Sultan Qaitbey built this picturesque fortress during the 14th century to defend Alexandria from the advances of the Ottoman Empire. His efforts were in vain since the Ottomans took control of Egypt in 1512, but the fortress has remained, strategically located on a thin arm of land that extends out into Alexandria’s harbor from the corniche. The fortress’ current form is not the original. It was heavily damaged during the British bombardment of Alexandria during a nationalist uprising against British hegemony in 1882 and rebuilt around the turn of the 20th century.
As with most things in Alexandria, the building itself is not what is most significant about this location. Qaitbey built the fortress here to take advantage of an exist foundation on the site—that of the legendary Pharos Lighthouse, which by the 14th century had fallen into ruins due to repeated damage by earthquakes. The largest stones of the citadel, forming the lintel and doorway of its entrance, as well as the red granite columns in the mosque within the walls, are probably also salvaged from the huge tower that once stood here.
The citadel has long since given up any military function. Today it houses a small naval museum, but it might be worth a visit to explore the inside of the fortress and imagine the huge structure that once stood on its foundation. The peninsula leading to the citadel is also a popular area with fishermen and families alike. It is usually crowded with a pleasant crowd enjoying the sea views, restaurants and ice cream shops that line the street up to the fortress.