About an hour-and-a-half’s drive north of Amman is the famous Ajloun castle. Sitting on top of Mt. Auf (1,250m), it was built sometime between 1184 and 1188 by ‘Izz ad Din Usama bin Munqidh. He was a general and nephew of Saladin, the leader of the Muslim military campaign against the Crusaders in the Levant. From the castle you get an idea of why this was such an important strategic location. There you can take in the fantastic views of the Jordan Valley and three wadis that lead into it.
The castle was expanded and a new gate, seven towers, and a dry moat 15 meters deep were added in 1214. Because of its position high atop a mountain, the castle also known as Qalʻat ar-Rabad or “the castle with the suburbs”. It was one of several in a chain of beacons and pigeon posts. Messages could be transmitted in only one day from Syria to Egypt. As a result, many in the area still practice pigeon keeping to this day.
Once the threat of the Crusaders had waned, Mongols came along and destroyed most of the castle in 1260, but quickly rebuilt by the Mamluks. Four hundred years later, in the 1600s an Ottoman garrison was stationed here. Years later, the local villagers took over the castle until an earthquake in 1837, and another one 90 years later in 1927, nearly destroyed the castle once again. However, slow and steady restoration of the castle continues to this day.
An interesting side trip from Ajloun Castle is the Ajloun Forest Reserve. Covering 13 square kilometers, Ajloun Forest Reserve is located in the Ajloun highlands and about a 20-minute drive from Ajloun Castle. It is here that you can find open woodlands of Evergreen Oak, Pine, Carob, Wild Pistachio and Wild Strawberry trees. These trees have been vital to local people for their wood, scenic beauty, and quite frequently for eating and medicinal use.
From Amman, get a bus to Tabarbour (Mahata Shamal), also known as the Northern Bus Station. Buses (or service taxis) leave from there to Ajloun whenever they are full. Buses come and go less frequently as the day progresses. If you cannot find a direct bus, try to go to Jerash and from there take the bus to Ajloun.
If you prefer to drive yourself, Ajloun is about a one hour and 20 min (72.9 km) drive north of Amman via Al-Urdon St. and Route 35.
Of course taxis, ridesharing, and private tours are also available.
It’s also important to note here that the castle is a tough three kilometer uphill walk from the town centre. However, minibuses occasionally go to the top. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from Ajloun for around one or two dinars each way.
The Ajloun Castle entrance fee is 3JD (4.25 USD).
The visitor centre and ticket office is about 500m downhill from the castle entrance; there’s a small scale model of the castle on display here and, perhaps most notable is their clean toilets.
Note that there is a sign in English explaining the site just inside the main gate, and a small museum containing pots, a few mosaics and some interesting medieval hand grenades. Besides this, there are no signs telling you what you’re looking at. Although, you don’t really need signs as the views from these lofty heights are the main attraction.
Ajloun Castle is open daily (except holidays) from 8AM to 7PM. Your best bet is to visit early in the morning around 8AM. Also, preferably not on a Friday when only service taxis will be available.
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