Perched on hill that dominates the surrounding arid countryside, Krak des Moabites is the castle that gave Kerak its name. It was built in 1142 AD by Payen le Bouteiller, a Crusader Lord under King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. The site he chose was once an important city in the ancient kingdom of Moab and remained of some importance during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Any ruins from its ancient past would have probably been used as building materials in the construction of the castle. Krak des Moabites finally fell to Saladdin's army in 1189 and it remained under Moslem rule thereafter. Successive passing dynasties and empires added to the castle as it remained in use. In 1840, Egypt's Khedive Ibrahim Pasha destroyed much of Krak des Moabites, along with many other fortifications in the Levant, during his brief occupation of the region. The castle continues to dominate the modern town of Kerak to this day and is its main attraction. Due to time constraints, I was unable to visit the interior of the castle, but enjoyed the magificent view of it from the road that snakes around the town.
You may decide to wander around the castle.
a word of warniing: it is not another Krak de Chevalier in Syria! This site is far smaller because a lot of it has been built on. Much of the modern town perches on the old castle site. As you approach by road stoop your car to take in the huge walls and earthworks. Remember the fantastic view down from the Citadel in Aleppo ----if you've been there! Well, this is similar!
The castle itself was a Crusader fortress, started in the mid-12th century, which was besieged a number ot times. It was the base of the sadistic Reynald ---who was eventually executed by Salah ad-Din (Saladin).
There are still some wonderful ruins to be enjoyed: the dungeons, a Christian chapel, a Mumluke palace, kitchens, a keep, barracks and stabling.
This is one of a string of Crusader Castles in the region. While not as impressive as the the Crac Des Chevaliers it should not be missed if you have even the slightest interest in Castles.
The Castle itself is literally next to the city but unlike the Crac you won't be hounded by wanna be guides than thus have plently of time to wander around imagine what the place was like back in the day
Despite what the guides by the entrance may tell you, the castle is not that big. You can get around it in an hour or two, and if you are careful, you won't miss a thing. You certainly won't get lost. There are a lot of nooks and crannies. The important parts are all explained with English notice boards.
Entrance to the castle is just 1JD.
From the Norther tip, head back in the direction of the Castle ruins. The path leads to an underground passageway, the begining of vaulted rooms, chambers and underground paths.
Tip: Take a headlight or flashlight with you to get the best out of your visit.
After visiting the museum, continue along the old Castle Walls to the Northern tip. Be careful climbing the stairs to the second level. You'll get spectacular views of the valley and surrounding hills of Karak.
Just past the entrance gate where you purchased your ticket, a path leads downhill to it's Museum. A large plaza opens up to the entrance way. The staircase and plaza are restored with new stones. Admission is included in the ticket price. The museum covers the history of Jordan and surrounding area, it's constant invasions, and timelines.
Kerak is amidst a bustling little town, at the top of its steep hill. Pass by the many shops heading uphill. There is a large plaza in front and restaurants across from it. Cross the bridge to the castle, over its moat, and enter through the main gate. Purchase your entrance ticket for 1JD, a sign maps the layout of the Castle, and its small museum on the right lower level.
The castle or fortress is really big. One can easily find it once you're near Karak, as it is in the top of a hill, dominating the whole town. During the byzantin period, the city was the see of a bishopric. And in the year 1140, the building of the fortress began, under the period of the domination of the crusaders. Some years later, the arabs won the christians. In 1840, the fortress was abandoned. You should take about a couple of hours to visit the whole fortress and walk around all the corridors and different levels. Some of the areas of the fortress are quite destroyed, but still most of it is passable. Also, from the terraces of the castle, you have a great view of the valley and the surrounding areas.
The castle is built on two levels, corresponding to the Upper and Lower Courts and an Inner Wall separates two courts. The Upper Court contains many of the main buildings of the castle, suche as the Crusader Church...
The West Front has got towers at its two corners, and a large West Tower between them. The southwest corner and the tower are protected by a glacis. The principal entrance to the Mamluk castle was through the West Front.
The massive North Front is strengthened by two corner towers. The entrance which you passed to enter to the castle is modern and, originally the entrance in the North Front was across a wooden bridge spanning the North Ditch, and through a small gate.
Crusader masonery is characterised by the use of large, roughly cut blocks of hard, dark limestone. The Mamluk builders used a soft limestone, neatly cut into rectangular blocks, but with a rough or rusticated outer face.
The castle only gradually reached its present form. The two main building phases are Crusader (1142-1188 A.D.) and Mamluk (1263-1517 A.D.). The North and East Fronts and many structures of the Upper Court are predominantly Crusader work. The Keep and the Lower Court are Mamluk constructions, although they rest in part upon Crusader foundations.
The castle was built by crusaders and then reconstructed by Mamelucs. It may be not so imressive as European medieval castles, say Carcassonne, from the outside, but the major thing about Karak are underground galleries, which you can enter and explore. Sometimes, it is useful to have an electric lamp (which I did not have). For more pictures, see my Al Karak page.