An ancient Crusader stronghold, Karak sits 900 m above sea level and lies inside the walls of the old city. As one of the 12 Jordanian governorates, Karak is the largest city in the south of Jordan with a population of 316,000 and an area of 3,217sq.km.
Karak Castle was a crusader castle built during the twelfth century and was initially called Crac Des Moabites. It is also the biggest crusader castle ever to have been constructed in the Levant, and following its completion, it became the center of power for the rulers of the time.
Whether you approach Karak from the ancient Kings’ Highway to the east or from the Dead Sea to the west, the striking silhouette of this fortified town and castle will instantly make you understand why the fates of kings and nations were decided here for millennia.
In past times, having control of trade routes was of great importance to the various rulers, and the location for Karak Castle was chosen accordingly. Karak was built just to the east of the Dead Sea, which in turn allowed whoever had control of the castle to control the most important trade routes between Damascus; Egypt and Mecca. Its location also meant that Bedouin herders in the region could be effectively controlled.
During the Greco-Roman period, Karak was part of the Nabataean Kingdom and was conquered by the Romans in 105 AD. Karak is also home to several Christian churches built during the Byzantine era. This citadel has been always an important target for the Muslim armies, but the breaking point came when Raynald de Châtillon was as appointed as the lord of Transjordan and attempted an attack on Mecca.
In the battle of Hattin in 1187 AD, Saladin defeated the crusaders and killed de Châtillon with his own dagger. A year later, Karak Castle was besieged and finally fell into the hands of Saladin. Under the Mamluk dynasty in the 13th century, the castle served as the administrative center for a large part of Jordan, and later became a garrison that hosted a governor and around 1,500 soldiers in the Ottoman era.
Entering the castle via the Ottoman Gate, visitors can enjoy a grand view of the Dead Sea and Wadi Al-Karak on the right, and then continue into its other structures such as the stable, barracks, church, mosque, towers, and reception halls. Passing under the inner doors of the castle requires caution as they were designed to be short to ensure an easy defense against invaders.
The structure consists of many reused stones that belong to different eras. One example is a stone that carries the relief of a soldier, which is believed to be of a Nabataean knight.