Also known as the Saladin Citadel of Cairo, today we’ll visually tour one of the most famous monuments of Egypt. Further tell you everything you need to know to plan your visit.
Settled high upon a hill above Egypt’s Capital, tourists interested into Islamic Cairo will find a medieval citadel full of architectural wonders. The Citadel of Saladin (Qalaʿat Salāḥ ad-Dīn) dates back to 12th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While there are several things to do in Cairo, few places will offer you a better sight into the Islamic past like this Citadel.
Cairo citadel facts
- It was built between 1176-1183 AD
- Salah al-Din commissioned it
- UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979
- Home to 3 mosques and 4 museums
- The depth of the well 85 meters (280ft)
PS: Check out 14 days Egypt itinerary.
Mosque of Muhammad Ali
The main motive why you should visit Cairo Citadel is to see the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
Who was Muhammad Ali Pasha?
He was the one who commissioned this spectacular mosque between 1830 and 1848, and built to rival the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.
Also known as the Alabaster Mosque, its lower storey and the forecourt are tiled with alabaster up to 11.3 meters (the rest is limestone).
In fact, you won’t believe the that there is a clock in the courtyard of the Mosque was reciprocated with the obelisk of Luxor which now stands in Place de la Concorde in Paris.
It is a must visit!
Definitely, don’t miss to go inside and adore the gigantic chandelier hanging from the domed ceiling of the mosque.
Sadly, due to frequent sandstorms, it is all a bit dusty, but nonetheless incredibly impressive.
My advice to you is to take your time exploring the grand terrace at the front of the mosque. It is considered as the best viewpoint in Cairo.
The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan and od Islamic Cairo is below from where you can see the Nile river & downtown Cairo on the horizon. Moreover, on a clear day, you can even see the Great Pyramid of Giza. So panoramic!
Note: You have to enter this mosque (as any other mosque) without shoes. Socks are okay and you are perfectly okay to step inside if you are not a Muslim. Read my full guide to what to wear in Egypt to be on the safe side.
Al-Nasir Muhammad Mosque
The Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un Mosque is truly a gem inside the Cairo citadel.
It was built in the 14th century and has a magnificent hypostyle mosque with serene courtyard and the two ancient minarets.
Further, the mosque is quite distinctive, as its two minarets are quite fancy, unlike any other minarets from the Mamluk period. Also, no other mosque in Cairo is decorated in mosaics/faience (which is typical of religious structures in the rest of the Arab world, particularly Central Asia). Moreover, the Arabic influence is almost appreciable.
Egyptian Military Museum
Citadel has three museums inside it. Honestly speaking, I couldn’t recommend any of them. They are not what you’d expect of a standard museum.
But you can stroll around the courtyard and enjoy the serenity. Moreover, the square features some cafés and offers a lovely view of the citadel. Inside, you will find a couple of halls dedicated to the most recent wars in Egyptian history. There is even an Egyptian Martyrs Hall.
Also, there is the Al-Gawhara Palace Museum, the National Police Museum, and the Carriage Museum. During the past couple of years, not all museums were open to the public at all times. From what I gathered it is sort of a hit or miss thing, with lots of stuff being renovated or rebuilt. Better spend your time sightseeing in Coptic Cairo, etc.
Cairo citadel ticket price
The entrance fee for the Cairo Citadel is 100 Egyptian Pounds (LE) per person. Tickets can be bought at the only entrance. There is a security check right after the entrance. There is no need to buy tickets in advance or go through a tour agency.
Note: Cairo citadel ticket prices have been adjusted recently. Before 2018 it used to be 60 LE
Cairo citadel opening hours
It is open Monday to Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM each day.
Please note that the Citadel will close at 3 pm during Ramadan. Also, best not visit on Fridays, as the mosque of Mosque of Muhammad Ali will be quite busy on these days. You should probably also stay away from the midday heat – especially in summer, as the Citadel will become a true furnace.