In relation to Qaitbay Fort:
Qaitbay Fort is one of Alexandria’s most well-known and often visited sites. Additionally, it is the sole example of Mamluk military architecture in all of Egypt and serves as its best example. It is highly recommended that visitors to Alexandria see the Qaitbay Fort.
The History and Origins of Qaitbay Fort:
The renowned fort was constructed following an instruction from the Mamluk Sultan Al Ashraf Qaitbay in the year 1477. The fort was constructed on the ruins of the renowned old lighthouse using the surviving stones from it.
Two years later, in 1479, it was completed. Its construction was started in order to protect Alexandria from foreign threats, especially those posed by the Ottomans, who previously controlled a sizable naval force.
According to Ibn Ayas, construction on this fort began in the month of Rabi Alawal 882 H. He claimed that the Sultan Qaitbay visited the location of the former lighthouse in Alexandria together with a few other Mameluke princes, and that it was during this visit that he gave the order to construct the Citadel.
When the building was complete, the Sultan Qaitbay returned to Alexandria in the month of Shaban 884 H. He gave a valiant legion of men and a variety of weapons for the fort. He also established various waqfs, as Ibn Ayas reported, from which he paid for the building projects and the troops’ salaries.
The Citadel was kept in good condition throughout the Mameluke era because of its advantageous location and all the kings that followed Qaitbay.
Fortification of the garrison
The Citadel received special attention from the Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri. He made many trips there, bolstering the garrison’s numbers by giving them a variety of tools and weaponry. For the princes and statemen that the Sultan kept out of his favour for any reason, it included a sizable prison. Qansuh Al-Ghouri travelled to Alexandria with other princes in the beginning of the year 960 H.
Approach of the Ottoman threat:
They travelled to the Citadel of Qaitbay, where he observed military drills and manoeuvres using the Citadel’s defensive armaments at the time. When he sensed the Ottoman threat, he issued a military order forbidding the removal of weapons from the Citadel and even declared that anyone caught attempting to steal anything from the Citadel would be executed. He also had this order inscribed on a marble slate that was fixed to the door leading to the court. It reads: b-ismi-ll-hi r-ra-m-ni r-ra-hi-m God, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful, we pray.
Any member of the tower party, whether Mameluke, Slaves, or Zarad Kashia, who violates this (decree) and leaves the tower with something will be hanged at the tower’s gate, deserving the curse of God. This decree was issued by the noble rank King Al-Ashraf Abou El-Naser Qansoh El-Ghoury, may God eternalize his reign. Rabei Alawal 907 H is the date.
Even the Ottoman Turks took care of this distinctive Citadel after capturing Egypt. Like they had done with the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo and the Citadels of Damietta, Rosetta, Al Borollos, and El-Arish, they used it as a shelter. They stationed it with infantry, artillery, a group of drummers and trumpeters, masons, and carpenters, and kept it in good order.
Ottoman threat falls:
The Citadel started to lose its military significance as the Ottoman force weakened. It was captured by the French troops in 1798 AD during the French campaign to Egypt, primarily as a result of the Citadel garrison’s vulnerability and the superiority of the French new armaments at the time. The French discovered some crusader weaponry within that were from Louis IX’s expedition. These might have been loot from the Al Mansurah Battle.
When Muhammad Ali Pasha took over as Egypt’s ruler in 1805, he restored the old Citadel, repairing and reconstructing its outer fortifications, and he outfitted the fortress with the most cutting-edge weapons of the day, in particular the littoral cannons. We might think of Mohammed Ali’s rule as the Citadel’s second golden age.
The Orabi uprising:
Up to the Orabi Revolt in 1882, Mohammed Ali’s successors continued to be interested in the Citadel. On July 11, 1882, the British fleet bombarded Alexandria, severely damaging much of the city, particularly around the Citadel. This assault severely damaged the castle by breaking it. Cannon blasts that were directed squarely at the building badly destroyed the north and western façade. There are significant holes on the western facade, which was completely damaged.
In 1904 upper floors of Citadel were renovated by ministry of defence after being abandoned . King Farouk ordered a quick refurbishment of the Citadel in order to convert it into a royal retreat.
After the revolution of 1952 the structure was changed to a maritime museum by Egyptian Naval Soldiers. The Egyptian Antiquities Organization’s ambitious intentions to rebuild the fort resulted in the largest amount of restoration work in 1984.
Accessing Qaitbay Fort:
Fort Qaitbay is located on the western fringes of Alexandria at a very prominent strategic location. Due to the fort’s unusual and distinctive architecture, visitors to Alexandria can see it almost anywhere along the city’s coastline.
Qaitbay Fort’s events and attractions:
The fascinating characteristics are spread everywhere throughout Fort Qaitbay. The fort is sorrounded by sea from three sides and measures about 150 and 130 metres. The main tower or building of Fort Qaitbay serves as the centre of attention for the entire complex.
The defensive walls are composed of two parts. The external walls have towers for defence and places for soldiers to guard it. The storage room for weapons and the barracks for the troops are inside the inner walls.
The three-story main tower at Fort Qaitbay has a semi-square shape. In short this portion contains about four circular shaped towers at each corner. The tower houses the oldest still-standing mosque and minaret in Alexandria.