“Plan of the fort of Pharos”, Aquarelle, pen and pencil, J.-J.A. Sorbier, Vibrac, 23 September 1799



Qaitbay Fort was built in 1477-1479 by the Mamluk sultan El-Ashraf Qaitbay on the site of the ruins of the Pharos lighthouse, which had collapsed following the earthquake of 1303. Before that time, the entrance to the Eastern Harbour had not been sufficiently secure. To fill this gap in the city’s defensive system, Qaitbay had a large keep built, surrounded by an defensive wall. This central keep still stands, while the walls, entrance and courtyard were modified and restored many times: under the Mamluk sultan Qansuh el-Ghuri in the 16th century, then under the Ottomans and during the French occupation. Napoleon’s engineers carried out numerous surveys and levelled the Ottoman houses occupying the courtyard. Mohamed Ali undertook major works in 1810, transforming the fort into a modern bastioned fortress (1).

“Elevation of the Pharos castle”. Ink wash, pen and pencil, Armée d’Orient, Description de l’Égypte, État moderne, Planches, Vol. 2, pl. 87.4-5