Saturday, April 17, 2010

Evening in Qaitbay

A few days ago we went to Alexandria, Republic of Egypt. That was among the annual trip organized by the university for us. Well, when I say that it was organized by the university, you can it's free but it doesn't means that it was completely FOC. Why? Oh, my! What was that USD 7000 are for anyway! But I must say that it is a good chance for us. Speaking of that, the participants were about sixty students, ikhwah and akhawat. Both were from the 3rd and the 4th years students

Everybody seemed to enjoy their time during the trip. No doubt. As for me, there was one spot that caught my eyes. The Citadel of Qaitbay.
First and foremost, let me begin the story! It was a lighthouse which was then reconstructed into a citadel. According to the history, the Lighthouse of Alexandria (or Pharos Lighthouse) stood guard over the harbour, using fire at night and reflecting the sun's rays with a giant mirror by day. Some claim that the reflected light from the lantern was visible up to 56km away. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest. During the 11th century, an earthquake occurred and the shape of the lighthouse was changed to some extent. In the 14th century, there was a very destructive earthquake and the whole building was completely destroyed and the remains were used in the construction of Fort Qaitbay.

Then, in the 1480s, Fort Qaitbay was built by Sultan Qaitbay on the ancient island of Pharos. It stands on the exact site where one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World once stood and offers a marvelous view of Alexandria and the Mediterranean sea. As a matter of fact, I did not have a chance to climb it up, if you visit it, please consider climbing it...but be careful, OK!

My friends and I went looking around the building. It was amazing. The structure reflected the history. The Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Abou Anasr Saif El-Din Qaitbay El-Jerkasy Al-Zahiry (1468-1496 A.D), fortified the Mediterranean sea coast as part of his coastal defensive edifices to protect the north of Egypt, mainly against the Ottomans, whose power was increasing in the Mediterranean. He built the castle and placed a Mosque inside it. 

The Citadel continued to function during most of the Mameluke period, the Ottoman period and the Modern period, but after the British bombardment of the city of Alexandria in 1883, it was kept out of the spotlight. It became neglected until the 20th century, when it was restored several times by the Egyptian Supreme Counsel of Antiquities.

Then we went 'sight-seeing' a bit more. Dragged into the time when it was reconstructed. The reconstruction started in the month of Rabiul awal 882 H and finished in the month of Shaaban 884 H. Through out the Mameluke period, and due to its strategic location, the Citadel was well maintained by all the rulers who came after Qaitbay. 

Sultan Qansoh El-Ghoury also gave the Citadel special attention. When he felt the approach of the Ottoman threat, he issued a military decree to forbid weapons to be taken out of the Citadel, he even announced that the death penalty would be the punishment to those who try to steal anything from the Citadel, and he ordered the inscription of this decree on a marble slate fixed to the door leading the court.

I strolled down in the front yard of the majestic building. Step after step. Likewise I was taken aback into it's history time line. After the Ottoman Turks had conquered Egypt, even they cared for this unique Citadel. They used it for shelter, as they had done with the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo and the Citadels of Damieta, Rosetta, Al Borollos and El-Arish. They kept it in good condition and stationed it with infantry, artillery, a company of drummers and trumpeters, masons and carpenters.

Then in 1798 A.D, during the French expedition of Egypt, it fell into the hands of the French troops.

Next, Mohammed Ali became the ruler of Egypt in 1805. He renovated the old Citadel, restoring and repairing its outer ramparts and he provided the stronghold with the most particularly the littoral cannons. It was like another golden era for the Citadel. I threw my gaze to the field of green-like ocean. The ocean which witnessed the history.

The history went on, so the Citadel. It was the Orabi Revolution! The British fleet bombarded Alexandria violently on 11 July 1882 and damaged a large part of the city, especially in the area of the Citadel. Unfortunately, then it remained neglected unitl 1904 when the Ministry of Defense restored the Upper floors.

King Farouk wanted to turn the Citadel into a royal Rest house so he ordered a rapid renovation on it. After the revolution of 1952 the Egyptian Naval troops turned the building to a Maritime Museum. The biggest restoration work dates back to 1984, when the Egyptian Antiquities Organization made ambitious plans to restore the fort.

In conclusion, the world has shown and the history has proven. From my point of view, intention is the measure for rendering actions true, so that, where intention is sound, action is sound, and where it is corrupt, then action is corrupt. Same goes for the Citadel. If the conqueror intended for goodness, then the Citadel of Qaitbay is preserved. If the vice versa happened, then surely it will be neglected.

I stood by the sea. Watched the sun setting in the evening sky. Seagulls were flying freely. The waves were lapping the bank. Such an awesome view. Such a lovely melody. Such a perfect harmony!

Oh Allah, Oh Allah, forgive me when I whine
I have 2 legs to walk upon, and the world is mine
Oh Allah, Oh Allah, forgive me when I whine
I have 2 eyes to see the world and the world is mine
Oh Allah, Oh Allah, forgive me when I whine
I have 2 ears to hear the world and the world is mine
With legs to take me where I’d go
With eyes to see the sunset glow
With ears to hear what I’d know
Oh the world is mine.
Forgive Me When I Whine,
Zain Bhikha.

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