Crusader Castle

Karak, Jordan

Karak (also spelled, "Kerak") was built in 1142, the anchor of a chain of mighty fortifications that defended the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (see: The Crusades, at Boise State University). The castle's most infamous occupant was Reynald de Chatillon, a man so notorious for his cruelty that he was personally beheaded by Saladin after the Battle of Hattin in 1187. Once the battle was lost, it was only a matter of time until the castle was starved into submission. The defenders held out for eight months, leaving Saladin so impressed by their valor that he set them free after they finally had to surrender. Substantial alterations were made to the castle by the Mamlukes in the following two centuries. Karak remained in use even under the Ottomans (19th century), thus accounting for its fine state of preservation down to the modern era.

This photo shows Karak in all its strength, perched on top of a mountain and above a deep valley, near the southern end of the Dead Sea. The photo was taken from across the valley, looking west; the Dead Sea and Israel are on the other side, behind the fortress, and the modern town lies just out of the photo to the right (north).