Ajloun Castle. I first laid eyes on it from a fair distance away. Our guide had stopped the car several hills away, trying to point it out on a particularly dusty, hazy day in Jordan. We tried again from a closer distance, and finally did indeed spot it. It looked magical, sitting alone atop the hill of Jabal Auf in the distance. Several winding roads, steep climbs and gasps later, we pulled up on outside the gate to Ajloun Castle.
The name Ajloun, comes from a monk who once (in Byzantine times) lived in the monastery that sat atop this hill. This was of course, prior to the crusades by which point it had fallen into ruin and was replaced by a fortress constructed by Saladin’s general and relative. A strategic decision based on the proximity of the Crusader castles of Belvoir and Karak, this was the ideal point from which to secure the area against them along with its iron mines (used for production of weaponry), trade and pilgrimage routes and a key stop for the pigeon couriers between Damascus and Cairo. It was later destroyed (much like Petra) in an earthquake, and rediscovered (much like Petra) by Johann Burckhardt (the Swiss explorer).
We walked up the steep slope, looking like an odd line of acute angles through the gate of the Castle. Nearly silhouetted against the strong sun, the beautiful stone bricks of this towering structure only added to its powerful presence. We climbed the bridge across the moat, looking up at the Jordanian flag flapping in the wind. This was the kind of medieval fairytale fortress one only reads about in books. It was a shell of a structure if you expected a castle, but as a fortress, it was in astoundingly good shape. Stepping in, the floor slopes upwards, almost as if naturally leading you towards the piece de resistance which is in fact the roof. However, we first gathered at the foot of the stairs, outside what seemed like a dungeon. The cool, dark depths of which looked so inviting after a hot sunny day in Jerash.
Before ascending to the top, we passed through the small Ajlun Archeological Museum. Filled with artefacts, a kindly old keeper sat politely at the entrance while we milled about, perusing the glass cabinets, looking at the pottery, silverware and other knick knacks on display. What remained of these oddities in my memory was a beautiful stone tablet covered in elegant engraving, and I just stood staring at it for the longest time, tracing and retracing the lines with my eyes.
A short flight of derelict steps to the top, and we had a fabulous wind, twirling us much like the 360 degree view we had. Across the Jordan Valley, over to Jerusalem and across rolling slopes. The beautiful shades of brown on that hazy dusty evening only added to the magical experience. The entire reason for the existence of this beautiful fortress comes into full effect when you’re standing up here, surveying the land all around for miles. I thought back to when guards, generals and soldiers once stood at the very spot where I was, taking decisions that would shape the future of this region.
Such a fascinating story behind the Ajloun Castle, and I enjoyed tracing it, from its Catholic Monastery beginnings to its sad demise as an Islamic fortress besieged, not by humans but by an earthquake. It’s a great visit from Amman, while you’re in Jordan and is best combined with a day at Jerash. Find more information to plan your visit to Ajloun Castle here.
This post was made possible by the Jordan Tourism Board. Opinions as always, are our own.