May 4, 2012

Cairo Citadel Facts

The Citadel above Cairo, 1819
John Fuller

The Citadel is built on a rock detached from the chain of the Moccatam mountains, which approach very near to the town on the eastern side. Before the invention of gunpowder its position was considered very strong, but it is commanded from the neighbouring ridges. This circumstance, however, has not hindered the Pasha from expending large sums of money in repairing the walls and approaches, which had become much dilapidated by time, and by the several cannonadings which the castle had suffered during the occupation and after the expulsion of the French.

Citadel above Cairo
The works were not yet completed, but the Pasha’s Seraglio, built on the side of the rock which is steepest and which overlooks the city, was finished, and occasionally occupied by him. It consists of a very spacious hall, communicating with several large apartments, which besides the usual Turkish luxuries of cushions and divans, are furnished with mirrors, clocks and other specimens of European refinement, and are ornamented with some tolerable landscapes, painted in fresco on the walls by Greek and Armenian artists from Constantinople. Without, the prospect is vast and impressive, combining the extremes of prosperity and desolation. The governor of Egypt may view with pride from the windows of his palace the city of Cairo, with its countless domes and busy population, the rich fields of the Delta, and the Nile which brings him the tribute of twenty provinces.

Cairo Citadel
Pyramids on one side, and the deserted tombs of the Mameluke sultans on the other, memorials of dynasties which have passed away before their works have perished, may remind him of the instability of his power. The other curiosities of the Citadel have been fully described by every traveller who has written on Egypt for the last two hundred years.

The Well of Joseph as it is called, whatever may have been its origin, is a very remarkable excavation, being cut nearly three hundred feet deep in the solid rock, with a spacious gallery round it, extending spirally from top to bottom. The Hall of Joseph or Yussuf, is now referred to the prince of that name, better known as Sultan Saladin; ... a large and lofty oblong building, constructed with what we would call Saxon arches, supported on granite pillars.

Though it has long been roofless, yet such is the serenity of the climate that some inscriptions in the ancient Cusic character on a wooden frieze which runs round the interior, remain almost unimpaired. It is now used as a magazine for artillery, of which we saw a great variety of different ages and countries, from the Venetian of the fifteenth to the French and English of the nineteenth century [this magazine blew up in 1824], In front of the Seraglio was stationed a large body of the cavalry of the Pasha’s guard, whose appearance reminded us of what we had read of Mameluke splendour, and exceeded in picturesque effect any military display which I have seen in Europe. From the bright and varied hues of the dresses and turbans, and the richness of the equipments, the square which they occupied when seen from a distance looked like a bed of the gayest flowers.

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