Egypt: Gates to the Ancient City of Cairo, Egypt

Gates to the Ancient City of Cairo

Bab El-Metwali in the Painter's
best imagination

Cairo was called the citadel or tabia or forte, i.e. stronghold. It looked like a square; 1200m2 in length and 1100m2 in width. It was surrounded with El Bahr El Azeim (the great sea) from the east, the gulf from the west, from the north gardens extended to Mataria and the mount Gabal El Guishi from the south.

When the Fatimid reign (969-1171) settled in Cairo under the leadership of El Moez Li-Dinellah it was called "Cairo of El Moez" because they decorated its four suburbs with luxurious buildings, delightful spots and gardens. This increased its delightfulness and beauty. It was the settlement of rulers and princes.

El Fostat city was big and important due to plenty of buildings, many people and much of livelihood means, that is why Gawhar El Sakaly was so keen on it. He established the fortified gates (bab) and installed them around it in the four-sided wall. He built El Kantara at Bab El Shairia Street. He also built a wall to quickly surround the Palace. But this was destroyed completely.

Multi purposes

Those gates did not only defend the country against enemies, but were built also for management and administrative purposes. No one was allowed to enter Cairo or stay there except for its residents, or those who go in for certain reasonsand in daytime only.

Al-Khayameya street leading to Bab Zuweila

The prince of armies, Badr El Gamali, in 1087, built Bab El Fetouh, Bab El Nasr and Bab Zuweila - all were built of storeys. Cairo gates at that time were eight on each side.

Saladin El-Ayoubi built the third wall in 1171. He wanted to surround Cairo, Misr El Kadeima Citadel with one wall extended from Bab El Kantara till Bab El Shairia, from Bab El Shairia to Bab El Bahr, from El Makasi Citadel at the end of the northern wall to the River Nile beside El Makasi Mosque. Saladin wished that this wall would join with the one from Bab El Nasr to El Zafar Tower, then on to Bab El Barkia, then Bab El Wazir.

Unfortunately, all such dreams did not come true, due to Saladin's death. Some of Cairo Gates still exist and others are no more.

Bab El Bahr

Bab El Bahr was one of the outside Cairo gates at the end of its northern wall from the western side.

Bab Al-Wazir street

It was built in 1174 by Bahaa El Din Qaraqush, Saladin's Minister, to defend the capital and surround all of it to the eastern Nile bank. It was destroyed during the reign of Mohamed Ali.

It was known as El Makashi Gate or El Makasi, because it was located in El Makas village, that was called El Makesen and then called Bab El Bahr, as it overviewed the Nile, then was called Bab El Hadid. It was situated at the entrance of El Bahr Street from the Ramsis Square.

Bab El Barkia, 1st gate

It was established by Gawhar El Sakaly, when the first wall was established. It was called Bab El Ghareeb. It was destroyed in 1936 and replaced by Al Azhar University.

Bab El Barkia, 2nd gate

It was built by Saladin in 1184 in the eastern Cairo wall which was located in the Eastern Desert with the aim of widening Cairo from the eastern side.

El Bab El Gadid

It was established in 1170 in the eastern wall overlooking the desert. It was situated at a distance of 150m south of El Zafar Tower. It was the third gate and it still remains in the eastern wall between Bab El Barkia and Bab El Makhrouk.

Bab El Husseinia

It was built on the head of the road that connected between Bab El Fetouh of El Geish Square which is known nowadays as El Husseinia Street and El Bayouin Street. This gate was destroyed in 1895.

Bab El Khalk

It was at the head of the road that joined Bab Zuweila and Bab El Khalk Square known nowadays as Taht El Rabie Street.

This gate was established at the days of King Negm El Din Ayoub in 1241. At first, it was called Bab El Kharek, but the word was considered improper and was disapproved of.

As this square was passed by many people, so the Organization Department replaced this word in the era of Khedive Ismail and called it Bab El Khalk which is nowadays known as Ahmed Maher Square.

Bab El Khoga

Bab El Khoga was one of Cairo gates on the western wall towards El Kadi Mosque at Zein El Abedeen Square in El Nahrein Street, but it vanished. Bab Darb El Laban Its history goes back to the 14th Century. It is said that it was owned by a Mamlouk. It was a beautiful gate, ornamented with marble and miscellaneous knots.

Bab Zuweila

It was built by armies leader Badr El Gamali in 1092 in the western wall. It was one of the largest Cairo gates. It was set on the head of El Moez Li-Dinellah street from the western side.

Above it there were minarets of El Moayed King mosque. It was called El Moayed Bahr or Bab El Metwali.

Bab El Ser, El Jabel Citadel

It was a gate especially made for the entrance of VIP princes and high State officials, such as ministers and clerks. Nowadays, it is known as El Wastani Gate.

It is exactly situated in the middle gate that separates the general marine gate of the citadel from the court in which El Naser Mohamed Ibn Qalawoun Mosque existed and Mohamed Ali Mosque in the Citadel.

Bab Seada

It was one of the old Cairo gates in the western wall, that is parallel to El Khalij El Masry. It was established by Gawhar at the time of building the first wall. It is related to Seada Ibn Hayen, the son of El Moez Li-Dinellah.

Bab El Selsela, El Jabel Citadel

It is known nowadays as Alarab Gate. It overlooked El Jabel Citadel. It had large minarets. In the past, it was known as El Estabel Gate.

Bab El Shairia

It existed in the Northern wall of Cairo and was built by Saladin, west El Khalig El Masry at the distance located between El Khalij and Bab El Bahr. It was located in Al Adawi Square at the head of Suk El Garayer before enlarging the above-mentioned square.

It was open from the outside to El Adawi Square off El Zaafarani, El Adawi and El Fagala streets. All these are roads located outside the eastern wall in Cairo, in which Bab El Shairia existed. This gate was removed due to a crack in 1884.

Bab El Ghory

This gate was located in the middle of Khan El Khalili market place. It is still there with the same engravings and writings. It was established upon the command of Prince Konswa El Ghory. It is a giant gate, very high, ornamented with decorations.

Bab El Fetouh

It was established by Gawhar El Sakaly, and renewed by Badr El Gamali in 1087. It consisted of two rounded towers. The entrance was in the middle, and at both sides of the towers there were two windows; around their openings ornaments consisting of small columns.

Bab El Nasr

It was established by Gawhar El Sakaly, and renewed by Badr El Gamali in 1085. This gate is considered one of the remaining Islamic monuments. Its front consists of two squares with sculptures of swords and shields.

In the middle of a very huge door there is the name of the builder and date of building above. The stairs reach to the highest door, a building of stone with knots which is considered the first of its kind in Islamic architecture.

Bab El Wazir

It is one of Cairo outside gates in the last wall that was established by Saladin at the distance located between El Maherouk Gate and El Jabel Citadel. It was opened by Minister Negm El Din Mohamed, known as the Minister of Baghdad at a time.

He was Minister to King El Mansour Mohamed Ben Kalwori in 1341, that is why it is called Bab El Wazir. There is also Bab El Wazir Street and Bab El Wazir Cemetery. It still exists uptil now.

Bab Khan El Khalili

In 1511 Prince Seif El Din Jerkes El Khalili, in the age of King El Zaher Barqouk in the 14th Century, wanted to build a distinct gate. He chose the remaining of El Zaafran Cemetery. Sultan El Ghoury ordered destroying the distinct gate and rebuilt it.

It is known today as Wekalet El Cotton. Despite the changes that took place in El Khan, its entrance still remains with its decorations and writings. El Ghoury established two large gates teemed with ornaments. El Ghoury's name and titles are still there.

Khan El Khalili is the place where tourists coming from all the world to visit Egypt frequent. It is a gathering spot for the original crafts and arts of Cairo.

Bab El Tawfik

It was located at a distance of 10m west of Saladin's eastern wall on the remaining of Badr El Gamali wall (1097). Some historians say that this gate was established instead of the old Bab El Barkia.

Bab El Farag

It is not traceable at present. It was located in the southern Cairo wall at the hall where the tomb of Set Seada is situated in the western side of the Security Building in Ahmed Maher Square.

Bab Qayet Bei (Cemetery)

It was established in 1494, situated at the end of El Sayeda Aisha Street on the western side. It is called Qayet Bei Gate after King Ashraf Qayet Bei who renewed the present gate and also named El Sayeda Aisha Gate.

Bab Qasr El Selehdar

It was established in 1347 in Souk El Selah. It is located near El Gay Youssefy School. It is one of the remaining palaces which were built by Prince Meng El Selehdar. It is full of decorations and writings around the covered dome of the entrance, indicating the name of builder and his titles

. Bab El Qela

It was located in one of the interior walls of the eastern nothern section of El Jabel Citadel. The wall was separating between the hall that was behind the general gate of the Citadel and the sultan floor.

In this hall, the princes used to sit and wait until they were permitted to enter.

It was known by this name, because there were high towers built by El Zaher Bebers. They were destroyed by King El Mansour and a dome built instead, then this dome was destroyed by King El Naser Mohamed Ben Qalawon. The gate was renewed.

Bab El Qantara

One of Cairo gates that was established by Salah El Din El Ayoubi in 1173 on the eastern edge of El Khalij.

It is known as Bab El Qantara, because it is situated towards El Qantara which was built by Gawhar El Sakaly on El Khalij.

This gate was destroyed. Its present place is in the beginning of the street called Bab Shairia that is connecting between El Khalij Street and Amir El Geioush Street.

El Bab Al Akhdar

It was established of a block of engraved stone. It is 5.85m high and 6.65m wide. It is parallel to the El Hussein Mosque from the northern west. It is the only Fatimid monument existing of the tomb of El Hussein that was built to keep in his head put in a silver box.