Citadel of Salah Ed-Din | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Citadel of Salah Ed-Din

Shir al Qaq, Latakia, Syria

Lucy Davidson

25 Apr 2021

About Citadel of Salah Ed-Din

The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, also known as Saladin Castle and Saone, is a partly-preserved fortress in Syria which is an interesting example of Crusader-era fortifications.

The site has been used as a fortification for many centuries, and is thought to have first been occupied by the Phoenicians and later by Alexander the Great. The current site was built by the Byzantines and became a Crusader stronghold until its capture by Saladin in 1188.

The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

History of Citadel of Salah Ed-Din

The medieval citadel is built of limestone, and contains features such as high protective towers, a moat, and the remains of a bridge.

The citadel is located around 30km east of Latakia, near the Syrian coast, and on the way to Aleppo. It is strategically located amongst thick forest in the high mountains on a ridge between two deep ravines. It was built to guard the route between Latikia and the city of Antioch.

The site has been fortified since at least the mid 10th century, and its first known occupant was a dependent of the Aleppo-based Hamdanid emir, Sayf al-Dawla. It was captured by Byzantine emperor John I Tzimiskes captured Sahyun in 975, who fortified it in around 1000 with 3 walls of 5 metres in thickness.

It remained in Byzantine control until around 1108, at which point it was captured by Crusaders. In 1188, in what was one of his most successful military campaigns, the Ayyubid sultan Saladin and his son laid siege to and captured the castle. Later administrations developed a palace, mosque, baths, cistern, and a madrasa in the hear of the site.

It was finally recaptured after the Mamluks besieged it in 1287, before being abandoned after at least the late 14th century.

It was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2006. Though concerns were raised about its safety due to the Syrian uprising of 2011 and the civil war, it survived without any significant damage.

Citadel of Salah Ed-Din Today

In early 20th century, T. E. Lawrence visited the castle, and described it as ‘the most sensational thing in castle building I have ever seen’. The site is close to Al-Haffah, a town in northwestern Syria. Today, visitors who are willing to make the walk or the steep drive up the ridge can enjoy exploring the historic site.

Getting to Citadel of Salah Ed-Din

From the nearby town of Al-Haffah, the citadel is a 9 minute drive via unnamed roads up to the top of the ridge. It is also a 47 minute drive through thick forest.




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