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Feel the Cool Breeze Sweep Over You at the Cairo Citadel

Published by Jason Hussong, Writer

Country: Egypt

The Experience

The Citadel in Cairo, Egypt was built by military genius Saladin, a man who retook the Holy Land from the Crusaders, as a means to protect and unite the cities of Cairo and Fustat. Saladin planned to build a massive wall around the two cities, using the Citadel as its centerpiece, but was unable to complete it before he died in Syria in 1193 A.D. The huge wall was ultimately finished in 1238 A.D. with the Cairo Citadel prominently set on Muqattam Hill, overlooking the city. Saladin knew the hill was a great strategic location as it offered a commanding vantage point of the surrounding area, but it was also endowed with another powerful gift, wind. It was here, long before the wall or the Citadel were built, that people gathered to enjoy the “Dome of the Wind.”

Egypt's Citadel is one of the most popular medieval sites in Cairo encompassing three mosques, a military museum and a beautiful park. These ornate history-laden complexes harbor is a simpler pleasure though, an outcrop above Cairo perfect for catching a cool breeze. In 810 A.D. the governor had a pavilion constructed so people could sit back, relax, and enjoy the grand views of Cairo while basking in the refreshing breeze. Muqattam Hill was a great place to relax and enjoy the day long before the Cairo Citadel was built, and is so once again following the movement of the seat of government to its new home, the Abdin Palace, in the 1860's.

The Cairo Citadel has changed significantly over the years as various leaders have left their own mark on the complex. The most prominent and well known of these changes was the addition of the grand Mohamed Ali Mosque, which has dominated the Cairo skyline with its piercing minarets since its completion in 1848. Beside the Mohamed Ali Mosque is the Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad, and although not as large, it offers greater eloquence. The beautiful masonry and ornate craftsmanship displayed here is the quintessential Ottoman style used in many Islamic monuments, and have captivated countless people over the years. The only original parts of the once mighty fortress that remain from initial construction are parts of the walls and a well that once supplied the Saladin Citadel with water. Unfortunately the area around the 285 foot (87 meters) deep Bir Yusuf Well is not open for tourists to investigate.

Defense of the Cairo Citadel is no longer a concern as it was in Saladin’s day. Instead today, the three mosques built in its boundaries serve as active homes of prayer; the large military museum remembers a long history of the armies that have ruled over Egypt; and a park, not far from the small Suleyman Pasha Mosque, is a great place to relax and let a cool breeze sweep over you. After a day exploring Egypt's Citadel and all it encompasses in its mighty walls, it’s easy to see why the non-Pharaonic structure is so popular, with tourists and locals alike, as a fantastic spot to relax and enjoy the wind washing over you.

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When to Go to Cairo Citadel

The best time to visit the Cairo Citadel is during the many daily prayers held at any one of the mosques in the complex. They're very welcoming of respectful visitors who are interested in learning more about the history of both the religion and the Citadel. A visit can ideally be combined with a picnic in the park if the temperatures aren't too hot, so it's best to avoid the scorching highs in the summer months and go in fall, spring or winter.

Odds n' Ends

The military museum at Egypt's Citadel is not worth the time in a visit unless you have an extreme interest in military tactics and history. For any general visitor it will tend to be dull and boring, so spend your time better by exploring the rest of the grounds in the complex. The Suleyman Pasha Mosque, the first Ottoman-style mosque built in Egypt, is worth a visit instead as it can definitely help put the massive Mohamed Ali Mosque in perspective.

Also, the nearby Khan el-Khalili bazaar is a great nearby spot to stop and pick up some snacks if you plan to have a picnic within the Citadel's walls. It's also worth a visit though once you're done at the Citadel. It's winding alleys make for an interesting adventure as you shop, haggle for bargains, sip tea and explore the ancient maze of shops at night.

Carpe Diem! Book to do this experience now!

You will visit Cairo's three enduring ramparts: Bab Al-Nasr (Gate of Victory), Bab Al-Futuh (Gate of Conquests) and Bab Al-Zuwayla, as well as the Street ...
Starting from $125.10 per person.

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Arabic , Italian are some of the languages spoken in Egypt. If you know of a freely available phrase book or podcast for one of the missing languages, let us know!


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