The giant Crusader castle of Karak is located about 1000 meters above the Dead Sea Valley, the castle played a big role because of its strategic location, and it was a link in the vital communication and protection system of castles that spread from Aqaba to Turkey. In biblical times, Karak castle was on the trading route between Egypt and Syria, and the coming civilisation recognized the castle's strategic location.
During the biblical era, Karak was known as Kir, Kir Moab and Kir Heres, and it was the capital of Moab. Once you visit Madaba, you will find the city of Karak on the popular mosaic map over there. Its name was changed by Greeks and Romans to Characmoba.
The fortress of Karak was built in the 12th century when the Crusader King Baldwin I of Jerusalem authorized the Cupbearer to build it. Then, the castle became the capital of the Crusader Oultre Jourdain district and became rich by levying taxes on traders, travelers and agricultural produce. The Castle's strategic location between Shobak & Jerusalem, and its success helped Jerusalem prosper.
The castle was passed down through the de Milly family, but Baldwin III died when the leper Baldwin IV, his heir, was thirteen. A regent was appointed for him, but he died after that, leaving only Lady Stephanie to inherit. Lady Stephanie was one of the richest widows in the Middle East and she married Renauld de Chatillon, who became famous because of his way to punish the prisoners by throwing them from the castle's square into the valley while they were wearing a box on their heads to stay conscious until the end with a distance of 450 meters.
Saladin, the Ayyubid Dynasty Sultan, was born c. 1138 in Tikrit, Iraq. When Saladin became Sultan after the death of Nur ad-Din in 1174 and after taking Syria, he started to work on his goals, the priority and first thing Saladin thought of was retrieval Palestine from the occupying Crusader forces. Saladin hated de Chatillon for his cruelty. He also disrupted supply lines for the Islamic armies, and he once came within one days' march of Mecca and Medina, threatening to attack the holy cities. To Saladin, who was known as a cultured, honorable soldier and leader, this behavior was inexcusable.
De Chatillon broke many truces with Saladin, and he was eventually caught and executed in 1189. Losing the castle broke the Crusader chain of beacons and began their downward spiral in the region.
In the late 13th century, the Mamluk Sultan Beibars renovated the castle, deepened the moat and built the lower courtyard. Beibars was a slave, and he was so ugly, so because of his look he was returnd to the market. Although the castle was damaged and mostly destroyed by an earthquake in 1293, the castle was used by Ottomans after a local fighting in the 1880s which forced the Christian inhabitants of Karak to flee to Madaba and Ma'an. Peace was restored only after a significant number of troops were stationed in the town.
The visitors enter the castle through the Ottoman's Gate crossing over the wooden bridge over the dry trench. Then, to the left is the Crusader's Gallery, or the stables, and at the end there is a headless stone carving. Some claim that it is Saladin, but it dates from the 2nd century AD, and it is likely a Nabatean carving. To the right, there are passages containing kitchens and dining areas, as well as barracks. Coming out into the light, the favourite, dizzying drop of de Chatillon is on the left. Ahead is another set of passages, containing a mosque, a church, a prison and a marketplace. In the distance, Umm al-Thallaga "the Mother of Snows' ' is visible on the mountain that was the biggest defensive threat to Karak. Here, at the Mamluk keep, built in 1260, the defense: was strongest. Down below is the Mamluk courtyard and towers overlooking Wadi Karak, possibly down to the site: of Sodom and Gomorrah. While the castle is being restored, and much of it is open to visitors, there are still some passages that are closed. It is tempting to imagine what treasures lie within. With any luck, Karak will give up more secrets to us in the near future.
Al-Karak Castle (Kerak Castle ) visit is covered witht he following Tours