Eagle of Saladin

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Sketch of the original "eagle of Saladin" of the Cairo Citadel, Cairo, Egypt

The Eagle of Saladin (Arabic: نسر صلاح الدين‎), in Egypt known as the Egyptian Eagle (Arabic: النسر المصريal-nessr al-missry),[1] also known as the Republican Eagle (النسر الجمهوريal-nessr al-jumhūri), is a heraldic eagle used as a iconic symbol of Egypt. It is currently also used as part of coat of arms of Egypt, Iraq, and Palestine.

Origin of the term[edit]

Egyptian Eagle in flight

The Ayyubid founder Saladin carried a yellow flag adorned with an eagle.[2] The Eagle was taken as a symbol of Cairo and Egypt when Saladin first ruled over the Egyptians; it was inspired by the Ancient Egyptian vulture drawn all over the walls of Egyptian temples as a symbol of pride and dignity. The association with Saladin is also due to the depiction of an Egyptian vulture on the west wall of the Cairo Citadel which was built during the rule of Saladin, although the current design of the eagle itself is of more recent date specifically after the Egyptian revolution of 1952. Leo Aryeh Mayer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem notes that "[the] eagle in the Citadel of Cairo is of very uncertain date, probably considerably later than the period of Saladin".[3] The eagle is headless and is assumed to have originally been a double-headed eagle. The eagle is suggested to be transferred there from an unknown location at an unknown time prior to 1670.[4]


Coat of arms of the Republic of Egypt (1953–58).
Coat of arms of the United Arab Republic (1958–1961).
Coat of arms of the People's Republic of South Yemen (1967–1970).
Coat of arms of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (1970–1990).

In Modern history, the eagle with its current yellowish form was first introduced as a symbol of the Republic of Egypt during the 1952 Egyptian revolution. The emblem was then inherited as the U.A.R. coat of arms in 1958, and from this time the "Egyptian eagle" or the Eagle of Saladin was taken to represent wider nationalism and as a symbol of unity.

Following the 1963 Ramadan Revolution by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Iraq Region, the Arab eagle was introduced as the new coat of arms of Iraq, directly based on the design used by Gamal Abdel Nasser for the Egyptian revolution.[5]

The Federation of Arab Republics established by Muammar Gaddafi in 1972 at first adopted a Hawk of Quraish as its emblem, but this was replaced by the Arab eagle in 1984.[6] Conversely, Gaddafi's Libyan Arab Republic in 1969 also adopted the eagle, but replaced it by the Hawk of Quraish in 1972.

In the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the eagle was associated with the Mubarak regime. Mehrez (2012) describes a stenciled graffiti depicting the Eagle of Saladin turned upside down as a call for the regime's downfall.

Ganzeer, an Egyptian graphics artist widely known for his revolutionary street art, explains, 'The current "Eagle of Saladin" emblem in the white band of the flag, however, wasn't used until 1984. Which means ... the current eagle on our flag belongs to Mubarak's regime.' This connection of the 'Eagle of Saladin' with the Mubarak regime provides the key to understanding this stencil piece.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Whitney (1975). Flags Through the Ages and Across the World. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-059093-1.
  2. ^ Hathaway, Jane (2003). A Tale of Two Factions: Myth, Memory, and Identity in Ottoman Egypt and Yemen. State University of New York Press. p. 96-7. ISBN 9780791458839.
  3. ^ Smith, Whitney (1985). "New Flags". The Flag Bulletin. 24: 44., citing Meyer, L. A. (1933). Saracenic Heraldry. Oxford: Clarendon. p. 195.
  4. ^ Rabbat, Nasser O. (1995). The Citadel of Cairo: A New Interpretation of Royal Mameluk Architecture. p. 24. ISBN 9789004101241.
  5. ^ Baram, Amatzia (1991). Culture, History and Ideology in the Formation of Ba'thist Iraq,1968-89. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 151, note 15. ISBN 978-1-349-21243-9.
  6. ^ Podeh, Elie (2011). The Politics of National Celebrations in the Arab Middle East. Cambridge University Press. pp. 87–. ISBN 978-1-107-00108-4.
  7. ^ Mehrez, Samia (2012). Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir. American University of Cairo Press. pp. 119–. ISBN 978-1-61797-356-7.

External links[edit]