Al Karak




Karak Castle, one of the most important crusader forts built in the Holy Land, stands on a promontory surrounded by high cliffs, guarding the main route north to south, now known as the King's Highway.


Built to replace the weaker castle of Montreal to the south, construction of the castle began around 1140, and was supervised by Paganus the butler of Fulk, King of Jerusalem and grandfather of Henry II. It was known at that time as Crac des Moabites, from which the name Karak is derived.


The castle surrounded by a moat and steep scree slopes leading up to its massive, heavily defended walls, contains a mixture of styles in its modifications, during its crusader, Byzantine and Arab periods.


The inhabitation of Karak dates back to the Iron Age, and it became an important Moabite city, before falling under the power of the Nabateans and subsequently the Romans.


However Al Karak rose to its greatest power during the crusades whilst part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, when its position close to the eastern shore of the Dead Sea enabled it to control all trade between Egypt, Damascus and Mecca


In 1176 Reynold of Chatillon got control of the castle through an influential marriage. He was an evil man, despised by the King, who cast his enemies from the castle walls down the cliffs. When he broke his oath, attacking caravans on the trade route and even attempted an attack on the holy shrine at Mecca, Saladin responded by putting the castle under siege in 1183, but the siege was broken by King Baldwin.


Reynold was capture at the Battle of Hattin, along with King Guy, the bandit and pirate being beheaded, whilst the King was imprisoned in Damascus, before being later freed.


The castle came under siege again in 1187, and was finally captured by Saladin in 1188, but not before the defenders could display their chivalry by exchanging their women and children for food!














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