The Citadel of Qaitbay is a 15th century defensive fortress located on the Mediterranean Sea coast, in Alexandria.
The Fort was built in the 1480’s by Sultan Qaitbey, on the site of Alexandria’s ancient lighthouse.
Parts of the remains of the lighthouse can be seen in the construction of the old fort. One of the seven wonders of the ancient World, as travelers from distant lands sailing to Egypt across the Mediterranean Sea were guided, as they approached their final destination, by a beam of light that according to legend, could be seen from more than 50 km away. The source of the beam was the Alexandria lighthouse. The lighthouse was the tallest building in the Hellenistic world. The originality shown in the construction of the building on rocks of an island called Pharos, off the coast, was matched only by the intricate light system, which included a lantern where a large fire burned, and a huge reflective mirror which beamed the firelight across the sea. The Light House was started by Ptolemy I and it was completed by his son Ptolemy II. The Light House was built in a colonnaded court and it measured about 135 meters in height. It consisted of four storeyes (floors), surmounted by a bronze statue of god Poseidon (the Sea God in the Greek mythology). The first storey was square in shape and was internally divided into 300 rooms, used as storerooms for the fuel, such as wood, straw and oils. At the bottom of the ground of the first floor, there was a cistern (water tank) used for storing the fresh water for the guards and workmen of the Light House. The second storey was octagonal in shape. The third storey was circular in shape. The fourth storey consisted of 8 columns, made of different materials and a dome. On the top of this dome, there was a bronze statue of god Poseidon with a total height of 7 meters.
In 1480 A.D, El-Sultan Al-Ashraf Qatbay built a series of fortresses and citadels along the Egyptian shores in order to defend Egypt against a possible Ottoman invasion. Among these fortresses was his famous citadel which was built on the same side of the Light House. He even used some of the stones of the Light House to build his famous citadel.
Al-Ashraf Qatbay was a Mamluke who had come to Egypt as a young man. Bought by Al-Ashraf Bersbay, Qaitbay then went on to occupy various posts. He became the Chief of the Army during the rule of the Sultan Tamar bugha. When the Sultan was dethroned, Qaitbay was appointed as a Sultan. He was one of the most important and prominent Mameluke Sultans, ruling for about 29 years.