The Citadel of Qaitbey was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds for Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea Coast. The Citadel of Qiatbey was built on the exact site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Lighthouse of Alexandria, or Pharos Lighthouse. The Lighthouse of Alexandria build in 247 B.C, took twenty years to finish and was made to serve as a guide for mariners in the night.
The lighthouse was surmounted by a huge statue, possibly representing either Alexander the Great or Ptolemy I in the form of the sun god Helios. The lighthouse was an astonishing 125m in height with approximately three hundred rooms at the bottom for its workers. The lantern at the top of the lighthouse contained a polished steel mirror that reflected light by day, and fire by night. Imagine that donkeys had to go up and down the double spiral staircase carrying loads of timber to fuel the lighthouse’s lantern.
After an earthquake in the 11th Century, the lighthouse was repaired and continued to function. After another quake in the 14th Century, the lighthouse was destroyed completely. Some of the actual stones and bricks from the lighthouse were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbey.
In 1460 A.D. The Mameluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay built and fortified the building to serve as a coastal defense against the Ottoman empire (Turkish). His efforts were in vain since the Ottomans took control of Egypt in 1512, but the fortress survived and has remained.
The fort was neglected and sat in ruin until 1904 till King Farouk wanted to turn it into a royal palace for himself.
In 1952, the Egyptian Navy turned the Citadel of Qiatbey into a Maritime Museum and you are allowed to explore the inside of the fortress and imagine the huge structure that once stood on its foundation.
The views of the Mediterranean sea and the coastline from the Fortress gun holes are spectacular.
The peninsula leading to the Citadel of Qiatbey is a popular spot for the locals and is usually crowded with a pleasant crowd enjoying the sea views, restaurants and ice cream shops that line the street up to the fortress.
The route to the Citadel of Qiatbey runs through the old city had some spectacular views of Alexandria. A perfect blend of modernity and rustic charm.
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