قلعة صلاح الدين الأيوبي
|Islamic Cairo, Cairo, Egypt|
Cairo Citadel and Mosque of Muhammad Ali, seen from Salah El-Deen Street
|Type||Ayyubid citadel |
The Citadel of Cairo or Citadel of Salah ad-Din (Arabic: قلعة صلاح الدين Qalaʿat Salāḥ ad-Dīn) is a medieval Islamic-era fortification in Cairo, Egypt, built by Salah ad-Din (Saladin) and further developed by subsequent Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its location on a promontory of the Mokattam hills near the center of Cairo commands a strategic position overlooking the city and dominating its skyline. At the time of its construction, it was among the most impressive and ambitious military fortification projects of its time. It is now a preserved historic site, including mosques and museums.
In addition to the initial Ayyubid-era construction started by Saladin begun in 1176, the Citadel underwent major development during the Mamluk Sultanate that followed, culminating with the construction projects of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad in the 14th century. In the first half of the 19th century Muhammad Ali Pasha demolished many of the older buildings and built new palaces and monuments all across the site, giving it much of its present form. In the 20th century it was used as a military garrison by the British occupation and then by the Egyptian army until being opened to the public in 1983. In 1976, it was proclaimed by UNESCO as a part of the World Heritage Site Historic Cairo (Islamic Cairo) which was "the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in the 14th century."
- 1 History
- 1.1 Ayyubid construction: 12th-13th centuries
- 1.2 Mamluk period: 13th-16th centuries
- 1.3 Ottoman period: 16th-18th centuries
- 1.4 Muhammad Ali: 19th-century
- 1.5 Present day
- 2 Yusuf's Well (Salah ad-Din's Well)
- 3 Mosques
- 4 Museums
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The Citadel was built on a promontory beneath the Muqattam Hills, a setting that made it difficult to attack. The efficacy of the Citadel's location is further demonstrated by the fact that it remained the heart of Egyptian government until the 19th century. During this long period, the layout and structure of the Citadel was repeatedly altered and adapted to suit the designs of new rulers and new regimes, which makes it difficult to reconstitute its original plan or even its plan in subsequent periods. There have been three major construction periods leading to the Citadel's current form: 12th-century Ayyubid (starting with Saladin), 14th-century Mamluk (under al-Nasir Muhammad), and in the 19th century under Muhammad Ali. The Citadel stopped being the seat of government when Egypt's ruler, Khedive Ismail, moved to his newly built Abdin Palace in the Ismailiya neighborhood in 1874.
In general, the fortress complex is divided into two parts: the Northern Enclosure (which today contains the National Military Museum and other sites), and the Southern Enclosure (which today contains the Mosque of Muhammad Ali and other sites).
Ayyubid construction: 12th-13th centuries
Saladin's original construction
The Citadel was begun by the Kurdish Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din (Saladin) between 1176 and 1183 CE in order to protect Cairo from potential Crusader attacks and to provide a secure center of government for his new regime (only a few years after he had dismantled the Fatimid Caliphate). This also emulated a feature of many Syrian cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, which had walled citadels that acted as the seat of power and which Saladin was familiar with. Saladin also set out to build a wall, around 20 kilometers long, that would surround both Cairo and Fustat (the nearby former capital), and is recorded as saying: "With a wall I will make the two [cities of Cairo and Fustat] into a unique whole, so that one army may defend them both; and I believe it is good to encircle them with a single wall from the bank of the Nile to the bank of the Nile." The Citadel would be the centerpiece of the wall. While the Citadel was initially completed in 1183–1184, the wall Saladin had envisioned was still under construction in 1238, long after his death. It does not appear to have ever been fully completed after this, though long segments were built.
Saladin charged his chief eunuch and close confidant, Baha al-Din Qaraqush, with overseeing the construction of the new fortifications. Most of the structure was built with limestone quarried from the surrounding Muqattam Hills, however Qaraqush also quarried a number of minor pyramids at Giza and even as far away as Abusir in order to obtain further materials. He also made use of labour provided by Christian prisoners of war captured in Saladin's victories against the Crusaders. The initial fortress built in Saladin's time consisted essentially of what is today's Northern Enclosure, although not all elements of the Northern Enclosure's current walls are original. The southeast and northeast sections of these walls are likely the closest to their original forms. Also from Saladin's time is the so-called Yusuf's Well, a deep underground well accessed through a spiral staircase which provided water for the fortress. The original southwestern section of Saladin's enclosure has disappeared but is likely to have extended around this well and around the current site of al-Nasir Muhammad's mosque (making the original enclosure slightly bigger than the existing Northern Enclosure today). The carved image of a double-headed eagle, found on one of the towers of Saladin's western walls (now near the Police Museum), is a curious feature which also dates from his reign. The eagle's heads are missing today, but their original appearance was noted by chroniclers.:24
Only one original gate, Bab al-Mudarraj, has survived to the present day. It is located along the walls of the Northern Enclosure just west of the current Harem Palace (National Military Museum). It was originally the main gate of the Citadel, but today it is obscured by later constructions from Muhammad Ali's time. Its name was derived from the carved stone steps (darraj) which led up to it from the path that connected the Citadel to the city below. It was also on this gate that a foundation inscription was discovered which dates the completion of the Citadel to 1183-1184. Nonetheless, construction of one kind or another almost certainly continued under Saladin's Ayyubid successors.
Construction under Saladin's successors
Construction of the Ayyubid Citadel appears to have continued under Sultan al-'Adil (ruled 1200-1218), Saladin's brother and later successor, and was probably finished under the reign of al-Kamil (1218-1238). Al-'Adil had already supervised some of the construction under Saladin, while al-Kamil in turn probably worked on the Citadel during al-'Adil's reign when the latter gave him the viceroyship of Egypt in 1200 (a prelude to becoming sultan later). The rounded towers in the outer walls of the Northern Enclosure date from Saladin's initial construction while the large rectangular towers date to al-Adil's reign. The two large round towers in the far northeastern corner of the enclosure, known as Burg al-Ramla and Burg al-Hadid, are towers from Saladin's time which al-Kamil subsequently reinforced in 1207.
More significantly, al-Kamil built or completed the palaces in the southern section of the Citadel, and became the first ruler to actually move there in 1206. In addition to the palaces, a number of other structures were built, including a mosque, a royal library, and a "hall of justice". In 1213 al-Kamil also established a horse market and a maydan, or hippodrome, in the area known as Rumayla to the south and west of the Citadel, which was used for equestrian training and military parades. This was on the same site that Ahmad Ibn Tulun established a hippodrome in the 9th century. This work established the overall plan of the Citadel area for centuries to come: the northern part of the citadel was devoted to military functions, the southern part to the sultan's private residence and the state administration, and outside, at the southwestern foot of the Citadel, was the parade ground which remained for centuries. Al-Kamil was likely also responsible for building or completing the first water aqueduct which ran along the top of Saladin's city walls to the southwest and brought water from the Nile to the Citadel.
Sultan al-Salih (ruled 1240-1249) subsequently moved away from the Citadel again and built himself a new fortified enclosure on Roda Island (which also became the barracks of the "Bahri" Mamluks who took power after him). Only under the Mamluks did the Citadel finally become the permanent residence of the sultans.
Mamluk period: 13th-16th centuries
Early Bahri Mamluk period
Under the early Bahri Mamluks, the Citadel was continuously developed and the Southern Enclosure in particular was expanded and became the site of important monumental structures. Al-Zahir Baybars, al-Mansur Qalawun, al-Ashraf Khalil and al-Nasir Muhammad each built or rebuilt the audience hall (throne hall), the main mosque, the palaces, or other structures. Unlike the earlier Ayyubid buildings, the Mamluk buildings were increasingly designed to be visible from afar and to dominate the city's skyline. Many of these structures have not survived, with few exceptions.
Baybars (ruled 1260-1277) was the first one to split the Citadel into two areas by building the Bab al-Qulla, the gate and wall which today separates the Southern and Northern Enclosures of the Citadel. It was named after a keep which he built nearby and which was later torn down by Qalawun. The gate itself was rebuilt again by al-Nasir Muhammad in 1320. The gate was intended to control access to the newly-delimited Southern Enclosure which Baybars then developed into a more elaborate and more exclusive royal complex. A part of the Southern Enclosure became reserved for the harem, the private and domestic area of the sultan and his family, while another part became the site of more monumental structures whose functions were more public, ceremonial, or administrative. Among the structures he built here was one called the Dar al-Dhahab ("the Hall of Gold"), which he seems to have used as his private reception hall and which may have been located in the area of the present Police Museum. Another important structure he built in the area is referred to as the Qubba al-Zahiriyya ("the Dome of al-Zahir"), a monumental and richly decorated hall with a central dome which acted as an audience hall or throne hall. It may have been a new structure or an addition to an existing Ayyubid structure, and it was probably the predecessor of al-Nasir Muhammad's "Great Iwan".
Sultan al-Mansur Qalawun (ruled 1279-1290) either built or significantly renovated a structure known as the Dar al-Niyaba which served as the palace of the sultan's vice-regent. He also demolished Baybars' Qubba al-Zahiriyya and replaced it with his own domed structure, the Qubba al-Mansuriyya. More significantly in the long run, Qalawun was the first to create elite regiments of mamluks (soldiers of slave origin) who resided in the various towers of the Citadel, which earned them the name "Burji" Mamluks (Mamluks of the Tower). It was these cohorts of mamluks who would eventually dominate the sultanate during the Burji Mamluk period.
Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil built a qa'a (reception hall) in 1291-1292, referred to as the Qa'a al-Ashrafiyya. Its remains were excavated in the late 20th century and are still visible today, just northwest of the present-day gate called Bab al-'Alam (Gate of the Flag) and across the terrace from the current Police Museum. The remains indicate that the hall was decorated with glass mosaics and marble paneling. It was one of the few structures in this area which al-Nasir Muhammad did not destroy but instead re-used for various purposes, and in the Burji Mamluk period it seems to have replaced the Dar al-Niyaba as the palace of the viceregent. Al-Ashraf also, once again, demolished the qubba or throne hall of his father Qalawun and replaced it with his own structure, the Iwan al-Ashrafiyya (the word "iwan" seems to have been used from then on for this particular type of building).
The reign of al-Nasir Muhammad
The greatest builder of the Citadel during the Mamluk period was al-Nasir Muhammad, another son of Qalawun, who was sultan three times over a period of nearly fifty years between 1293 and 1341. It was most likely under his reign that the borders of the Southern Enclosure expanded to their current outline, in order to accommodate the new palaces and structures he built. He is responsible for several major works in the Citadel, though unfortunately most of them fell into ruin during the Ottoman period and were finally demolished by Muhammad Ali in the 19th century. In addition to his official palaces and his semi-public monuments in the Southern Enclosure, al-Nasir reserved the southeastern corner of the enclosure (the location of the al-Gawhara Palace today) for a private courtyard and garden for his harem, probably as Baybars had done.
Al-Nasir demolished, yet again, the Iwan throne hall of his brother al-Ashraf in 1311, and replaced it with his own structure known as the Great Iwan (al-Iwan al-Kabir). This may have been out of a desire to make it appear even more prominent and monumental, as well as to perhaps accommodate larger ceremonies. In any case, he demolished it and rebuilt it yet again in 1333, and it is this incarnation of the Great Iwan which survived up until the 19th century (when it was destroyed during Muhammad Ali's constructions). It was frequently cited by chroniclers as the most impressive structure in Cairo, more monumental than almost any of the Mamluk mosques. It served as the sultan's public and ceremonial throne room, and continued to be used by Mamluk sultans after him. Some information about its appearance has been preserved by the drawings of its ruins which were made by the French expedition of Napoleon in the Description de l'Égypte.
In 1312 al-Nasir also ordered the renovation of the water aqueduct which brought water from the Nile to the Citadel. His predecessor, al-Ashraf, is responsible for building an octagonal water intake tower on the shores of the Nile, from which water was raised and transferred along the aqueduct, but al-Nasir completed the project. This improvement of the infrastructure allowed him in turn to embark on more ambitious projects within the Citadel.
Among the most important constructions was the Striped Palace or "Ablaq" Palace (Qasr al-Ablaq), built in 1313-1314. Its name derived from the red-and-black ablaq masonry that marked its exterior. The palace was connected to the Great Iwan by a private passage or corridor and was used for receptions and private ceremonies. The walls of the palace itself formed a part of the new outer boundary of the Citadel's enclosure: it was located on an escarpment overlooking the city below, and the escarpment, along with the foundation walls of the palace, acted as the effective outer wall of the Citadel at its western corner. Because of this, al-Nasir was able to build a loggia on the side of the palace from which he could freely observe the activities in the stables and in the maydan (hippodrome) at the foot of the Citadel below, as well as a private door and staircase which gave him direct access between the palace and the hippodrome. The interior layout of the palace consisted of a large qa'a (reception hall) courtyard with two unequal iwans (vaulted chambers open on one side) facing each other and a central dome in the middle. The larger iwan, on the northwestern side, gave access to the outside loggia, while the southeastern one gave access to the private passage to the Great Iwan. From here one could access three "inner palaces" were the sultan's wives and concubines lived. Some of these inner palaces were on different levels, but each of them apparently followed the same layout as the first one: a central qa'a courtyard with two iwans, one of which gave a view onto the city. The palace complex was richly decorated with marble paneling, gold, colorful floral-pattern mosaics that included mother-of-pearl, and gilded ceilings painted in blue or lapis lazuli. The palace's location was just south of the current site of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, but only limited remains of its lower levels and foundations can still be seen today, including a set of massive stone corbels along the walls of the Citadel at this point.
Lastly, al-Nasir's other most notable contribution, and the only major structure of his reign still preserved at the Citadel, was the Mosque of al-Nasir, also situated in the Southern Enclosure. This was built in 1318 on the site of an earlier Ayyubid main mosque which he demolished. Al-Nasir renovated his mosque again in 1335. While its structure is well-preserved, most of its rich marble paneling decoration was stripped away and shipped to Istanbul by the Ottoman sultan Selim I after his conquest of Egypt.
Burji Mamluk period
The Burji Mamluk period saw little construction in the Citadel by comparison with the earlier Mamluk period. The private harem courtyard in the southeastern corner of the Southern Enclosure, known as the hosh, became increasingly used to build new reception halls and other structures with slightly more public functions. The later Burji sultans Qaytbay and al-Ghuri built palaces in this part of the Citadel, on the site of what is now the 19th-century al-Gawhara Palace.
Ottoman period: 16th-18th centuries
The Citadel was neglected during the Ottoman period and many Mamluk structures fell into ruin, although some of Citadel walls were rebuilt or extended in the 16th-17th centuries. Due to rivalries between different military corps in the Ottoman forces, the Citadel was divided essentially into three areas to house three different elements of the Ottoman garrison: the Northern Enclosure housed the barracks of the Janissaries, the Southern Enclosure was used by the Ottoman pasha (governor) and his own troops, and another lower western enclosure, which contained the stables, housed the 'Azaban (or Azap) corps. Each section had its own mosque and facilities.
The first mosque built in the Citadel after the Mamluk period was the Mosque of Sulayman Pasha in the Northern Enclosure, built by the Ottoman governor in 1528 for use by the Janissaries. It is one of the few mosques in Cairo that represents something close to the classical Ottoman architectural style. The lower, western enclosure which can be seen today below the Mosque of Muhammad Ali was historically the area which housed the stables of the Citadel. It's not clear when walls were first built around it, though they were likely already enclosed in Mamluk times. This enclosure was occupied by the 'Azaban soldiers, and contains the Mosque of al-'Azab which was built by Ahmad Katkhuda in 1697. (It is possible that Ahmad Katkhuda merely renovated an existing early Burji Mamluk mosque and added the present-day Ottoman-style minaret to it.) The rest of the area is presently occupied by various 19th-century buildings, including storehouses and old factories. The lower enclosure was accessed from the west through the monumental gate called Bab al-'Azab, which was built by Radwan Katkhuda al-Julfi in 1754, probably on the site of an earlier Mamluk gate known as Bab al-Istabl (Gate of the Stables). The gate was modeled on the old Fatimid gate of Bab al-Futuh in the north of Cairo, but its interior facade was later remodeled into a neo-Gothic style during the Khedival period.
Muhammad Ali: 19th-century
Muhammad Ali was a pasha of Albanian origin who was appointed by the Ottoman sultan in 1805 to restore order after the French occupation of Egypt but who subsequently established himself as de facto independent ruler of the country. He consolidated power through a famous and violent coup in 1811 which eliminated the remaining Mamluk class that still formed the country's elites. He invited them to a celebration banquet in the Citadel, and as they were leaving and passing along the road leading from the upper Citadel to Bab al-Azab, regiments of his Albanian gunmen opened fire from above and massacred all of them.
The Citadel is sometimes referred to as Mohamed Ali Citadel (Arabic: قلعة محمد علي Qalaʿat Muḥammad ʿAlī), because it contains the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, which he built between 1828 and 1848, perched on the summit of the citadel. This Ottoman-style mosque was built in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali's second son who died in 1816. However, it also represents Muhammad Ali's efforts to erase symbols of the Mamluk dynasty that he replaced. Many of the former Mamluk structures, including the Great Iwan and the Ablaq Palace of al-Nasir Muhammad, were demolished to make way for his new mosque and its renovated surroundings. Muhammad Ali himself was eventually buried in the mosque. His mosque also replaced the nearby Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad as the Citadel's official main mosque. Muhammad Ali's mosque, with its large dome and tall pencil-like Ottoman minarets, is one of the most prominent monuments on Cairo's skyline to this day.
Another obvious change that Muhammad Ali enacted pertained to the uses of the Citadel's northern and southern enclosures: during the Mamluk period the Southern Enclosure was the royal residential area and the Northern Enclosure was mostly military, but Muhammad Ali built his Harem Palace (which now houses the National Military Museum) in the Northern Enclosure, erasing the old functional division between the two sections of the Citadel. He also built or rebuilt some of the walls. Notably, he rebuilt the Bab al-Qulla gate and the surrounding wall which separated the Northern and Southern enclosures from each other, giving it its current look. The gate's form today once again emulates the appearance of Bab al-Futuh but introduces some Turkish elements. In 1825 he also built the gate known as Bab al-Jadid (the "New Gate") at the point where a new carriage road entered the Citadel from the north.
For many years up to the late 20th century, the Citadel was closed to the public and used as a military garrison and base; at first by the British occupation army, and then, after 1946, by the Egyptian military. In 1983, the Egyptian government opened a large part of the Citadel to the public and initiated refurbishment programs to convert some of its old buildings into museums, though the military retains a presence. It is now a major tourist site for both Egyptians and foreigners alike.
Yusuf's Well (Salah ad-Din's Well)
To supply water to the Citadel, Saladin built an 85-metre (280 ft) deep well known as the Well of Joseph (or Bir Yusuf), so-called because Saladin's birth name, Yūsif, is the Arabic equivalent of Joseph. His chief eunuch and confidant, Qaraqush, who oversaw construction of the Citadel, was also responsible for digging the well. The well is considered a masterpiece of medieval engineering and still exists today. Its shaft was divided into two sections, almost all of which is cut out of the rock itself. The upper part has a wider shaft which is surrounded by a long spiral staircase, separated from the main shaft only by a thin wall of rock. For this reason, the well is also known as the Spiral Well (Bir al-Halazon). The stairs could be covered with earth to make it into a ramp for oxen to travel down to its bottom. The lower part of the well was another shaft descending to the level of underground water seeping in from the Nile. At the bottom of the upper section, two oxen turned a waterwheel that brought the water up from the bottom of the well, while another waterwheel at the top of the well, also powered by oxen, brought the water up the rest of the way. Once water was raised from the well to the surface, it traveled to the Citadel on a series of aqueducts.
During the reign of al-Nasir Muhammad, the Well of Joseph was insufficient to produce enough water for the numerous animals and humans then living in the Citadel. To increase the volume of water, al-Nasir renovated an Ayyubid aqueduct system (probably originally completed by al-Kamil) that consisted of a number of water wheels on the Nile which raised water to an octagonal tower (built by his predecessor al-Ashraf Khalil), from which the water was then transported along the Ayyubid city wall to the base of the Citadel. From the foot of the Citadel, the water was then carried up to the palaces via another system of waterwheels. This water supply could not be guaranteed in the event of a siege, however, making Saladin's well an essential water source.
There are three main mosques at the Citadel extent today:
The mosque was built between 1830 and 1848, although not completed until the reign of Said Pasha in 1857. It is located in the Southern Enclosure and is open to the public today. The architect was Yusuf Bushnak from Istanbul and its model was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in that city. Muhammad Ali Pasha was buried in a tomb carved from Carrara marble, in the courtyard of the mosque. His body was transferred here from Hawsh al-Basha in 1857.
Built in 1318, during the early Bahri Mamluk period, as the royal mosque of the Citadel where the sultans of Cairo performed their Friday prayers, today this hypostyle mosque is still similar to how it looked in the 1300 though many repairs have been made and only some of its original decoration has been restored. The parts of the building relying on plastered walls have been reinforced. There have also been attempts to restore the light-blue color of the ceiling. It is located in the Southern Enclosure and is open to the public.
Built in 1528, it was first of the Citadel's Ottoman-style mosques and is one of the few structures in Cairo closely resembling the "classical" Ottoman style of the 16th century. It is located in the Northern Enclosure,, just northeast of the Harim Palace (Military Museum). It was built on the ruins of the earlier Mosque of Sidi Sariyya built by Abu-Mansur Qasta, an amir in the Fatimid era (predating the Citadel). Qasta's tomb, dated to 1140 CE, still exists in the mosque today.
This lesser-known mosque is situated right behind the main western gate, Bab al-'Azab. Both are named after the Ottoman military regiments known as 'Azaban (or Azaps) who were housed in this part of the Citadel during the Ottoman period. The mosque was built by the Mamluk amir Ahmad Katkhuda in 1697, but it has been argued that it incorporates, or was a renovation of, an earlier Mamluk mosque or religious structure. Although not publicly accessible, it can be spotted by its pointed Ottoman-style minaret.
The Citadel also contains several museums:
- Al-Gawhara Palace Museum
Also known as Bijou Palace, is a palace and museum commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1814. The palace was designed and constructed by artisans contracted from a variety of countries, including Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians and Albanians. Muhammad Ali's official divan or audience hall, where the pasha received guests, contains a 1000kg chandelier sent to him by Louis-Philippe I of France. The palace also contains the throne of Muhammad Ali Pasha that was a gift from the King of Italy.
Inaugurated in 1983, it houses a collection of unique Royal Carriages attributed to different historical periods, from the reign of Khedive Ismail until the reign of King Farouk, in addition to other collection of unique antiques related to the carriages.
The official museum of the Egyptian Army. The museum was established in 1937 at the old building of the Egyptian Ministry of War in downtown Cairo. It was later moved to a temporary location in the Garden City district of Cairo. In November 1949 the museum was moved to the Harem Palace at the Cairo citadel. It has been renovated several times since, in 1982 and 1993.
- Police Museum
The museum is just north of the gate known as Bab al-'Alam, on a terrace commanding sweeping views of the city below. It is housed in the Citadel's former prison and contains exhibits on topics such as famous political assassinations and displays of the murder weapon used.
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