Kerak Castle is a magnificent crusader's castle just outside the town of Kerak. Construction began in the 1140s, at a strategic location on top of a hill. It was part of the Crusader's Kingdom of Jerusalem. In the ensuing decades the castle was expanded. Towers and a moat were added.
In 1183 Saladin besieged the castle, but was turned back by King Baldwin IV. In 1187, Saladin began another siege. The castle fell in 1189, and shortly thereafter the crusaders were finally expelled. The Mamluks and Ottomans continued to use and expand the castle. It was finally abandoned after World War I.
The castle is an excellent example of Crusader architecture, an eclectic mix of Gothic, Arab, and Byzantine designs. The fun of visiting Kerak Castle is exploring all its nooks and crannies. Nothing is off limits to visitors, but be careful as there are some steep drops. Some of the best preserved areas are in the extensive underground passages. Be sure to check out a map so you know where you're going. There is also a small museum in the lower court, which goes into detail about the history and archaeology of Kerak and the castle.
Kerak is located about 75km south of Amman. It is the main town in west-central Jordan and capital of the Kerak Governorate, so it is not too hard to access by bus. Trips take nearly two hours each way. Tour groups regularly visit the castle, and trips can be arranged through your accommodation. This is one of Jordan's signature attractions, and is well worth the effort of getting here. The old town of Kerak is also fun to wander for an hour or two, and a good place to grab some lunch.
East of Kerak is the site of the Battle of Muta'a, fought between the army of Islam and the Byzantines in 629AD. The top three men in command, Zaid Bin Harithah, Jaafar Bin Abu Talib, and Abdullah Bin Rawahah, were all killed in the battle, and became Islam's first martyrs on foreign soil. The Muslim force of around 3,000 was outnumbered 10:1. Though they lost the battle, they lived to fight another day. There are tombs and shrines dedicated to Zaid and Jaafar at the battle site.
Hours: Open 08:00-16:00 in winter; 08:00-18:00 in summer