In 1171, Salah al-Din, a hero of the crusades who had become sultan of Syria and Egypt, had the Fatimid enclosure and its doors restored. He decided to unify into one enclosure the economic centre, Fustat, and the political centre, Al-Qahira. This was achieved by building a citadel on an artificial outcrop of one of the foothills of the Muqattam rocky plateau. The citadel was built to house garrisons and their leaders. Salah al-Din put one of his lieutenants, Bahaa al-Din Qaraqush, in charge of the construction. It was only completed in 1207, during the reign of Al-Kamil. The first residential structures are also attributed to him and he was the first to occupy it as a royal residence. The building then became the seat of government until the end of the Ottoman era, when it was transferred to the Abdīn Palace. Several additions were made to the structure during the Ayyubid era.
[continues with description of building]
The Citadel of Cairo or Citadel of Saladin is a medieval Islamic-era fortification in Cairo, Egypt, built by Salah ad-Din (Saladin) and further developed by subsequent Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its location on a promontory of the Mokattam hills near the center of Cairo commands a strategic position overlooking the city and dominating its skyline. At the time of its construction, it was among the most impressive and ambitious military fortification projects of its time. It is now a preserved historic site, including mosques and museums. In addition to the initial Ayyubid-era construction begun by Saladin in 1176, the Citadel underwent major development during the Mamluk Sultanate that followed, culminating with the construction projects of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad in the 14th century. In the first half of the 19th century Muhammad Ali Pasha demolished many of the older buildings and built new palaces and monuments all across the site, giving it much of its present form. In the 20th century it was used as a military garrison by the British occupation and then by the Egyptian army until being opened to the public in 1983.
We walked along the battlements, in the footsteps of bowman who had once manned these 12th-century walls, passing through towers and vaulted halls. We descended through a maze of stairways leading into a labyrinth of narrow galleries with the walls, past arrow slits a few inches wide, set at precise angles to give defending archers greater protection. . . . To Caireness, this is Qal’at al-Jabal, the Fortress on the Mountain, or just al-Qal;ah, the Fortress. The world knows it as the Citadel. Structurally, little has changed since the days of that hero of medieval legend, Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub), who ordered it built. After more than eight centuries of sun, wind and desert storms, the massive towers and walls are as strong as the day they were completed.
Fortress on the Mountains on Archnet
“The Citadel of Cairo” on Archnet (booklet)