There are a number of forts in Egypt. The most famous of these
is the Citadel in Cairo, but also notable is Fort Qaitbey in
Alexandria, built on the location of the legendary Pharos
Lighthouse. Probably the least known of the major forts is
located on Pharaoh's Island in the Gulf of Aqba. This fortress
would undoubtedly draw much larger crowds of tourists were it
located in a more mainstream tourist destination, but tourists
who make an effort to visit the fort will usually have the
island mostly to themselves.
Pharaoh's Island, sometimes called Coral Island, or Geziret
Faraoun, is the location of a Crusader fortress originally built
by Baldwin I, the King of Jerusalem. From the top of the
fortress, one can see four countries, including Egypt, Israel,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Work apparently began on the fortress
around 1116 AD. Baldwin built the Fortress for three reasons:
First it was in the center of a huge trade route between the far
East and Europe, second it was easily defendable, being out of
range of land based catapults and was on high ground and third
it was in the narrowest section of the Gulf of Aqaba.
At various times while in Crusader hands, it was used to collect
taxes on Arab merchants, and sometimes to attack Arab shipping,
while at the same time protecting pilgrims traveling between
Jerusalem and St. Catherine's Monastery. The fortification was,
however, captured by Salah ad-Din in about 1170. He expanded the
fortress considerably and that it was possibly not abandoned
until the 13th century and the Mamelukes and Ottomans probably
further enhanced it.
The fortress, which is completely renovated, has many small
rooms some with arched doorways and other without. These rooms
included sleeping quarters for the troops, bath houses and
kitchens with huge ovens. There are towers to house carrier
pigeons, which were used for relaying messages in the Middle
Ages and circular towers for archers.
Little else of the Fortress history is known. Obviously at least
one important battle took place there, when Salah ad-Din took
the Fortress from the Crusaders, but beyond that we really here
of no major battles involving the fort.