Salah al Din


Salah al Din (Saladin) was born in 1138 in Tikrit, in modern Iraq, the son of a Kurdish chief. He rose to prominence in the army of Shirkuh, when the Latin Xtian Crusaders were trying to establish a base in Palestine, for their attack on Jerusalem.

He was sent with the army into Egypt to capture Cairo, and prevent it falling into the hands of the Crusaders. Gradually through promotion to vizier, and the death of the Caliph, he was proclaimed “al Malik al Nasir”, the hereditary title of “Prince Defender” which passed to his successors.

Saladin was responsible for the building of the city walls, and the massive stronghold of the Citadel, on a rock above the city. However his achievements were not all military, and he used the vast wealth accumulated there to build colleges, hospitals and mosques. By 1174 Saladin was ruler of all Egypt, and united it as a stronghold of Sunni Islamic orthodoxy for religion, learning and culture.

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Using Egypt as his base, he led expeditions as far as Syria and Iraq, and by 1187 had captured Jerusalem.

A romantic historical figure, He was much admired across Europe for his fairness and generosity, and it was he who introduced chivalry to the knights of Europe, who previously had been barbaric in their attitude to those they conquered.


His army included Turks, Coptic Xtians and Eastern Orthodox Xtians, all of whom were united against the crusading armies of the Roman Pope. Saladin died at the age of 55, in Damascus in 1193, and was succeeded by his brother.