Medieval citadel on Sinai island to open to tourists

Nevine El-Aref , Friday 28 Sep 2012

The defensive citadel built by medieval ruler Saladin on Pharaoh Island, close to Taba, has recently been restored

Saladin Citadel

On Saturday, the restored Saladin Citadel on Pharaoh Island off the coast of the Sinai peninsula is to be officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou and top governmental officials, adding a new tourist attraction to costal Red Sea resort Taba.

Over the last six years, the citadel and the whole island were closed to tourists for a restoration project that cost LE20 million.

Mohamed El-Sheikha, head of the projects section at the antiquities ministry told Ahram Online that in order to decrease the amount of sea water flooding the citadel, particularly in winter, a number of cement wave breakers had been erected in the sea around the citadel. Dilapidated structures were restored and external walls were strengthened.

Signboards with full historical details were also erected to facilitate visits, as were wooden sun shades, and a new lighting system was installed to make the citadel accessible at night.

Ibrahim told Ahram Online that cultural activities and dancing performances are also planned to take place on the island with the citadel in the backdrop, to increase the attractions available for visitors.

Archaeologist Abdel Rehim Rihan said that Saladin's citadel is one of the greatest Islamic monuments in Sinai. It was built in 1171 AD by Saladin, then sultan of Egypt, to stand against the Crusaders and to protect the pilgrimage route from Egypt through Sinai.

According to Rihan, the citadel played an important role in protecting the Sinai Peninsula from invasion during the crusading period.

It was capable of a withstanding a long siege if necessary, shown by water tanks built into the rock.

Besides the defensive structures such as a furnace for producing weapons and soldiers' barracks, a bakery, mill and bathroom were also discovered in the citadel.

Pharaoh Island offers striking views of the Red Sea and is also close to untouched coral reefs.

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