel of Cairo
Saladin chose a strategic location for the Citadel in order to defend the capital city against the Crusaders. That is why it is situated above the Mokattam hill. At the highest point of the Citadel at the back of Muhammad Ali Mosque, visitors can overlook the city of Cairo.

See more famous constructions of Islamic Cairo (Citadel of Cairo is also located here)

Facts about the Citadel

In 1976, the Citadel of Cairo was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The citadel was the place where the ruler and his government stayed. It is worth mentioning that Saladin did not stay at the citadel because it was not totally finished during his reign. The first king who stayed at the citadel was Al Malek el, Kamel. Saladin ordered his soldiers to build the citadel, and he utilized the crusaders that he had captured to support his soldiers.

The citadel was a fortress, but in the ancient times, the armies used to lay a siege to any fortress until the other army surrenders. The main reason that forced the king to give up was the lack of water. That was the reason why Saladin dug a well inside the citadel, which was so difficult for people in the past. The well is 90 meters (295 feet) deep, and it was dug into the tough rocks of the Mokatam Mountain.

When you wander around the Citadel of Cairo, you will see how much it is quiet and inviting. However, in the past, this citadel witnessed some bloody events such as the invasion of the French troops under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 when they managed to destroy the walls in order to take control of Egypt.

Al Gawhara Palace, also known as the Palace of Jewel, is another spot that witnessed a brutal incident; Mohamed Ali wanted to gather all the Mamluks leaders to get rid of them, so he invited them and murdered them inside Al Gawhara Palace.

There are 3 mosques within the Citadel of Cairo, in addition to 3 museums. Over and above that, the panorama deck is located at the back entrance of Muhammad Ali Pasha Mosque. When you are at the highest point of the citadel, you will have the feeling that you can see all the land of Egypt.

The Military Museum

This large museum includes antique items and charts that depict the history of the Egyptian army starting from the Pharaonic era until modern times. The paintings show the weapons which the Egyptian soldiers used during the various wars. There are some tanks that the Egyptian army captured from the Israeli army during the war of October 1973.

Moreover, there are eight historical canons and statues of some Pharaonic kings and rulers such as Ramses II and King Menes. There are also other statues of some modern rulers of Egypt such as Saladin Al Ayouby, Mohamed Ali, Al Zaher Beybars, and Khedive Ismail.

The Police National Museum

The Police National Museum incorporates a special collection of objects and weapons that dates back to ancient times. There are photos of famous criminals such as the two sisters Raya and Sekina who were killing people at their house. You will find a hall specified for items and paintings that show the heroism of Ismailia citizens and the Egyptian police during the British colonization.

The Museum of Royal Carriages

This museum includes more than seventy royal chariots that date back to the reign of Khedive Ismail. Many of them were gifts to the ruler of Egypt; on top of that, they were used to welcome the kings or rulers who visited Egypt at that time. Although the carriages look plain and tacky, they were considered as the most fashionable and luxurious mode of transportation.

Citadel Prison Museum

Muhammad Ali Mosque
Muhammad Ali Mosque
When you come out of the Police Museum, you will find the Citadel Prison Museum. There are numerous cells where the outlaws were imprisoned. You can also see mannequins inside the cells dressed like prisoners at the time of each ruler.


There are three mosques such as the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. The mosque is easily seen thanks to its dome, which is more than 50 meters (164 feet) high, in addition to the minarets that rise up to 80 meters (262 feet) high. Don’t forget to visit the impressive Mosque of Sulayman Pasha and Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque.

When Can You Visit the Citadel?

Stay there and enjoy the admirable sunset, but remember that the security at the citadel starts clearing the area of visitors about 15 minutes before 5:00 pm. So you've got to visit the citadel starting from 9 o’clock in the morning, but not after 3 pm, for you to have enough time to wander around and check out the museums and the mosques, especially the impressive Muhammad Ali Pasha Mosque.

How to Reach Saladin Citadel

The citadel is located at Salah Salem St. El-Qal'aa District, Cairo. You can reach it through the metro; take line one and exit at Al-Shohadaa station, then take a microbus or a taxi to Al Sayeda Aisha Square. Then you will walk a little until you reach the gates of the Citadel.

Cairo Citadel Map and Price

You may need to download the map of the citadel that illustrates the parts to ensure that you will visit every single spot inside without missing any places. The entrance fee to the citadel is EGP 180, which equals 11.24 dollars. If you are a student, you will pay only 90 EGP (5.62 dollars).