Citadel of Damascus - Citadel Today - Location and Layout

Location and Layout

The citadel is located in the northwest corner of the old walled city of Damascus, between the Bab al-Faradis and the Bab al-Jabiyah. Whereas most medieval Arabic castles are located on prominent hilltops, the citadel of Damascus was built on flat ground at the same level as the rest of the city, a feature it shares with the Citadel of Bosra. The location of the citadel ensured that it could control the Barada River, which flows north of the citadel. The location of the river also offered protection against attack from that side of the citadel. The Nahr Aqrabani, a canal branching off the Barada, flowed immediately below the northern wall and provided additional protection. The dry moats on the other sides of the citadel could be filled from these streams. Another branch of the Barada, the Nahr Banyas, entered the city under the citadel. Hydraulic structures below that made control of the flow of water into Damascus possible from within the citadel were probably constructed under Al-Adil. The citadel was fully integrated into the defences of Damascus, with the city walls abutting the citadel on its southwest and northeast corners.

The citadel erected under the Seljuqs occupied an area measuring 210 by 130 metres (690 by 430 ft). Parts of the Seljuq walls were integrated in the rebuilding undertaken by Al-Adil. In this way, a second inner ring of defence was provided, as Al-Adil's walls enclosed a slightly larger area. The Ayyubid citadel encloses an uneven rectangular area of 230 by 150 metres (750 by 490 ft). The outer walls, constructed by Al-Adil, were pierced by three gates and originally protected by 14 towers, although only 12 of these remain. Except for the western part of the curtain wall, the defensive works of the citadel that are still standing are primarily of Ayyubid date, with extensive Mamluk restorations. The walls are partly obscured from sight by the urban fabric of Damascus, which has encroached upon the citadel during the 19th and 20th centuries. The shops along the north side of the Al-Hamidiyah Souq are built against the citadel's southern fa├žade, while parts of the eastern defences are also obscured by buildings. The buildings that stood against the western and northern walls were cleared in the 1980s.

The walls and towers of the citadel are constructed from carbonate rocks and basalt that were quarried in the vicinity of Damascus.

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