Also known as Rabadh Castle and Qal'at Al-Rabed, this famous fortress sits on top of a hill just outside the sprawling city of Ajlun. The castle is most famous for being the Saladin stronghold that faced off against the Crusaders who sat in Kerak castle (of Kingdom of Heaven fame) to the south. In fact about 200 of the world's finest crusaders spent time in the castle as guests (prisoners) of Saladin, until their ransom was paid, including Kings, Princes and other royalty from all over Europe.
It is also close to many famous battles, especially Ain Jalut, where the Mamluks defeated the Mongols for the first time in the history of their empire, and turned back the tide.
Cost of entry is just 1JD, and an official guide will cost you about 5JD for half an hour. Mamoud was my guide, and offered to rent me part of the castle for when I get married!
In 1214 the castle was enlarged. A fifth tower was added and a bridge decorated with pigeons (those can still be seen) built. Invading Mongols destroyed the castle in 1260, but it was soon recaptured by the Mamluks who restored it. It is very nice to walk around the labyrinth of rooms exploring, and then take a rest at the top of one of the towers, with a great view over the valley.
The view from the top of the towers is great. If the weather is clear you can look out over the Jordan Valley and even see the Dead Sea (the Dead Sea could not be seen when I was there).
Being on a hill the castle was one in a chain of pigeon posts and beacons, which allowed messages to be transmitted from Euphrate River to Cairo in one day.
I had planed to visit Ajlun and Jerash on a daytrip from Amman using public transport, but was a bit concerned if I was going to be in time to catch the last bus back from Jerash (I had got mixed reports of when it was leaving).
As I had breakfast in the hotel in the morning I was going I heard a French couple talking to the man in the reception and they had the same plans as I had. I talked to them and in the end we decided to take one of the tours from the hotel (only transport), which would give us the time also to visit Uum Qais. We started in Uum Qais, then went on to Ajlun and last to Jerash. It was a long day but we did not have to rush through any of the sites and it was convenient. We split the price between the three of us and I paid 16,5 JD.
In one of the rooms of Qala?at ar Rabad there is a small museum with items from nearby excavations. The museum was closed as we arrived, but after walking around in the castle for a while we saw it had opened and went there.
The castle is open daily.
April - October 8am - 7pm
November - March 8am - 5pm
Entrance fee to the castle is 1 JD (July 2005).
This is a really cool castle located just 30 minutes away from Jerash. Supposedly it has spectacular view over the Valley of Jordan but you might want to go on a clearer day than I did. However, the fog did create a feeling that old ghosts were going to appear at any time. Among the ruins there's a small museum near the entrance. It's worth looking at as well.
The history is all presented in a nice little explanation given at the castle. In 1184 (Islamic year AH 580) Izz ad-Din Usama ibn Munqidh, a commander and nephew of Saladin, built a small fortress on this site. It was built to contain the progress of the Latin Kindom in Trans-Jordan at the time of the Crusades, and as a response to the building of the castle of Belvoir on the shores of Lake Tiberias. Another major objective of Saladin was to develop and control the iron mines in the area of Ajlun.
After Usama's death the castle was enlarged by Aibak ibn 'Abdallah, major-domo of Al-Mu' azzam Isa. He added a new tower in the southeast corner and built the gate, which is decorated with pigeon reliefs. In the middle of the 13th century AD, the castle was conceded to Salah-ad Din Yousef ibn Ayoub, the King of Aleppo and Damascus. In AD 1260 the Mongols destroyed sections of the castle, including its battlements. Soon after the victory of the Mamluks over the Mongols at 'Ain Jalut, Sultan al-Dhaher Baibars restored the castle again.
This part of Jordan is one of the most fertile regions, it is seldom that rain fails to fall here. From the castle one has an impressive view over the cultivated terraces nearby. The grass is lush as you see, and the goats are finding ample forage. If the weather is fine you can see the lake of Tiberias, Wadi Kufranjah, Wadi Rajeb, Wadi al-Yabes and the town of Ajlun.
In the Ottoman period a contingent of fifty soldiers was set uo in the castle. During the first quarter of the seventeenth century, Prince Fakhr ad-Din al-Ma'ni II used it during his fight against Ahmad ibn Tarbay. He supplied the castle with a contingent and provided provisions and ammunition. In 1812, the Swiss traveller J.L. Burkhardt found the castle inhabited by around forty people. The earthquake of the 1837 and of the 1927 damaged it a lot.
The works of restorations started in the 1960 and they are already go on.
In the 1260 AD, the Mongols destroyed sections of the castle including its battlements. Soon after the victory of the Mamluks over the Mongols ar 'Ain Jalut, Sultan al-Dhaher Baibars restored the castle and cleared the fosse. The castle was used as a storehouse for crops and provisions. 'Izz ad-Din Aibak was appointed governor. He renovated the castle as indicated by an inscription found in the castle.
After Usama's death, the castle was enlarged in the 1214-1215 AD by Aibak ibn 'Abdallah, majordomo of al-Mu'azzam 'Isa. He added a new tower in the southeast corner and built the gate, which is decorated with pigeon reliefs. In the middle of the 13th century, the castle was conceded to Salah ad-Din Yousef ibn Ayoub, King of Aleppo and Damascus, who restored the northeastern tower.
Another major objective of Salah ad-Din was to develop and control the iron mines of the 'Ajlun. the original core castle had four corner towers, now you can see only the ruins of two of them (in the photos). Arrow slits were incorporated in the thinck wall and it was surrounded by a fosse averaging 16 metres in width and 12-15 metres in depth, that you can see up yp now, under the bridge at the entrance!!!
In the 1184 AD, 'Izz ad-Din Usama ibn Munqidh, a commander and nephew of Salah ad-Din al-'Ayyubi (Saladin), built a small fortress on the Jabal Beni. From its situation, the fortress dominated a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley, controlled three main passages to it: Wadi Kufranjah, Wadi Rajeb and Wadi al-Yabes. It also protected the communication routes between south Jordan and Syria. It was built to contain the progress of the Latin Kingdom in Trans-jordan and as a retort to the castle of Belvoir on the lake of Tiberias.
Inside, the castle is actually quite small (I come from Britain so I suppose I'm a bit spoilt for huge castles!) But nonetheless, it's full of dark rooms, old banquet halls, and steep staircases.
The guys who work there periodically drown the dusty ground with water, which keeps the passageways delightfully cool and airy. When it's quiet it's easy to transport yourself back in time to the Crusades. There's also a small museum near the entrance.
I'd love to visit in winter, when apparently snow sometimes falls.
You can see why this spot was chosen for a strategic military castle. Apparently on a sunny day you can see all across the Jordan Valley and even into modern Israel. In October, however, winter is approaching and the skies are colder and duller and the view is a bit more limited.
Still, you can see the nearby new town of Ajlun, the gentle tree-lined slopes and valleys, and the mountains behind them. I'm told it's one of the best views in Jordan.
In the Ottoman period a contingent of 50 soldiers was set up in the castle. During the first quarter of the 17th century AD, Prince Fakhr ad-Din al-Ma'ni II used it during his fight against Ahmad ibn Tarbay. He supplied the castle with a contingent and provided provisions and ammunition.
In 1812, the Swiss traveller J.L. Burkhardt found the castle inhabited by around 40 people of the Barakat family.
Two major destructive earthquakes struck the castle in AD 1837 and 1927 (maybe you shouldn't go there in 2017!). The Department of Antiquities then sponsored a new programme of restoration and consolidation of the walls and rebuilt the bridge over the fosse.