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Just west of Jerash the castle of Ajlun is another highlight of northern Jordan. The Qalat er-Rabad, as the Ajlun Castle is locally knwon, was the base of the Arab forces of Saladin, when he defeated the Crusaders in the 12th century. The Ajlun mountains are famous for their lush vegetation and thick green forests and a good place for hikes.

The castle of Ajloun was built in 1184 by a nephew of Salah al-Din (Saladin to Westerners) to defend the land held by the Arabs from the Crusaders. It is almost opposite the Castle of Belvoir on the other side of the Jordan. At that time it was known as Qalat al Rabadh. Originally it was a square castle with a tower at each corner; it was enlarged some forty years later, when another tower was built.

Under the Mamelukes, Ajloun was one of the chain of castles which, using heliograph, fire beacons and pigeon post, could transmit messages from Damascus to Cairo within twelve hours. It was severely damaged by earthquakes in the 18th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, and restoration work is proceeding. Alone on its hill, and looking over some magnificent countryside, Ajloun was admirably sited and was never taken by the Crusaders, although the Mongols in the 13th century occupied it for a short time before it was retaken by its original owners. The entrance to the castle The moat is still there and the castle is entered over a modern bridge.

The interior is full of rambling corridors and staircases. Notice the "murder holes" in the photo on the left, through which boiling oil or pitch (or whatever else was handy) could be poured on any invader. This part of Jordan is one of the most fertile regions, it is seldom that rain fails to fall here. From the castle one has an impressive view over the cultivated terraces nearby. The grass is lush as you see, and the goats are finding ample forage.

Getting there The town of Ajlun is about 3 kilometers from the castle. Ajlun is well served by public transport, there are regular minibuses from the Abdali bus station in Amman and also from Jerash. An early start would let you visit both sites in the day. When you reach the town of Ajlun a taxi will be happy to take you to the castle! You can probably negotiate a rate allowing a visit there and a return trip in the same taxi. If you prefer to walk it, why not, but 3kms up a steep hill in the sun is thirsty work.... There are a couple of hotels in Ajloun, and in fact it is the closest place to Jerash where you can sleep.