The founder of
this Citadel is Sultan Al Ashraf Abou Anasr Saif El Din
Qaitbay El Jerkasy Al Zahiry ( 1468-1496 A.D) who was
born About 1423 AD ( 826 H ). He came to Egypt as a young man of
less than 20 years of age. He was a Mameluke bought by Al
Ashraf Bersbay and remained among his attendants until he
died. Then Quaitbay was bought by the sultan Djaqmaq who
gave him his freedom and during his reign he occupied various
posts until he became the chief of the army (Atabec Al Askar)
during the rule of the sultan Tamar bugha. When the
sultan Tamar bugha was dethroned, Quaitbay was appointed as a
sultan who was titled Almalek Al Ashraf on Monday 26th
Ragab , 872 H. ( 1468 A.D) Qaitbay was one of the most important
and prominent Mameluke sultans , he ruled for about 29 years. He
was a brave king. He tried to initiate a new era with the
Ottomans by exchanging embassies and gifts. He was fond of
travel and made many prominent journeys.
so fond of art and architecture that he adopted an
important post among the administrative system of the state, it
was the (Edifices Mason) Shady Al Amaer He built many
benefic constructions in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. In Egypt
there are about 70 renovated edifice attributed to him (1).
Among these establishments there are Mosques, Madrasas,
Agencies; Fountain houses (Sabils), Kuttabs, houses, military
edifices like the citadel in Alexandria and another one in
Rosetta (Nowadays the city of Rashid)
Qaitbay built the
Citadel of Alexandria and Rashid (Rosseta) to protect the north
of Egypt mainly against the Ottomans whose power was increasing
in the Mediterranean.
The Edifices Mason Shady Al-Ama,er was the architect of
this citadel. Before his arrival to Egypt he was a Mameluke of
Djakmaq in Syria. He came to Egypt and during the rule of
Qaitbay became the edifices mason, and then the viceroy of
Alexandria. He was appointed governor of Syria (Damascus), built
a mosque outside the gate of Rashid (Bab Rashid) he built
a cenotaph and a Khan. He also renovated the mosque of el Sawary
outside the gate of Sadrah (Bab Sadrah).
intelligent and modest. He was the overseer of many
constructions during the time of Qaitbay.
In 882 H. (1477
AD) the sultan Qaitbay visited the site of the old lighthouse in
Alexandria and ordered a fortress to be built on the foundations
of the lighthouse. Its construction lasted about 2 years. It
said that Qaitbay spent more than a hundred thousand Dinars for
the work of this citadel.
Ibn Ayas mentioned
that building of this fort started in the month of Rabi
Alawal 882 AH; he said that the sultan Qaitbay traveled to
Alexandria accompanied with some other Mameluke princes and
during his visit he ordered to build great fort.
The sultan and the
other princes visited the site of the old light-house that was
destroyed by a major earthquake in the year 702 H.
In the month of
Shaban 884 the sultan Qaitbay traveled again to Alexandria
construction was finished. He provided the fort with a brave
legion of soldiers and various weapons. He also as Ibn Ayas
mentioned dedicated several waqfs from which he financed the
construction works as well as to provide the salaries of the
In the Mameluke
period and due to its strategic location, the citadel was well
maintained by all the rulers who came after Qaitbay.
The Sultan Qansoh
El Ghoury gave this citadel special attention. He visited it
several times and increased the strength of the garrison and
provided it with various weapons and equipment. It included a
large prison made for the princes and the state-men whom the
sultan kept away from his favor for some reasons. In the
episodes of the year 920 H the sultan El Ghoury traveled to
Alexandria with other princes. They went to the citadel of
Quaitbay. There he watched some maneuvers and a military
training on the defensive weapons of the citadel of that era.
When he felt the approach of the Ottoman threat he issued a
military decree to forbid weapons out of the citadel even he
announced that death penalty will be the punishments to those
who try to steal anything from the citadel and he ordered the
inscription for this decree on a marble slate fixed to the door
leading the court. It says
Bism Ellah El
Rahman El rahim
A decree by the
order of our master, the noble rank , king Al Ashraf Abou El
Naser Qansoh El Ghoury , May God eternalize his reign , that no
body should take Makahel weapon , gun powder , tools , or any
other thing from the noble tower in Alexandria: and any one of
the tower party , whether Mamelukes , Slaves or Zarad Kashia ,
who breaks this ( decree)and leaves the tower with something
will be hanged at the gate of the tower, deserving the curse of
After the ottoman
Turks conquered Egypt they cared for that unique citadel, they
used it for shelter as they had done with the citadel of Saladin
in Cairo, the citadel of Damieta, Rosetta, Al Borollos and El
Arish. No doubt they kept it in good condition and stationed it
with infantry, artillery, a company of drummers and trumpeters,
masons and carpenters.
Ottoman military became weak, the citadel began to lose its
military importance. In 1798 A.D during the French expedition of
Egypt the Citadel of Qaitbay fell into the hands of the French
troops because of the weakness of the citadel garrison and the
power of the French modern weapons at that time. The French
found in the citadel some crusader weapons which date back to
the campaign of Luis IX. Maybe it was a spoil after the battle
of El Mansoura or maybe after the capture of the later.
When Mohammed Ali
became the ruler of Egypt in 1805, He renovated the old citadel
of Qaitbay, restored, repaired its outer ramparts and he
provided the stronghold with the modern weapons at that period,
particularly the littoral cannons. We can really consider the
reign of Mohamed Ali was another golden era for the Qaitbay
retained the interest of Mohammed Alis successors until
the year 1882 when the Orabi revolution took place; the British
fleet bombarded Alexandria violently on 11 July1882 and damaged
a large part of the city especially the area of the Qaitbay
Citadel. That hard attack did great damage and cracked the
fortress, the worst destruction on the north and the western
facades which had been severely damaged as a result of the
explosion of the cannons directly to the structure. Even the
western facade was completely destroyed and had large gaps.
Unfortunately, the citadel remained neglected; in 1904 the
Ministry of defense restored the Upper floors.
King Farouk wanted
to turn the citadel into a royal Rest-house therefore ordered a
rapid renovation for it. After the revolution of 1952 the
Egyptian Naval troops turned the building to a Maritime Museum.
The biggest restoration works dates back to 1984 when the
Egyptian Antiquities Organization made ambitious plans to
restore the fort.