I have just returned from a ten day visit to Jordan – a country with an amazing history sandwiched between Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to share the incredible places I visited. On this occasion, I went to see Ajlun castle – built by a nephew of Saladin.
Ajlun castle was built slap bang on top of an earlier Byzantine era monastery. The nephew of the great Saracen leader Saladin put it up in 1184. Its purpose was to control the main route into Damascus. Or put another way – to stop the crusaders in their path in any attempt to invade Damascus.
Its heyday was when the crusaders – including the Knights Templar – occupied the huge Kerak castle complex nearby. When that fell to Muslim armies, the importance of Ajlun declined. The name of the castle, by the way, is sometimes anglicised from the Arabic as Ajloun. There’s no right or wrong really – they’re both approximations of the original Arabic word. Which in turn was apparently the corruption of the name of a monk at the aforementioned Byzantine monastery.
Ajlun castle – takes a pounding from the Mongols
Mongol armies in the 13th century probably did more damage to the castle than the crusaders ever did. And then two earthquakes in the 19th and 20th centuries. When I visited in 2013, there was quite a lot of rubbish piling up near the castle – as you can see in one of my photos below.
But I understand there has now been major renovation work. The rickety wooden bridge I walked over may possibly have been replaced by a stone walkway. Not sure I approve of such a dramatic modern addition though.
I certainly recommend a visit to Ajlun.