Ayoub, Zeek and I drove up to Ajlun Castle a couple of days ago. The further north we drove the greener it was. The area is mostly farms and small villages and just too charming for words! We saw olive trees that were planted by the Romans, and are still producing fruit. The castle itself is a huge fortress built by Izz al-Din Usama, a commander and nephew of Salah ad-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin), in AD 1184-1185. The fortress is considered one of the very few built to protect the country against Crusader attacks from Karak in the south and Bisan in the west. From its situation, the fortress dominated a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley, controlled the three main passages that led to it (Wadi Kufranjah, Wadi Rajeb and Wadi al-Yabes), and protected the communication routes between south Jordan and Syria. It was built to contain the progress of the Latin Kingdom of Transjordan and as a retort to the castle of Belvoir on the lake of Tiberias. Another major objective of the fortress was to protect the development and control of the iron mines of Ajlun.