After the minibus left Jerash, and was winding its way through curves in the valleys with lush vegetation, I started scanning the landscape for a first glimpse of the Qalat ar-Rabad. Before I expected it, I saw a yellowish building on top of one of the many hills defining the skyline, and I immediately knew that that was it. As the minibus sped towards Ajloun, the castle became always clearer. The contours, first not much more than a silhouette against the cloudy sky, turned into a sharply defined lines of a castle. From a distance, it looked like a fairy tale castle, with towers, and right on top of a hill.
Instead of taking a taxi up, I decided to walk up Qalat ar-Rabad from Ajloun. Since the castle was not visible anymore, I followed my sense of directions, and then, suddenly, the castle reappeared, much bigger than before now, almost within hands reach. After a steep last climb, I reached the top of the Mt. Auf at 1250m, bought my ticket, and crossed the wooden bridge over the moat to get in. The doors were not closed anymore and it is centuries ago that the castle was last defended; the castle still gave an impression of being highly defensive. The castle was built by Izz ad-Din Usama bin Munqidh, a nephew of the illustrous Saladin, in the 12th century, as a defensive castle against the crusaders.
The original castle had four watchtowers, but it was later extended and new towers were added. While it was never taken by the crusaders, it was however conquered and partly destroyed by the Mongols in 1260. After the Mamluks had taken control again, the castle was again restored, and used for storage. Later on, it was again used as a castle, before Swiss traveller J.L. Burkhardt came across Qalat ar-Rabad or Ajloun Castle in 1812. It was badly damaged by two earthquakes, reconstruction works are still underway, but during my visit, some parts were still very messy. I took my time in discovering the castle, all its hidden corridors and passages, stairs, climbing up walls, enjoying the view from some of the watchtowers that are still accessible, realizing just how strategically positioned the castle is, while listening to the sounds of sheep being herded down below, and the wind blowing through the pine trees, and I wondered how similar these sounds must have been centuries ago.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Qalat ar-Rabad (Jordan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Qalat ar-Rabad.
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