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The Jordan Stories – Karak Castle and the Kingdom of Heaven

A few other fun things we did include visit the Karak Castle and shopping… The castle is the same as the movie Kingdom of Heaven is based off of (for anyone who has watched it)… it was built by the crusaders and is an amazing place to climb around! There are tons of pictures coming from this place! Really, there were very few limitations to where we could go – only areas with obviously crumbling rocks had bars or fences around them… It was very, very fun to be free as we looked over the top of VERY high walls!! Some of them 200+ feet straight down!

The above is a small snippet from a very chatty and fun to read blog post from Heather’s “9 month journal of life while at school in Israel.

And the castle she is describing is the 12th century Karak Castle that still stands today as it did some 800+ years ago. Moreover, unlike some tourist destinations such as Athens or Rome – and as Heather points out in her post – one can see, feel and experience “hands-on” as one walk through the winding passages of this excellent example of Crusader-erea construction and architecture

… as depicted in this inspiring YouTube video …

… described here in some detail at the blogJordan Wiki:

The most notable Crusader architectural feature surviving is the north wall, into which are built immense arched halls on two levels. These were used for living quarters and stables, but also served as a fighting gallery overlooking the castle approach and for shelter against missiles from siege engines.

In AD 1263, the Mamluk ruler, Baybars, enlarged and built a tower on the north-west corner. In AD 1840, Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt captured the castle and destroyed much of its fortifications.

The castle extends over the southern part of the plateau. It is a notable example of Crusader architecture, a mixture of European, Byzantine, and Arab designs. Its walls are strenghthened with rectangular projecting towers, long stone vaulted galleries are lighted only by narrow slits, and a contains a deep moat from the west which completely isolates the site.

In the lower court of the castle, there is Karak Archaeological Museum, which was newly opened in 2004 after renovation work. It introduces local history and archaeology of Karak region- the land of Moab- from the prehistoric period until the Islamic era. History of the Crusader and uslims at Karak castle and town is introduced in detail

Along with her account of the Kerak Castle, Heather offers some observations on the Jordanian economy and its relevance in terms of both tourists and local residents where she writes:

Tourist simply have more money than Jordanians.

Jordan is a place where people live off of very low incomes. It is strange because the Jordanian Dinar (JD) is worth about $1.40 but the average living wage is only about 200 JDs a month, the wealthier families have about 500 JDs a month. That’s the equivalent of about $300-$700 a month! So all of the prices are directly relative to the income of the people, but to us as Americans the prices were very, very cheap. I bought a ½ a kilo (about a pound) of cinnamon for 2 JDs = about $3. That is SO cheap to me as an American, but to the Jordanian people it is expensive. They only have 200 JDs to live off of each month, so spending 2 whole JDs on cinnamon would be ridiculous.

Indeed, I myself purchased and additional suitcase my last trip to Aqaba – for even though the Dollar-pegged Jordanian Dinar (JD) has created some controversy for its inflationary impact on Jordanians – there are still deals on otherwise expensive commodities for Euro-wary US travelers.

Heather’s post also describes some of the fun, and not-so-fun aspects of the taxi ride to and from Israel and Jordan. Nothing bad, just some things to consider for those planning on traveling to both “Holy Lands” in a single trip on their own.

Here are some other cool links about Kerak:

How about you? Got an experience in Karak you want to share? If so, don’t be shy, leave a comment.

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