South of Madaba on the old King's Highway is Kerak, which was the capital of the biblical kingdom of Moab. Perched atop a steep hill, Kerak is a predominantly Christian town dominated by the largest and best preserved of the Crusader castles in the region.
History of Kerak Castle
Once an important city of the Biblical kingdom of Moab, Kerak was also home to the Nabateans, Romans (from 105 AD), and the Byzantines, before the Crusaders built a castle here. In the Byzantine period Kerak was a bishopric and it remained mostly a Christian town even under Arab rule.
In 1126, Payen le Bouteiller (Paganus the Butler) received Kerak from King Baldwin II of Jerusalem as part of the lordship of Oultrejourdain (Transjordan). In 1142, he built Kerak Castle over the existing foundations on the site.
Kerak Castle replaced Shobak as the center of the Transjordan and became the most important in a series of fortresses between Jerusalem and Aqaba. The Crusaders set up an impressive system of security: all the fortifications were a day's journey apart and each one lit a beacon at night to inform Jerusalem it was safe.
Kerak Castle resisted attacks by Saladin's troops in 1183 and 1184, but finally fell after a siege in 1189. The Mamluk ruler Baybars added a tower on the northwest corner in 1263. It was later owned by local families until 1840, when Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt captured the castle and destroyed much of it in the process.
After World War I, Kerak was administered by the British until the Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921. Kerak is still a predominantly Christian town, with many of today's inhabitants tracing their roots back to the Byzantines.
What to See at Kerak Castle
Kerak Castle is a typical example of Crusader architecture, with Romanesque-style stone vaults, numerous corridors, and strong doorways. The Crusader parts of the ruins are mostly on the upper level and can be identified by their dark volcanic tufa; later Arab additions are in white limestone.
Through a massive door (ask at the ticket office), steps lead down to vast, dimly-lit, vaulted rooms and corridors underground.
The upper courtyard includes the remains of a Crusader chapel and provides excellent views over the Jordanian landscape to the Dead Sea.
The west wing of the complex is home to the small Kerak Archaeological Museum, which displays artifacts excavated at the site.
Quick Facts on Kerak Castle
|Names:||Charach Mouba · Crak des Moabites · Kerak Castle · Krak Castle · Krak des Moabites · Le Pierre du Desert|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||31.180827° N, 35.701330° E|
|Address:||El-Mujamma Street, Kerak, Jordan|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Kerak Castle|
- The Crusader Castles - Jordan Tourism Board
- Kerak, Jordan - Atlas Tours
- Eyewitness Travel Guide to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, 1st ed.
- Oultrejordain - Wikipedia
- Photos of Kerak Castle - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Kerak Castle
Below is a location map and aerial view of Kerak Castle. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.