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Citadel of Qaitbay (Fort Qaitbey)
Citadel of Qaitbay (Fort Qaitbey)

Citadel of Qaitbay (Fort Qaitbey)

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As Sayalah Sharq, Qesm Al Gomrok, Alexandria

The Basics

The Citadel of Qaitbay is one of Alexandria’s signature sights, and almost every Alexandria tour, be it a day trip from Cairo or a more in-depth city tour, will stop here. Tickets are reasonably priced, although many locals enjoy simply strolling along the promenade that leads up to the battlements. Guided tours typically include a potted history of the fort and the lighthouse, a visit to the pillars, a stroll through the labyrinth of rooms inside the fortress, including the small museum, and time to take photos on the battlements.

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Things to Know Before You Go

  • The Citadel of Qaitbay is a must for history buffs, photographers, and families.

  • As elsewhere in Alexandria, women will feel more comfortable in and around the citadel when dressed conservatively. Aim for loose, flowing clothing that covers limbs, shoulders, and chest.

  • Don’t miss the views across to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the landmark new library of Alexandria.

  • The exterior of the citadel is accessible by wheelchair, but there are stairs to the main gate and within the structure as a whole.

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How to Get There

The Citadel of Qaitbay sits on the Pharos promontory, overlooking Alexandria’s eastern harbor. Yellow tram 25 runs from the El Raml tram station along the seafront Corniche, and, if you speak Arabic, you can also try your hand at flagging down one of the microbuses that run the same route. Many travelers find it easier to join a tour that includes door-to-door transfers.

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When to Get There

The Citadel of Qaitbay, which is open from morning to afternoon seven days a week, is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Try to avoid visiting over the Islamic weekend (Friday to Saturday) or on major Egyptian public holidays, such as Eid al-Adha and Eid el-Fitr. Your best chance of unobstructed photography is to visit soon after it opens in the morning.

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The Lighthouse of Alexandria

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria (also known as the Pharos of Alexandria) was a phenomenal engineering feat. Built during the third century BC and standing over 350 feet (110 meters) tall, it towered over Alexandria Harbor until—repeatedly damaged by earthquakes—it collapsed sometime in the 1300s, probably toppled by a final quake. The Mamluk sultan Qaitbay used its ruins to build the Citadel of Qaitbay, but remnants can still be found in the harbor.

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