Built between 1176 and 1183, the Citadel of Saladin had a fundamental objective: to protect the city from Crusader attacks. And today it is not only a key point with privileged views of the city but also a nucleus of palaces, museums and mosques that are a must-see.


Al-Nāsir Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb, better known as Saladin in his western name, was the first ruler of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt and sultan between the years 1171 and 1193. He had to deal with a very hard time for Islam, as the crusader armies were ravaging the eastern world while Saladin abolished Fatimid power in his country and reinstated Sunnism as the official religion.

Its most important architectural commission is today one of the most prized jewels for tourists visiting Cairo.

At the time of designing the wall and its defensive towers, Saladin transferred the most modern construction techniques of the time and put the best architects of the country in charge. He himself designed an 85-meter deep well, called Yusuf’s Well, which was dug directly into the rock, and also devised an innovative aqueduct system through which he managed to transport water throughout the city.

After the completion of Saladin’s Citadel, it was determined that the royal residence would be located there because it was the safest place in all of Egypt. And little by little it became a city within the city and where more than 10,000 people came to live. It was divided into neighborhoods, a palace and several temples were built, as well as military barracks where those in charge of protecting the city lived.

It is surrounded by an imposing and robust wall of three different heights, with defensive towers that were fundamental in the years of the Crusades. It was built on Mokattam Hill, in what is now called Islamic Cairo, and is now one of the most important and best preserved medieval fortifications in the world. In fact, today it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1976, the year in which this recognition was given to all of historic Cairo.

It was so effective as a strategic point of defense that the seat of the Egyptian government functioned there until the 19th century, that is, for almost 700 years. It was occupied only once by an invading force: the British used it as a military barracks during their invasion of Egypt in the 20th century.

What to see in Saladin Citadel

  • Gawhara Palace. Also known as the Palace of the Jewels, it is an 1814 Ottoman-style building that served as the residence of Sultan Muhammad Ali Pasha. It owes its name to Gawhara Hanem, last wife of the sultan. After the triumph of the 1952 revolution, it was used to exhibit the jewelry confiscated from the deposed King Farouq. You can visit in the palace the throne of Mohammed Ali, period furniture and costumes of the sultan.
  • Alabaster Mosque or Mohammed Ali Mosque. Known by that name due to the material with which it was built and that covers both the exterior and interior. His real name is Muhammad Ali Mosque and was designed on the basis of the New Mosque in Istanbul. It was therefore built according to the model of Ottoman mosques: a rectangular plan covered by a large central dome and surrounded by several semi-domes framed by two minarets.
  • Military museum. Armaments, objects and clothing from different periods are exhibited, although the main charm of the building is that it was the harem of Mohammed Ali’s palace.
  • Police Museum. Housed in what was once the Citadel’s old prison, it has a wealth of information on political assassinations and objects related to citizen security over the centuries.
  • Sultan Hassan Mosque. With almost 8,000 square meters, it is one of the largest mosques in the world and one of the best examples of Mamluk architecture in Cairo.
  • Mosque of Ibn Tulun. The oldest in Cairo and still retains its original decorative elements, surrounded by a huge external courtyard that serves to separate the temple from the noise of the city. Inside, there is another square courtyard 90 meters long, surrounded by porticoes located around a large central fountain. It became world famous because it is one of the locations where The Spy Who Loved Me, one of the films of the James Bond saga, starring Roger Moore, was filmed.

How to get to the Saladin Citadel

The neighborhood in which the Saladin Citadel is located is El Abageyah, Qesm Al Khalifah. And the best way to get there is by cab or private car from your hotel in Cairo, provided you wish to go on your own and visit it to enjoy its panoramic views. Another option is to go on a guided tour which, in addition, usually includes entrance and guidance in several buildings within the citadel. It is also 800 meters from Sultan Hassan Mosque, Al Rifa’i Mosque and Ibn Tulun Mosque.


The Citadel of Saladin is open daily from Monday to Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm in winter and from 9 am to 5 pm in summer.

Prices of the visit to the Saladin Citadel

The regular adult ticket price is 140 EGP while the accredited student ticket is 70 EGP. The entrance fee only includes the visit to the Saladin Citadel and its panoramic viewpoints. If you want to enter a mosque, palace or museum, the entrance fee is separate and each site has its corresponding price.

Photos of the Saladin Citadel

Other articles that may interest you...


Dahshur is part of The city of Memphis was the first capital of the country since its unification. Founded around

Great Sphinx of Giza

Undoubtedly, the Great Sphinx of Giza is, along with the pyramids, the most recognized symbol of Ancient Egypt. And it