A mere 140 kilometres from Amman, this city, which is built on a triangular plateau, is rich with history and is home to one of the three largest ancient castles in the region.
The town of Kerak lies east of the Dead Sea, marking roughly the halfway point through the king’s highway. Its crusader castle, the largest in the kingdom, was built for military purposes, and as such is not covered with decorative frills, and is a pure example of architectural and military traditions of that time. Its galleries, towers, chapels and ramparts still echo with the resolve of the Crusaders who built them almost a thousand years ago.
Situated at the narrow southern tip, lies the focal point of Kerak; Kerak Castle. The city is surrounded by valleys on three sides, towering majestically at 1,000 meters above sea level. Known to have been inhabited since the Iron Age, this was an important city for the Moabites followed by being identified as a quick stop for Syrians migrating to Palestine. The area then fell under the power of the Nabateans, followed by the Byzantine Empire, where it remained a Christian town under Arab leadership.
This significant landmark is well worth a visit, if only for its legacy. Built in 1142 by Paganus the Butler, the castle was erected to replace Shobak as the heart of TransJordan and was deemed a significant castle in a series of fortresses built between the cities of Jerusalem and Aqaba. Flash forward to post World War I, AlKarak was administered by the British Empire until the Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921. The castle displays glorious Crusader architecture and design complete with deep vaults, winding passageways, and formidable doorways. With time it further evolved to include Arab additions in white limestone. After a quick stop at the ticket booth, visitors can either take the dark steps leading down to the destination’s vaulted rooms or may choose to walk around the upper courtyard, which includes remains of a Crusader chapel.
- Kerak Archaeological Museum.
Opened in 1980 inside the castle, the museum takes visitors on a journey through Nabatean, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and Crusader times. Karak Archaeological Museum also houses spellbinding remains in addition to pottery and coins. Opening Hours: 08:00 – 19:00 (April to September) and 08:00 – 16:00 (October to March).
- Kerak Castle Sight and Sound event.
The castle and its surrounding towers are set alight with 50 post lights in a spectacular show, which is further complemented by an eye-opening documentary about the history of the city.
- Kir Heres Restaurant.
A popular stop for travellers, this quaint little eatery serves ostrich steaks and deep-fried halloumi cheese, in addition to traditional dishes of lamb.
- Mamluk Palace.
This palace boasts a classic Islamic design and an open-air reception area. The inside includes a special niche where it is said nobles used to conduct their prayers. The area is comprised of surrounding rooms adorned with ornate arches.