Crusader castles

The view from Shobak Castle

We stopped to visit to ancient Crusader castles while in Jordan: Shobak Castle on the way to Dana, and Karak Castle on the way to Madaba. These castles were kind of like appetizers, as we look forward to visiting Krak des Chevaliers in Syria. The castles were built about 2000 years ago during the Crusades, and they are built in some fantastic settings. Shobak Castle sits alone atop a hill, with commanding views of the landscape in all directions. Karak Castle’s site is equally impressive, and it sits at an important ancient cross-road along trade routes and holy sites.

The kitchen in Karak Castle

We only spent about 2 hours at each castle, just long enough to stroll under the arches and through the surviving chambers of each. The most interesting thing we discovered in our explorations was a tunnel in Shobak Castle that leads from the castle proper down 350 stairs to a spring deep in the rock. Armed with a small lantern, Meg, Toon and I headed down into the tunnel, and were quickly enveloped in darkness and silence. At one point we stopped and turned out the lantern and just stood in the darkness. It was absolute. Eyes do not adjust to that kind of darkness. It was so profoundly dark that I even had a hard time keeping my balance standing. After a minute or so, we turned the light back on and continued down into the earth. Eventually we came to the end and climbed out into the sunlight at the bottom of the hill, with the castle high above us. It was pretty cool.

Exploring the 350 steps down into the hillside at Shobak Castle

One of the best things about visiting these sites was the freedom we had to explore the ruins. At Shobak especially, nothing was off limits. It would never fly back in North America, where safety regulations would have fences and barriers all over the place. It was fun to wander around without feeling restricted; we just had to be careful not to fall off of the high walls.


  1. Bruce The Moose

  2. Another layer of history. Can’t wait to hear about Krak.

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