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Egypt private tours


The Citadel in Cairo
By Seif Kamel

The Saladin Citadel in Cairo was the home for the rulers of Egypt for around 700 years and today it is one of the most popular touristic spots in the Egyptian capital and it is included in all Egypt private tours.

The citadel was originally established by Saladin, the most famous Arabian army leader and conqueror in 1176.  The Citadel contains several mosques, museum, and battlements that reflect a large portion of the Egyptian history from the 12th century till the 20th century.

The most touristic section of the citadel, visited by hundreds of travelers as part of their custom tours in Egypt, is its Sothern part where the mosque Al Nasser Mohamed, the only surviving Mamluk monument in the citadel is located.  In the same spot, the centerpiece of the citadel, the marvelous mosque of Mohamed Ali, is also situated as the monuments that is a must visit for guests coming in private tours to Egypt.

Away from its remarkable monuments and historical sites, a visit to the citadel is considered to be a wonderful chance for all the members of the family to enjoy their times wondering around the citadel.

This is besides the fact that the citadel offers amazing views of Cairo and in Islamic Cairo in particular. Superb views of the city's minarets, domes, and Islamic establishments can be admired from the citadel fortifications.  Many monuments like the mosque of Sultan Hassan, the mosque of Al Refaie', and the mausoleum of Mostafa Kamel, the famous Egyptian nationalist, can be seen from the top of the citadel in Cairo.

Although most of the tourists visiting the citadel only explore the Mohamed Ali Mosque, there are many other several mosques and museums of interest inside its fortifications. This ancient fort serves as a large museum of Islamic architectural arts with many mosques and structures dating from the Mamluk and the Ottoman eras. A visit to the citadel is included in any custom tours to Egypt.

There are also four interesting separate museums in the citadel; the Police Museum, the Military Museum, the Royal carriages museum, and Qaser Al Jawhara Museum.

The Mosque of Mohamed Ali

The mosque of Mohamed Ali dominates the Eastern skyline of Cairo and can be viewed from several locations around the capital like from the Mokatam Mountain located near by. Maybe this was why many people thought that the citadel consists only of the mosque of Mohamed Ali which is visited by hundreds of tourists coming on private tours to Egypt.

The master piece of all the monuments inside the citadel, the mosque of Mohamed Ali, or the Alabaster Mosque as many people like to call it due to its rich alabaster decorations, reflects one of the most prosperous periods in the modern Egyptian history.

Although the mosque is relatively a newcomer to the citadel as it was built only in the middle of the 19th century, in comparison to many other monuments that date back to more than 400 years, the mosque has become a landmark of Cairo.

The mosque was constructed by Mohamed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt. When he was sent by the Ottomans in 1805 to rule the country under the leadership of Istanbul, he claimed himself the ruler of Egypt and transformed the country from a backwater province of the Ottoman Empire to one of the most modern countries in the Middle East.

The Magnificent Mosque of Mohamed Ali was constructed in an architectural style to look similar to other great imperial mosques in Istanbul, like the Blue Mosque and the Selimiya Mosque.

The mosque was designed along the classical Turkish lines of design. It has a grand major dome in the middle. For half-domes around it, and two pencil shaped minarets.

The interior of the mosque is coated with alabaster all over, while the mausoleum of Mohamed Ali, located to the right hand side of the entrance of the mosque, is covered with gold. 

The Minbar of the mosque is considered to be among the highest in Cairo with many steps and it was richly decorated with gold as well.  The mosque has two Mihrabs; one founded by Mohamed Ali and the other was created by King Farouk as his addition to the mosque that has become one of the major spots of Egypt visited by many guests while they are on their custom tours in Egypt.

To the north of the prayer hall, famous for its amazing interior designs of the domes, there is the open courtyard or Sahn of the mosque where the ornate clock, a gift from King Louis Philippe of France in exchange for the Egyptian Obelisk that Mohamed Ali gave to Paris.

The Mosque of Al Nasser Mohamed

This is the oldest mosque built inside the citadel. When Mohamed Ali came in power, his greatest threats consisted of the Mamluks who were ruling over Egypt for hundreds of years.   

Mohamed Ali organized a massacre for the Mamluks as he invited their important figures and princes to a great dinner and the forces of Mohamed Ali seized the Mamluks and killed more than 500 people.

Afterwards, Mohamed Ali ordered his men to destroy all the Mamluk monuments in the citadel except the Mosque of Al Nasser Mohamed that acted as a horse stable at the time.

The mosque of Al Nasser Mohamed is located at the back of the Mosque of Mohamed Ali. Only a small structure still remains of a huge building that was erected by Al Nasser Mohamed, the Mamluk ruler of Egypt from 1294 till 1340. Al Nasser has another structure that still remains in Cairo; his mausoleum and Islamic school located near Khan El Khalili.

The mosque, which was built between 1318 and 1335, as a congregational mosque were everybody gathered during the Friday prayer, had two matchless minarets built in the Persian style that is rare to find in Egypt.

Many columns inside the mosque were built out of stones that were brought from different Roman, Christian, and Pharaonic structures, they all harmonize together magnificently with many guests watching the magic of the Mamluk architecture as part of their private tours in Egypt.

The Police Museum

Built on the ruins of a Mamluk tower, this museum illustrates the history of the Egyptian police through different stages of time.

The displays include weapons, uniforms, political assassinations section, infamous Egyptian criminals; the museum also includes some prison cells that were in use recently like the ones where the murderers of former president Anwar Al Sadat stayed. Other then the displays, the museum offers marvelous views of Cairo.

The Military Museum

This structure was built by Mohamed Ali in 1827 and it served as the house of the royal family of Egypt until 1874 when Khedive Ismail moved his residence to the nearby Abdeen Palace.

The building has acted as a military hospital during the British occupation in World War II and it was transformed into a museum in 1946.

Although not included in many private tours in Egypt, the exhibition of the military museum includes dioramas of battles, weapons, and uniforms. Each period of the Egyptian military history is put separately in one section. This includes prehistoric times, the Pharaohs, the Coptic, the Arabs, and modern battles like the wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973 against Israel.

The mosque of Suleiman Pasha

This marvelously decorated mosque was built by Suleiman Pasha in 1528. He was the ruler of Egypt after the Ottomans defeated the Mamluks in 1517.

The mosque is the first Ottoman religious building to be constructed in Egypt and although it is a small sized mosque, it is truly charming and has its own magic,

Inspired by Turkish tiling, the interior of the mosque is richly painted with marvelous colors and traditional inlaid marble works.  There are also some tombs in the mosque that belong to Ottoman military officers.

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