image The Hidden history of Kerak Castle in Jordan

Kerak castle, from the Biblical kingdom of Moab, home to the Nabateans, Romans, Byzantines then it became a Crusader castle (designed by the King of Israel). The Castle then fell to Saladin’s troops in 1189 after 3 years of war, finally it was captured and much of it destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt (a royal son of Egypt’s Dynasty).

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A map of Kerak Castle

 

After World War I, Kerak was handled by the British until the Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921.

Its amazing to me that this castle and small town have been predominantly Christian since the crusades, even with the country’s majority Muslim religion. This is something that I did not realize, that although Jordan is ruled by the Islamic Laws, they allow Christians to practice their religion within the country as long as they don’t try and proselytize.

I also learned that wearing a hijab in Jordan is more of a cultural norm, even Christians wear a hijab. I have compared it to women – how when we wear our hair straight we are seen as well groomed, if it is frizzy we are looked at unkempt or too lazy to do our own hair.

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The Ruins at Kerak Castle, surprisingly modern archways

 

One thing I really loved about this castle was the fact that Saladin was actually here!!! If you haven’t seen ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ with Orlando Bloom you should, it will show you the Hollywood version of Saladin; he was such a great general!

If you stand at Kerak’s highest point, you can see what a great position it has, it is set on a hill with steep ramparts that I think would even make Jack and Jill sweat. No wonder it took Saladin 3 years before he was finally able to overthrow the crusaders who defended this castle for so long.

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Saladin on his Horse conquering the area

 

Traveler tip: To get to Kerak Castle it is 1 hour 46 minute drive, driving there is easy (except in the bigger towns) because the roads are pretty empty. If you enjoy driving on winding and narrow mountain roads its fine. The roads are fairly well maintained and tarmaced just be careful around mujib road to Karak from Madaba. Any rental car office will have a rental car or a car with driver. You will have to check on your VISA requirements while in the country to see if a guide/tour guide/tourist police escort is required within the country– depending on the size of your group. Prices range from $30 without driver — to $100 with a driver (minimum starting prices depending on how good you can negotiate with them). Rental companies available in the area are: Budget, Reliable, Hertz, National, Europcar. There is a lot to see on the way there including the Dead Sea, Madaba, and Lot’s cave.

Be sure to see the classic Crusader architecture, with the Roman style vaults, long stone corridors. If you look on the upper levels of the castle and see the darker looking stone, these are from the crusader period, while the whiter limestone are actually from the time of Saladin.

What was the most exciting part for me? It was the upper courtyard, where you can actually stand in and see a CRUSADER CHAPEL! With all the mysticism surrounding the Crusader period, due to Dan Brown’s famous Novels like Angels & Demons — it was so exciting to be standing in that spot.

The security guard, Mohammad, he was trying to flirt with me down the halls of this castle. He tried to scare me, and it worked, with the spooky flashlight under the chin trick. I screamed a little, when in any other setting I would have hit him…hard. I think that when you are in ancient ruins like this, everything seems more mysterious and creepy….especially the dungeons….that was too creepy to take a photo (and too dark).

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Mohammad trying to scare me in the tunnels at Kerak

 

Traveler tip: When considering visiting Jordan, especially Kerak and the Dead Sea, its best to go there in Early March/April or in Sept/November because it can get VERY hot, around 104-115 during summer months & there isn’t much shade/cover.

Speaking of the Dead Sea, at the top of this castle, you can peer over the Mountains and actually see the Dead Sea. There are also plenty of other Crusader Castles in Jordan you should really check out while you are there, this includes: Montreal Castle, Vaux Moise, and Helim. There is also Shobak castle with its secret tunnel 🙂 and also interestingly fell to Saladin a year after Kerak! I never got to see the last 4 castles mentioned, but there will definitely be on my list when I go back to Jordan.

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Exploring the Chapel at Kerak

 

Traveler Tip: Kerak castle is also a great stopping point on your way down to Petra & Wadi Rum.

So be sure to stop by Kerak, and feel a little of what it was like to be among the Crusaders, let your mind wander about what it was like to be confined to the cold stone castles & how much dedication it must have taken to stay there — that would have required a lot of devotion on my part to be confined to one place. On that note, HAPPY TRAVELS & HAPPY TALES.


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