Citadel & Mohammed Ali Mosque, Cairo
Commandingly situated at the foot of the Moqattam' Hills, the Citadel was begun in 1176 by Saladin, who is said to have used stone from the small pyramids at Giza. Of the original structure nothing now remains but the outer walls on the east side and a few towers in the interior; and the two palaces of the Ayyubid period, which were already half destroyed at the time of Selim's entry into the city, have disappeared almost without trace. Long in military occupation and closed to visitors, the Citadel is now to be restored and opened to the public.
Entrance fee in EGP: Adult £20.00
Mohammed Ali Mosque
The Citadel is entered by the Bab el-Gedid, which leads into a courtyard and then through the Bab el-Wastani into the main courtyard. On the south side of this is the Mohammed Ali Mosque, often called the Alabaster Mosque, one of the city's great landmarks with its tall and disproportionately slender minarets. It was begun in 1824 by Mohammed (Mehemet) Ali but completed only in 1857, under his successor Said. The architect was a Greek named Yusuf Boshna from Istanbul, who took as his model the Nuruosmaniye Mosque in that city, itself modeled on the Hagia Sophia.
View from the Mohammed Ali Mosque
From the west corner of the mosque there is a magnificent view of the gray city with its innumerable minarets and domes and, now, its high rise blocks; in the distance can be seen the Pyramids of Giza.
Mohammed Ali Mosque - Forecourt
The forecourt of the Alabaster Mosque, with a fountain for ablutions, is surrounded by vaulted galleries.
Mohammed Ali Mosque - Prayer Hall
Adjoining the forecourt on the east is the prayer hall, with Byzantine style domes resting on four square piers, impressive both for its size and for the manner in which it is lit.
Mohammed Ali Mosque - Tomb of Mohammed Ali
To the right of the entrance is the Tomb of Mohammed Ali (d. 1849).
Facing the Mohammed Ali Mosque, to the northeast, is the El-Nasir Mosque, built in 1318-35 by Mohammed el-Nasir and incorporating various ancient architectural elements (columns, capitals, etc.). The two unusual minarets are crowned by bulbous domes with brightly colored faience decoration in the Persian style.
Just to the south of the El-Nasir Mosque can be seen Joseph's Well, a square shaft 290ft/88m deep which probably dates from the time of Saladin, and has a spiral staircase running down the sides. Half way down is a platform on which oxen formerly worked a wheel to bring up water.
Northeast of the well is the Bab el-Moqattam, the main south gate of the Citadel, from which a road runs southeast to Fort Mohammed Ali in the Moqattam Hills.