On the way back from Umm Qais we stopped at Ajlun Castle. Known locally by its original name of Qa’lat Al-Rabad, most guides and books just reference it by the nearest town of Ajlun.
Approaching the castle from the car park it looks very European. Four walls, cornered by four towers and a deep moat. It was actually built by one of Saladin’s generals to protect against the European crusaders in 1184AD.
Ajlun was of strategic value as it contained numerous iron mines, so the castle to defend the three main routes leading to the Jordan Valley and the route to Syria.
During the crusades it was also an important communications post – pigeons could ferry messages from Cairo to Damascus in a single day.
The castle was eventually sacked by the Mongols (should have built a Great Wall!), then quickly rebuilt to have seven towers. After a few garrisoning forces came and went the castle was abandoned to the local villagers.
In 1812 it was home to about forty people, yet was ‘discovered’ by the same Swiss explorer that also ‘discovered’ Petra, and all the people already living there…
Two more earthquakes in the 1800s finally destroyed one of the towers, which is still being rebuilt today.
Just inside the door is a small museum containing items found in the castle, such as oil lamps and armour. Further upstairs it’s possible to reach the ramparts. Most of the buildings on the roof have now crumbled, but the main draw is the spectacular views down the three valleys.
Visiting Ajlun Castle
If you get to the town of Aljun by bus it’s a very steep couple of miles uphill to the castle so I’d strongly suggest getting a taxi, which will wait to take you back to town.
Getting into the castle is only JD1 and it opens at 8am till 5pm.