Islamic Cairo

Salah El Din Citadel in Cairo

On my third day in Cairo I visited Islamic Cairo, with stops at the citadel, two mosques, a stroll through the medina, and the souk (market). In this post I’ll focus on the citadel and two mosques, which are all beautiful!

Salah El Din Citadel in Cairo

The area known as Islamic Cairo, or Medieval Cairo, became the capital when the Fatimid dynasty conquered Egypt in 696 AD. In 1979, UNESCO declared Historic Cairo a World Cultural Heritage site, describing it as “one of the world’s oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams and fountains.”

The citadel was built to defend against European Crusaders. It was completed in 1183 AD and was the seat of Egypt’s rulers for 700 years. The complex underwent many changes under various rulers, Mamluks, Ottomans, and Napoleon’s expedition. The complex includes a mosque commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha that was completed in 1848 – The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha, or Alabaster Mosque.

The mosque was the largest built in the first half of the 19th century. According to Wikipedia, Muhammad Ali chose to build the mosque entirely in the architectural style of Egypt’s former Ottoman rulers, unlike the Mamluks who, despite their political submission to the Ottomans, stuck to the architectural styles of the previous Mamluk dynasties.

The structure is made mainly of limestone, but the lower story and forecourt are tiled with alabaster, hence the name.

Islamic Cairo and this complex are both worth visiting. The citadel complex offers a beautiful, albeit smoggy, view of Cairo. I also visited the Sultan Hassan Mosque, shown below.

Sultan Hassan Mosque & Madrasa

The building is an example of Mamluk architecture and was built during the 14th century.

The mosque is one of the largest in the Islamic world – measuring approximately 150 meters long and 36 meters high. Its tallest minaret is 68 meters. It was built to accomodate about 500 students.

Following the citadel and mosques, my guide took me on a walking tour through the historic center, or medina, that leads to the famous souk (market) Khan el-Khalili. It’s all an interesting mix of smaller mosques, merchants, and residences.

It was a great way to wrap up my time in Cairo – next stop LUXOR!








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