Saturday, 27 November 2010

Back in Amman 2: Karak Castle

To get to Karak you can take the Dead sea highway or the King's highway (through Wadi Mujib) where the scenery is much more exciting, but it would be a bit too long for Bibs - she tends to get very bored in the car. So we took the Desert highway, the fastest way to get there. We managed to find Karak and the castle without getting lost, not thanks to the signs though...

a sign, with some remains from the elections
view of the castle
The castle, probably the largest in Jordan, from the Crusaders' time, was built in 20 years and finished in 1161, when it became the residence of the lord of Transjordan (the most important fief of the Crusader kingdom, as it was rich in both produce and tax revenues). But long before the crusaders arrived in the region (some 29 centuries ago), the fortress of Kir Heres (or Kir-Haresesth) is mentionned several times in the Bible, like in the Book of Kings (2 King 3:25): "In the end, there was only Kir-hareseth left, which the slingers surrounded and battled." - a descritpion of the Israelites assaulting Moab and taking the fortress. There is also another version of this event: which is the famous Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone. The site being this old came obviously also in the hands of the Nabateans (the ones from Petra). There is one small remain from the 2nd century AD.

Nabataean Relief
It is the bust of a man - unfortunately he has lost his head, but it has been identified as a funerary monument of a Nabataean cavalryman. 

View towards the Dead Sea and Israel
View South towards the Lower Court
The views are spectacular. It is said that on a clear day you can see as far as the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. 

There is a small museum presenting findings from Karak and the Moab region.

Entrance to the Museum (lower court)

There is a small leaflet availbale at the visitor's center. It is well made with lots of information. The trouble is only that it is not that easy to know exactly where you are in the castle, so it is good to have the leaflet at all times and follow the small plan. A guide kind of just took us along (we paid him 2jd) and he showed us some of the things. It is also possible to rent audio equipment for 5jd. Depending on how much you want to know about the site. As usual I feel that I don't know enough, so when my parents come next year I'll probably go back for a second round.

The castle is built in 2 levels (upper court and lower court), as can be seen clearly on the pictures beneath. There are 2 main periods: the Crusaders, late 12 century and the Mamluk, 13th to 15th century. 

Crusader Galleries

Upper court - inside view of the Crusader Gate 

You can walk around completely freely in the castle. There are a few signs along the way, but there are places where we wouldn't have gone without the guide, like the prison or the dormitories. The entry to the castle is 1JD for tourists and 150fils for residents. It is not a stroller friendly site, there are steps everywhere. Bibs enjoyed walking around, picking up stones and being carried a little bit as well, when down in the prison cells. There are no lights whatsoever in the underground vaults, only small openings here and there in the ceiling or the walls so the guide was walking around with a flash-light.

The castle is a must visit in Jordan. Then there is also the city of Karak. It used to be completely fortified and there are still towers and hidden entrances to the castle around the city. There are plenty places to eat and drink around the castle should it be lunch time.


Ehab said...

The amazing thing about foreigners anywhere is that they have always seen more monuments and stuff than the locals...

Glad you're back from your vacation, had fun?

Babs said...

had a great time thx :) yep it is funny isn't it? i lived 6 years in Paris and didn't even manage the Louvre and did the Eiffel tower just once (because a friend of mine was visiting!). I think it's like that, when you know that your time is limited in a way you want to visit more! You should go it's worth it...

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