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The Citadel, Cairo

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Egypt's insider take:

Saladin, an invader from Syria, built the Citadel in 1183 to protect Egypt from the Crusaders. Sitting atop its massive original foundations, the complex was remodeled after 1804 by the Ottoman viceroy Mohammed Ali, a conquering soldier from Albania. The Citadel is made up of more than a dozen buildings, mosques, and museums, all centered on the Mohammed Ali Mosque, the iconic pile of domes and tall minarets that dominates the city skyline. Nicknamed "the Alabaster Mosque" for its exterior stone sheathing, its interiors are done in a grand, ornate style more reminiscent of Istanbul than Egypt, with lofty ceilings and huge, low-hanging globe-lamp chandeliers. The Carriage Museum is the best place to get a sense of the lifestyle of the Mohammed Ali dynasty, which ended with the 1952 overthrow of King Farouk. There is also a jail, a museum of stolen antiquities, and a vast national military museum devoted mainly to the tanks and airplanes of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

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