From Kerak to Azraq – castles of Jordan

Castles are a favourite of mine. I grew up visiting some of the fantastic castles on the North Wales coast like Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Conwy. Castles fire my imagination while stately homes do nothing for me; even today when I’m old enough to appreciate them, they are too staid for me.

The most striking thing about Kerak is its location, towering above a wide rift valley with views that stretch for miles. From a strategic point of view you couldn’t get a much better place to keep an eye on your enemies from! Apparently the most notorious inhabitant, Raynald de Chatillon used to throw his opponents off the battlements to their death.

Ajloun castle is fascinating and thanks to the archaeologist who showed us around we had a real insight into the excavation and restoration work which really brought it to life. This part of Jordan, north of Amman, is more Mediterranean in landscape, with cedars and olives bringing a welcome touch of green.

The tea here is very hot and very sweet, no milk. In this case made with cardamom but elsewhere mint.

Kerak and Ajloun are probably the best known/most visited castles in Jordan but they cost next to nothing to get in – Ajloun is only 1JD. The desert castles, east of Amman are more difficult to get to and so we hired a taxi for a day. There are three ‘main’ castles on the Loop and a number of others only accessible by 4WD.

Al-Kharrana and Amra are the first two but the most well-known is Azraq, where Lawrence of Arabia spent some time during WW1. Interesting place but what struck me was the arid stony dustbowl where an oasis originally was, just outside the walls. The water was piped out to Amman.

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