Hallway in Citadel of Qaitbay
The Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the 15th century AD.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Citadel is situated at the entrance of the eastern harbour on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest, then several disasters occurred and the shape of the lighthouse was changed to some extent, but it still continued to function. Restoration began in the period of Ahmed Ibn Tulun (about 880 AD). During the 11th century an earthquake occurred, causing damage to the octagonal part. The bottom survived, but it could only serve as a watchtower, and a small mosque was built on the top. In the 14th century there was a very destructive earthquake and the whole building was completely destroyed.
About 1480 AD, the Circassian Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay fortified the place as part of his coastal defensive edifices against the Turks, who were threatening Egypt at that time. He built the fortress and placed a mosque inside it. The Citadel continued to function during most of the Mameluke period, the Ottoman period and the Modern period, but after the British bombardment of Alexandria in 1882, it was kept out of the spotlight. It became neglected until the 20th century, when it was restored several times by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The founder of the Citadel of Qaitbay is a Circassian Sultan named Al-Ashraf Abou Anasr Saif El-Din Qaitbay El-Jerkasy Al-Zahiry (1468–1496 AD) who was born about 1423 AD (826 AH). He was a Mamluke who had come to Egypt as a young man, less than 20 years old. Bought by Al-Ashraf Bersbay, he remained among his attendants until Al-Ashraf Bersbay died. Then the Sultan Jaqmaq bought Qaitbay, and later gave him his freedom. Qaitbay then went on to occupy various posts. He became the Chief of the Army (Atabec Al-Askar) during the rule of the Sultan Timurbugha. When the Sultan was dethroned, Qaitbay was appointed as a Sultan who was titled Almalek Al-Ashraf on Monday 26th Ragab, 872 AH (1468 AD). He was one of the most important and prominent Mameluke Sultans, ruling for about 29 years. He was a brave king, who tried to initiate a new era with the Ottomans by exchanging embassies and gifts. He was fond of travel and made many prominent journeys.