The Saladin Citadel on Pharaoh Island, near Taba in South Sinai, is open to tourists after a LE20 million restoration project.
Over the last six years, the citadel and island were closed to tourists.
To decrease the amount of sea water flooding the citadel, cement wave breakers were constructed in the sea around the citadel. The external walls were made stronger and other structures repaired.
Signboards with historical information were added to enhance understanding and appreciation of the site. Also new are wooden sun shades, and a lighting system to make the citadel accessible at night. There are plans for cultural activities and dancing performances to take place on the island, with the citadel acting as impressive backdrop, to give visitors optional experiences there.
Pharaoh Island, also called Coral Island or Geziret Faroun, is located 8 kilometers south of Taba and 250 meters off the coast. The Phoenicians were the first to make use of the island’s natural harbor during the 10th century BC, to foster trade with Egypt.
The location of the fortress provided control of the traffic between the three banks of the Gulf of Aqaba: from the north coming from Palestine and Syria, from the east from the Arab Peninsula and from the west from Sinaï and from Egypt. It was important from at least the Byzantine era, the remains of a Byzantine church from the time of Justinian VI are still visible.
It became more important during the Muslim period with the development of the pilgrimage to Mecca, and when the Christian kingdoms were set up in Palestine and Syria in 1099. The Crusaders built a fortress there and exacted a ransom from passing pilgrims. Saladin (Salah ad-din al Ayyubi), founder of the Ayyubid dynasty and sultan of Egypt, seized Aqaba and the fortress in 1171. He ordered that the fortress be consolidated and redeveloped. When the Crusades came to an end (1291) and a pilgrims’ road was built passing through Eilat, it lost its importance and may even have been abandoned.
During the crusading period, the citadel played an important role in protecting the Sinai Peninsula from invasion. It was capable of a withstanding a long siege, with water tanks built into the rock. It includes a furnace for producing weapons, a soldiers’ barracks, a bakery, mill and bathroom.
In addition to the attractions of the citadel, Pharaoh Island offers magnificent views of the Red Sea and the coral reefs near it provide rewarding snorkeling and diving.
This year an Egyptian film, El Maslaha, focused its story in Sinai and the citadel features in some exciting action scenes.
A short drive from Taba is the Fjord bay, also shown in the video and slideshow below. For more about the Fjord see https://naturetravelegypt.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/the-fjord-great-views-above-and-below-the-sea/
Enjoy a short video of Fjord bay and Citadel
Saladin Citadel, Taba, views along the road between Taba and the Fjord, and the beauties of the Fjord.