Ali Mosque in Cairo is one of the popular tourist destinations. The complex itself is huge and looks like a massive fort. Its also generally called the Cairo Citadel. The location is popular owing to the fact that it houses two of the popular tourist attractions in Cairo. It’s also a good place to pick up some nice souvenirs and has a stunning view of the whole Cairo city where you can sip a cup of Tea/Coffee.
How to get there: The best way as I mentioned before is via a Cab. However other options like the Tube (Metro Rail) and Buses can also be considered depending on where one is putting up in Cairo. I was near the main square and I wanted to see the city so I mostly used a cab for my travels in the city.
Entrance Fees: The entrance fee to the Cairo Citadel is around 100 EGP per person. Its rounds out to USD $6-$7 per person.
While its possible to do the trip all by yourself. It really helps to have a guide who will explain things to you. Take you to the important corners of the complex and depending on your curiosity, keep you out of trouble. Part of the area near the military museum is still an active military location and is cordoned off to tourists.
A package deal ensures a Pick and Drop from the hotel in an air-conditioned car, Entrance fee tickets, a Guide and Egyptian Lunch. The prices start out around USD $40 for a full day trip to the citadel. The packages are flexible enough that you can book in advance and then change the dates and timing around to suit your schedule once you are in Egypt.
The Citadel was begun by the famous ruler Salah al-Din between 1176 and 1183 CE in order to protect Cairo from potential Crusader attacks and to provide a secure centre for his government. This also emulated a feature of many Syrian cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, which had walled citadels that acted as the seat of power and which Saladin was familiar with.
The citadel is divided into two main parts. The northern division and the southern division. The northern division contains what we know as the national Egyptian Military Museum and the southern division residence now has the famous Ali Mosque.
While the construction is impressive it seems, the structure was never really subject to the kind of siege it was built for. But then I guess deterrence is the best form of defense.
The mosque was built by Mohammed Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848. It its time its was one of the largest mosques built in the world. And its twin minarets could be seen from far as you approached Cairo.
The mosque is grand and Lavish. Let’s just say the mosque so tall that “Landscape” is not an option to take a picture of the mosque. I had a lady guide that day who was well versed with Egyptian history. She explained to me the various aspects of the place. The interior looks like medieval palace. The cupola of the Mosque is still largely intact and gives an insight into the intricate architecture. Apparently, the design is inspired by Ottoman architecture. The mosque is also filled with books and artifacts.
Its worth a while to sit down in the main hall and spend a few minutes soaking it all in.
Next up I moved to the National Military Museum.
The museum was established in 1937 at the old building of the Egyptian Ministry of War in downtown Cairo. It was later moved to a temporary location in the Garden City district of Cairo. In November 1949 the museum was moved to the Haram Palace at the Cairo citadel. It has been renovated several times since, in 1982 and 1993.
It showcases the evolution of modern Egyptian military. The place houses various types of huge ass guns, tanks and fighter planes. The interior section has many artifacts and objects of historical importance, the exterior section houses the larger military machines.
The museum has various halls dedicated to the various wars it has been a part of. They include the wars between Egypt and Israel and the Suez Canal Crisis. They also house historical artifacts from some the Islamic sultans of the past.
An interesting thing about the place is the various captured weapons during the various wars Egypt has been a part of. You can find Israeli Tanks captured during the wars. Now a quick reading of history will tell you that Egypt does not have a very good track record when it comes to Wars. However, I guess every nation has a need to pride itself and thus weaves a narrative that in sync with the national consciousness of that nation.
After our little trip to the Egyptian Military Museum we decided to head back to the roof top. This was my favourite part. You can get a view of the entire Cairo skyline. Great place for pictures,selfies,a good cup of Tea with Hookah! This was the icing on the cake!
I would recommend keeping aside at least one half of the day for the tour. Next up we will check out some of the places in Luxor.
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(Certain historical information about the history of the Ali mosque has been sourced and edited from Wikipedia)