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The Citadel of Qaitbay: A Beautiful and Historic Fortress in Egypt

Jul 23

Nestled along Egypt's Mediterranean coast, the Citadel of Qaitbay stands as a magnificent testament to history. Built by Sultan Qaitbey in the 14th century, this fortified fortress was designed to protect Alexandria from the advances of the Ottoman Empire.

Despite its original purpose being in vain, the Citadel remains an impressive structure, spanning an area of about 2 hectares. Its current form results from extensive reconstruction after being heavily damaged during the British bombardment 1882.

Today, the Citadel offers a glimpse into the past and houses a small naval museum. As you explore its interior, you can’t help but marvel at the grandiosity of the structure and imagine the towering Pharos Lighthouse that once stood on its very foundation.

Join us on a journey through time as we delve into the rich history and captivating beauty of the Citadel of Qaitbay.


Overview of the Citadel of Qaitbay and its historical significance

The Citadel of Qaitbay, located in Alexandria, Egypt, is a stunning fortress with a rich historical significance. It was built in the 15th century by Sultan Qaitbay, who aimed to fortify the city against potential invasions from the sea. This impressive structure stands on the exact spot where the legendary Lighthouse of Alexandria once stood.

The Citadel of Qaitbay played a crucial role in protecting Alexandria's harbour and served as a defensive stronghold for centuries. It witnessed key moments in Egyptian history, including battles against Ottoman and European forces. However, the fortress fell into disrepair over time until the 20th century, when restoration efforts began.

Today, visitors to the Citadel can marvel at its architectural features, such as its massive stone walls, intricate archways, and decorative elements displaying Mamluk and Ottoman influences. The interior houses a mosque and a naval museum, where artefacts and model ships provide insight into the city's maritime history.

A visit to the Citadel of Qaitbay is complemented by a stroll along its picturesque coastal promenade, offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby attractions include the Montaza Palace and the Roman Amphitheater, offering visitors a deeper understanding of Egypt's diverse history.

The Citadel of Qaitbay stands as a testament to Alexandria's maritime heritage and the architectural prowess of its builders. It's historical significance and stunning beauty make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and travellers alike.


History of the Citadel of Qaitbay

Exploring the origins and construction of the fortress

The Citadel of Qaitbay, located on the Mediterranean coast of Alexandria, Egypt, has a rich historical background that dates back to the 15th century. Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf Al-Din Qaitbay commissioned its construction to protect the city's eastern harbour from potential invaders, particularly the Ottoman Empire and the Crusaders.

Built on the site where the famous Alexandria Lighthouse once stood, the Citadel was constructed using the remnants of the ruined lighthouse and other materials sourced from Qaitbay's ongoing efforts to fortify Alexandria. The fortress's strategic location allowed for a clear sea view, ensuring that any approaching threats would be easily detected.

The architecture of the Citadel showcases elements of both Mamluk and Ottoman design. The fortress is surrounded by high walls and fortified by defensive features such as gun emplacements, ramparts, and a drawbridge. Inside the Citadel are various structures, including a mosque, a palace, and underground halls that were used for storage and as a prison.

The construction of the Citadel of Qaitbay marks a significant architectural achievement of its time and stands as a testament to the military prowess and innovation of the Mamluk Dynasty. Today, visitors can explore the fortress, admire its impressive architectural features, and learn about its historical and cultural importance within Egyptian history.


Architecture and Design

A detailed description of the architectural features and layout of the Citadel

The Citadel of Qaitbay is a beautiful fortress on the Mediterranean coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Built-in the 15th century, the Citadel is an excellent example of Mamluk military architecture and stands as an iconic landmark of the city. The fortress was strategically designed to protect the city against potential invasions and was constructed using a combination of stones from ancient ruins and newly quarried materials.

Architectural Features:

  • The Citadel is surrounded by high walls, which create an imposing presence and offer stunning views of the sea and the city.
  • The main entrance features a massive gate called Bab el-Bahr, or the Sea Gate, which leads to a fortified courtyard.
  • Visitors can find various structures inside the fortress, including towers, bastions, and chambers.
  • The iconic central tower, known as the Qaitbay Tower, is a cylindrical structure that offers panoramic vistas from its top.
  • The fortress is adorned with intricate decorative elements, such as carved arches, decorative motifs, and inscriptions in Arabic script.


  • The Citadel spans an area of approximately 30,000 square meters, with its layout designed strategically to maximize defence capabilities.
  • The main structures are arranged along two parallel walls, forming an elongated rectangle.
  • Inner courtyards and passageways connect the different spaces and provide access to the various parts of the fortress.
  • The architecture of the Citadel reflects a fusion of Islamic, Ottoman, and European influences, showcasing the region's rich cultural heritage.

Visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay provides a unique opportunity to explore the architectural marvels and relive the history of Alexandria.


Historical Events and Significance

Highlighting key events that took place at the Citadel and its role in Egyptian history

The Citadel of Qaitbay has played a significant role in Egyptian history and has witnessed various key events over the years. Here are some notable highlights:

  1. Construction and Purpose: Built in the 15th century by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qaitbay, the Citadel served as a defensive fortress on the Mediterranean coast to protect against potential invasions by sea.

  2. Battle with the Ottoman Empire: In the early 16th century, the Citadel was attacked by the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Selim I. Despite the fierce resistance from the defending forces, the Ottomans managed to capture and occupy the fortress. This marked a significant turning point in Egypt's history, marking the beginning of Ottoman rule.

  3. Napoleon Bonaparte's Occupation: During Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in Egypt in 1798, the Citadel of Qaitbay became a strategic point of interest. Napoleon's forces occupied the fortress for a period before retreating from Egypt due to several setbacks.

  4. Restoration and Preservation: After years of neglect, the Citadel underwent extensive restoration and preservation efforts in the 20th century. Various restoration projects aimed at maintaining and reviving the historical and architectural significance of the fortress have successfully preserved its unique heritage.

Today, the Citadel of Qaitbay is a testament to Egypt's rich history. It is a popular tourist attraction, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the events unfolding within its walls.


Restoration and Preservation Efforts

Discussing the efforts made to restore and preserve the Citadel over the years

Over the years, significant efforts have been made to restore and preserve the Citadel of Qaitbay, ensuring its historical and cultural significance remains intact for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

This beautiful fortress has undergone various restoration projects to maintain its structural integrity and showcase its unique architectural features. Skilled craftsmen and conservation experts have meticulously worked on repairing and reconstructing damaged areas, using traditional building techniques and materials to maintain authenticity.

In addition to structural restoration, preservation efforts have been focused on conserving the Citadel's historical artefacts and exhibits. This includes carefully restoring ancient artefacts found within the fortress and implementing advanced climate control systems and security measures to protect them from degradation and theft.

In collaboration with international organizations, the Egyptian government has played a crucial role in supporting these restoration and preservation initiatives. Their dedication and commitment to safeguarding the Citadel's historical heritage have ensured that visitors can witness the magnificence of this ancient structure and gain a deeper understanding of Egypt's rich history.

Visitors to the Citadel of Qaitbay can appreciate the impressive restoration work as they explore the fortress and learn about its storied past. The site serves as a living testament to the efforts to preserve and promote Egypt's cultural heritage, making it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and travellers alike.


Visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay

Useful information for visitors, including opening hours, ticket prices, and notable attractions within the fortress

If you are planning a visit to the Citadel of Qaitbay, you should keep some useful information in mind. The fortress is open to visitors throughout the week from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, allowing ample time for exploration and immersing yourself in its rich history.

Here are the ticket prices:

  • Egyptian citizens: EGP 10
  • Egyptian students: EGP 5
  • Foreign tourists: EGP 100

Before embarking on your journey, you should check the official website or contact the local tourist authorities for any updates or specific guidelines related to visiting hours and ticket prices.

Once inside the Citadel, there are several notable attractions that you must not miss. The centrepiece of the fortress is the iconic Qaitbay Mosque, with its stunning architectural features and intricate designs. Visitors can also explore the various towers and battlements that offer breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and Alexandria's skyline. The Maritime Museum, housed within the Citadel, showcases exhibits highlighting Egypt's maritime history and artefacts from various periods.

Visitors can also stroll along the fortress walls, enjoying the panoramic views and photo opportunities. Lastly, don't forget to stop by the gift shop, where you can purchase souvenirs and mementoes to commemorate your visit to this historic site.

Here are some notable attractions within the Citadel:

  • Qaitbay Mosque
  • Towers and battlements with panoramic views
  • Maritime Museum
  • Gift shop with souvenirs

Visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay promises an unforgettable experience, allowing you to delve into Egypt's rich history while marvelling at the beauty of this centuries-old fortress.


Surrounding Area and Attractions

Exploring nearby landmarks and attractions that complement a visit to the Citadel of Qaitbay

When visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay, several nearby landmarks and attractions complement the experience and offer further insights into the history and culture of Egypt:

  1. Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa: Located just a short distance from the Citadel, the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are an ancient burial site dating back to the 2nd century AD. Explore the intricate tunnels and chambers adorned with beautiful carvings and artworks.

  2. Bibliotheca Alexandrina: A modern library and cultural centre situated near the Citadel. It is a tribute to the ancient Library of Alexandria and houses numerous books, manuscripts, and artworks. The library also hosts exhibitions, events, and lectures, making it a must-visit for book lovers and history enthusiasts.

  3. Montaza Palace: A stunning palace complex on the Mediterranean coast, Montaza Palace offers beautiful gardens, a secluded beach, and breathtaking views. Explore the grandeur of Egyptian architecture, stroll through the lush gardens, and enjoy the serene atmosphere.

  4. Qaitbay Mosque: Adjacent to the Citadel, the Qaitbay Mosque is a historic mosque built in the 15th century. Admire the intricate details of the architecture, including the ornate domes and minarets, and take a moment to appreciate the peaceful ambience.

  5. Alexandria National Museum: Located in a stunning restored palace, the Alexandria National Museum offers a wealth of historical artefacts and exhibits that showcase the city's rich heritage. Learn about the ancient civilizations that thrived in Alexandria through the well-curated collections.

Visiting these attractions with the Citadel of Qaitbay comprehensively explores Alexandria's history and architectural wonders.


Interesting Facts and Trivia

Providing lesser-known facts and intriguing trivia about the Citadel

Here are some lesser-known facts and intriguing trivia about the Citadel of Qaitbay:

  • The Citadel was built on the site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse stood for centuries before being destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century, and its ruins were repurposed to construct the fort.

  • Sultan Qaitbay, the Mamluk sultan who commissioned the fort's construction, was originally a Greek slave who rose to become one of Egypt's most powerful rulers. His military prowess and strategic alliances with other nations helped him establish a formidable regional presence.

  • The Citadel served as a defence against the increasing threats of invasion by the Ottomans and other European powers. It was crucial in safeguarding Egypt's coast and maritime trade routes.

  • The construction of the Citadel utilized elements from the remains of ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations, giving it a unique blend of architectural styles. Visitors can admire the striking fusion of Islamic and medieval European design elements throughout the fortress.

  • The Citadel of Qaitbay offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, making it a popular spot for tourists and locals. Its strategic location on the coast allows visitors to appreciate the beauty of Alexandria and its surrounding areas.

  • Today, the Citadel is not only an important historical landmark but also a cultural hub. It hosts various cultural events, exhibitions, and festivals celebrating Egypt's rich heritage and promoting cultural exchange.

Whether you're a history enthusiast or simply looking for a captivating destination, visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay offers a unique glimpse into Egypt's remarkable past and architectural grandeur.


Summarizing the historical and cultural significance of the Citadel of Qaitbay

The Citadel of Qaitbay, located on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, holds great historical and cultural significance. It was built in the 15th century by the Mamluk Sultan Qaitbay to protect the city of Alexandria from invasions. The fortress stands as a testament to the rich history of Egypt and the region's strategic importance.

Throughout its history, the Citadel of Qaitbay has witnessed significant events. It was an important military stronghold during the Ottoman Empire and the French occupation of Egypt. The fortress played a crucial role in defending Alexandria from various threats, including repeated attacks by European powers.

Today, the Citadel is an architectural masterpiece and a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore its well-preserved defensive walls, towers, and courtyards, which provide a glimpse into the military strategies and architectural prowess of the time. The stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea from the fortress offer a breathtaking experience.

The restoration and preservation efforts on the Citadel have contributed to its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These initiatives have ensured that future generations can appreciate and learn from the historical significance of this remarkable fortress.

Visiting the Citadel of Qaitbay is a must for history enthusiasts and those interested in the rich cultural heritage of Egypt. It serves as a window into the past, allowing visitors to appreciate the grandeur and significance of this iconic landmark.