26 December 2009

Christmas Day 2009 - al Karak Castle

We planned a quick trip to Dead Sea on Christmas day, but in the last moment had the idea to go up to see Kerak Castle. It’s about a two hour drive from Amman and the drive itself is very nice, traveling through some very beautiful desert as well as farming country. This castle has a long and varied history.

Al Kerak has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age. The Moabites called it Qir of Moab; the Bible calls it Qer Herreseth. It was once subject to the Assyrian empire. The biblical books of Kings and Amos both describe al Kerak as the place the Syrians went before settling north of Palestine. Tiglath-Pileser III sent his prisoners to al Karack after he conquered Damascus. It later came under the rule of the Nabateans, and in 105 CE they were conquered by the Romans who called it Kharkha. Under the Byzantine Empire it was the bishopric seat of the most honorable Church of Nazareth.

I’m sure most of you remember that Moab is the area from which the wife of Moses came. Also Ruth married one of the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. Later, Ruth and Naomi moved to Bethlehem. There is some evidence, too, that Noah may have originated from this region. Certainly there is a shrine to Noah not far from the castle. A very short drive down toward Dead Sea will take you to Lot’s Cave; the subject of a recent post.

The Moabites originate from Moab who is Lot and his daughter’s son. They had kinship ties to Jacob’s first-born son, Reuben. They were friendly with the Egyptians, having kinship ties with them through Joseph.

In 1140 CE the Crusaders recognized al Karak as a defensible site and made it one of their strongest fortresses in the Middle East, as did the Ottoman Turks later.

The ruins we visited are in excellent condition and sadly we didn’t invest enough time for the visit to see the entire castle. We will be going back later next year. For now, enjoy the pictures!

Jim & Zeek

25th December 2009

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