As I mentioned in my blog about Amman citadel, Jordan is a country filled with historical monuments that offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history, and today’s trip was a prime example of this. About 45 km north west of Amman, Ajloun Castle sits atop Jabal ‘Auf. Before the castle was built in the 12th century, the mountain was the site of a Byzantine monastery and the name Ajloun is traced back to a monk who lived there. Some archaeological remains of the original monestery survive to this day, including a mosaic depicting the story of Jesus feeding the 5000.
The castle was built in 1184 under the orders of Izz al-Din Usama, a general in the army of the first Ayyubid sultan Saladin. The castle was strategic for a number of reasons. Firstly, the castle could control the road connecting Damascus with Egypt. Secondly, the castle was built to defend against Crusaders, who had a camp at nearby Belvoir Castle. It’s high altitiude meant it was a very strategic building to be in control of.
After the death of Usama, the castle was enlarged under the Mamluk governor Aibak ibn Abdullah in CE 1214–15 with the addition of a new tower in the southeast corner and the gate. In the mid 1300s, the castle was conceded to the King of Aleppo and Damascus Yousef ibn Ayoub, who restored the northeastern tower and used the castle as an administrative center. In 1260 CE during the Mongol invasion of Syria, sections of the castle including its battlements were destroyed. The castle was restored by Sultan ad-Dhaher Baibars after the Mamluk victory over the Mongols at Ain Jalut in September of the same year. The castle was then used to store crops and provisions. The castle was renovated uner the governorship of Izz ad-Din Aibak, which is attested to in an inscription found in the castle’s south-western tower.
The caste was also used in the Ottoman period, and in the 1700s prince Fakhr ad-Din al-Ma’ni II used it during his fight against Ahmad ibn Tarbay, supplying the castle with a contingent and providing provisions and ammunition. In 1812, the Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt found the castle inhabited by around forty people. The castle was damaed by two major destructive earthquakes in 1837 and 1927. Recently, the Department of Antiquities of Jordan has sponsored a program of restoration and consolidation of the walls and has rebuilt the bridge over the fosse.
The views from the top of the castle are breathtaking and give a persepective of the importance of the land around it. You can see the green Gilead Mountains, said to be the birthplace of the prophet Elijah. On a clear day you are also able to see Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. It’s worth heading to the top to get a view of the landscape!
Ajloun Castle is well worth the trip if you want to see an example of a building that has remained throughout history. It’s a site that tells myriad stories of the empires and civilisations that have risen in Jordan and it’s amazing to imagine the diverse people that would have passed through the corridors of this beautiful castle. The icecream here is also really cheap!
Read more about my year abroad:
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