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Al Karak Castle

The city of Karak (locals simply call it Al-Karak) is known for the role it has played during the times of Crusades. Up till now, Karak remains to be one of the top-ranked sites in Jordan. The place is related to numerous legends which makes this place especially interesting for tourists. Karak played a significant role in Nabataean history. The castle is located very close to Jordan and you can easily get there by all kinds of transport.

The place has a rich history and up till now attracts a lot of visitors. Without exaggeration, Karak Castle is the largest crusader castle in the Levant. The place is also known for its hotels, churches, mosques, and exquisite restaurants.

Location of Karak

Al Karak Castle once used to be a bastion of the Crusaders. The castle is situated at an altitude of 900 meters above the sea level in the walls of an old city Al Karak. Today the city’s population is about 170 thousand people. It attracts tourists with a large number of well-preserved monuments left from the times of an Ottoman empire. The place has a rather good infrastructure with a lot of restaurants and cafes. But its most important attraction of the town is Al-Karak Castle.

There is also a museum with artifacts and historical information about the castle. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as the Dead Sea from the top of the castle. More recently this castle has been involved in the conflict with ISIS and visitors should check local travel advice before visiting.

Al Karak Castle is built on a triangular plateau near its narrow southern end. The length of the castle is 220 m, the width is 125 m – in its northern part, and 40 m – in its southern part.

History of Karak

Al Karak Castle was once the favorite place of Saladin. The building itself has the footsteps of both crusaders and Arab builders. You can see the rough stonework of the Crusaders, which is scrupulously combined with light limestone – the work of Arab artists and constructors.

A few centuries later, the Crusaders spent about twenty years erecting their massive castle. The construction was completed only in 1161. Since that time, the castle became a long-term residence of the ruler of Transjordan. For a long time, Al Karak Castle was considered the most important feudal possession of the state of the Crusaders, providing them with agricultural products and thus giving them the ability to pay their taxes.

Having sustained several sieges in the early 1170s, Karak was captured by Reynald de Chatillon, a ruler known for his recklessness and barbaric behavior. Breaking all the treaties, he began to rob trade caravans and even pilgrims who went to Mecca. Reynald carried out raids on Arab ports in the Red Sea and even threatened to capture Mecca itself. Saladin, the ruler of Syria and Egypt, reacted without hesitation. He captured the city of Karak by force, burned it to the ground, and even tried to capture Al-Arak Castle. This heroic act of Saladin was then followed by a long period of peace.

During peacetime, Reynald’s attack on a large caravan in 1177 led to a quick reaction from the side of Saladin, who declared the war to the Crusaders. This war had finished with the defeat of the Crusaders in the Battle of Khattin. Saladin freed almost released all captives except Reynald, whom he executed with his own hands. Defenders of Karak survived for almost eight months of a prolonged siege and then surrendered to Muslims who generously released them on all four sides.

Once again in the hands of Muslims, Karak has become the capital of the region, covering most of modern Jordan, and, over the next two centuries, played a key role in the political life of the Middle East. For some time, Karak even became the capital of the entire Mamluk state. When Sultan al-Nasir Ahmad was tired of endless battles for the power in Cairo, he sent his brother heir al-Salih Ismail to Karak. Nasir Ahmad had to undertake eight sieges before he was able to seize the fortress and again and to regain his status of a king.

During the reign of Ayyubids and the first Mamluk sultans, the castle was undergoing its major redevelopment, and the city’s fortifications were reinforced by massive towers, which apparently did not have a gate: the path to the city is laying through underground passages, the entrances to which are still noticeable. In later times, the city became the refuge for rebels, and the castle was used as a place for generic councils. Since 1894, after the establishment of a solid Turkish power, the Mamluq Palace was turned into a prison. The Great Arab uprising gave last blow on Turkish rule, which ended in 1918.