Fort Qaitbey was built by Mamluke Sultan Qaitbey in an effort to fortify this important Egyptian port from attack, and rubble from the toppled lighthouse was used in its construction. Inside, you can explore the series of stone-walled chambers and climb up to the roof to look out over the Mediterranean.
Location: Corniche, Eastern Harbour
Historically one of the most important defensive strongholds in Egypt and along the Mediterranean Sea coast, the Fort of Qaitbey was an essential chess piece in the security of Alexandria. The fort sits at the entrance of the harbor on the Pharos Island, where it replaced the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Despite being finally annihilated in a devastating earthquake, remnants of the red brick used in the construction of the lighthouse still remain–a nostalgic reminder of how magnificent it would have looked in its prime time. Nonetheless, the fort is still a sight to feast your eyes on. We recommend strolling to Fort Qaitbey along the Corniche, giving you unforgettable views of the Mediterranean sea.
The Pharos lighthouse, which had been in use for some 17 centuries, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1303 and lay in ruins for more than 100 years before Qaitbey ordered the fortification of the city’s harbour. Material from the fallen Pharos was reused, and if you get close to the outer walls, you can pick out some great pillars of red granite, which in all likelihood came from the ancient lighthouse. Other parts of the ancient building are scattered around the nearby seabed.
Egypt went through a plague at the end of his reign and any people died including his wife and daughter, along with many Mamluk soldiers, which perhaps also caused more than the usual problems among this group of very frequently violent men. To make matters worst, there was also a low Nile flood. At the age of eighty, Qaitbey tired of all the problems and finally handed the kingdom over to his son, Mohamed Ibn Qaitbey.
The main tower itself was built between the years 1477 and 1480, at a cost of 100,000 Dinar, on an old island called Pharos, so named because this was the location of the famous Pharos lighthouse, one of the wonders of the ancient world, before it was toppled by an earthquake into the sea. The outer walls were built by Sultan el Ghouri sometime after he took office as Sultan. It is believed that at least some of the material for the fortress came from that ruined structure, particularly some huge red-granite pillars in the northwest section. At the time, it was built as a defense against the Ottoman empire, with whom the Mamluks had a shaky relationship at the time.
The fortress consists of three main parts, the huge walls that surround the entire complex, an inner wall and the main tower which was built actually on the site of the Pharos Light House.
The huge walls of the fortress enclose about two acres of land, surrounding the tower on all four sides. Note that the eastern side of the wall has no protective towers or balconies. The western wing of the wall has three guard towers for archers, as does the southern side. On the southern wall in the middle is a section where a door leads to the main entrance. The north side of the wall is the one facing the sea, and it has square shaped windows that held canons and catapults. Along the top was a balcony for archers.
Within the main wall of the fortress is a lower, secondary wall and between them is a nice garden area with considerably greenery and even palm trees. The inner walls contain 34 rooms for garrisoning soldiers. Within that secondary wall is the actual grounds of the fortress. There is also a large garden in front of the main central tower. Today, there is also a stage set up by the Egyptian Opera for night time performances. I walked about the courtyard for a short time, exploring the grounds, and then decided to investigate what is known as the coastal passages prior to entering the central tower. The coastal passage is a series of tunnels beneath the grounds of the fortress that lead to various sections of the complex.