Al-Kerak castle was the largest and most important citadel in Palestine when crusaders founded the Kingdom of Jerusalem there. It wasn’t a simple castle belonging to a noble family but a landmark of the age when all the countries of Europe were united to regain the Holy Land from the Turks who were much crueler to the Christians than the Arabs. Consequently, the crusades became an attempt of Christian rulers to oppose the influence and spreading of Muslim religion.
In 1095 Urban II called the French knighthood to liberate the Holy Land. Later on the aim united all the states of Europe, and it was just the first crusade that was successful. They were able to defeat the Turk and conquer the lands of Palestine.
In 1098 the Kingdom of Jerusalem was founded headed by Baldwin I of Boulogne. It existed until 1291 when the crusaders were finally driven out from Palestine after the fall of Accra.
Apart from concern of the Holy Land, the crusaders had also quite material intentions, so they quickly put under their control the main trade way between Asia and Europe. Al-Kerak Castle was laid down by the majordomo of Fulk V in 1140. It was finished in 1161.
The castle was located on the high hill Petra Deserti (Desert`s Stone) dominating three valleys around the south of the Dead Sea. From its towers one could view a huge territory, and the King`s Highway, the main way for trade caravans running between Europe and Asia, went beside the castle. It is supposed that the castle was built on the site of ancient fortress of the Moabites as the location was mentioned in the Bible as Kir of Moab, the capital of Moab.
The castle was 220 meters long and 125 meters wide. On one side of the castle there was an inapproachable precipice, on the other side – strong walls with steep slopes making it impossible to move belfries close the castle. In fact, Al-Kerak was inaccessible, and even such talented Muslim military leader as the sultan of Egypt Saladin (Salah al-Din) had to twice siege Al-Kerak and couldn’t take it.
There began a critical period in the history of the castle when Raynald of Chatillon became its owner in 1176. His exceptional greediness and defiance more than once put under threat the shaky peace in the Holy Land. The end had come on October 2, 1187 when the knights surrendered Jerusalem to Saladin. Two fortresses, Al-Kerak and Al-Shobak, continued to resist but they were soon surrendered too.
Today Al-Kerak isn’t only a castle but a city of the same name with population of 200 000 people. If you go from Amman you can get to Al-Kerak through Madaba on the King`s High-way, and if you go from Petra, you may get to it by way of Al-Tafila. Also, you should take it into consideration that the King`s Highway is an old and many places narrow road. However, it is more convenient for a trip to Al-Kerak than Wadi-Araba, the main highway of Jordan connecting Amman and Akaba.
You`d better reserve about half a day for visiting Al-Kerak. In Jordan you can easily rent a car in which case you could combine your visit to Al-Kerak with a trip along the coast of the Dead Sea, as well as go to the Lot Cave and see his wife who disobeyed the angel and looked around to see the destruction of Sodom, and so was turned to the pillar of salt.