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Karak Governorate
Al Karak
Type of Location
About Location

Karak is a city in Jordan that is known for the famous crusader castle Kerak.The castle is one of the three largest castles in the region, the other two being in Syria.Karak is the capital city of Karak Governorate.Karak, once a Kingdom,lies 140 km to the south of Amman on the King's Highway. An ancient Crusader stronghold, it is situated on a hilltop about 1000 meters above sea level and is surrounded on three sides by a valley.Karak has a view of the Dead Sea.A city of about 20,000 people has been built up around the castle, and it has buildings from 19th century Ottoman period.The town is built on a triangular plateau, with the castle at its narrow southern tip, but it is undoubtedly Karak Castle which dominates.

Al Karak has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age, and was an important city for the Moabites (who called it Qir of Moab).In the Bible it is called Qer Harreseth, and is identified as having been subject to the Assyrian empire; in the Books of Kings (16:9) and Book of Amos (1:5, 9:7), it is mentioned as the place whither the Syrians went before they settled in the regions north of Palestine, and to which Tiglath-Pileser III sent the prisoners after the conquest of Damascus.

Evidently it eventually fell under the power of the Nabateans.The Romans (with support from the Ghassanids or Ghassasinah conquered it from them in 105 AD.The Al-Ghassasneh (Ghassanids) tribe is believed to be the first tribe to inhabit the site of modern al-Karak.The tribe consists of the families: Suheimat, Dmour, Mbaydeen, Adaileh, Soub, Karakiyeen.During the late Hellenistic Period, Al Karak became an important town taking its name from the Aramaic word for town, Kharkha.Under Roman rule the city was known as Areopolis, and in Late Antiquity as Harreketh.Under the Byzantine Empire it was a bishopric seat, housing the much venerated Church of Nazareth, and remained predominantly Christian under Arab rule.

The castle played an important role as a place of exile and a power base several times during the Mamluk Sultanate.Its significance lay in its control over the caravan route between Damascus and Egypt and the pilgrimage route between Damascus and Mecca.In the thirteenth century the Mamluke ruler Baibars used it as a stepping stone on his climb to power.In 1389 Sultan Barquq was exiled to al-Karak were he gathered his supporters before returning to Cairo.Al-Karak was the birth place of Ibn al-Quff, an Arab physician and surgeon and author of the earliest medieval Arabic treatise intended solely for surgeons.

How to Reach

By Air

Most travelers to Amman (and to Jordan) will arrive via Queen Alia International Airport.Very occasionally, regional or charter flights use Marka Airport, centrally located in east Amman a few km beyond the railway station.For most western visitors, entry visas to Jordan can be purchased at the airport, if not already obtained from a Jordanian consulate overseas.The price of visa is 20 Jordanian Dinars ($28),payable in Jordanian Dinars only; at the immigration line you will pay for the visa at the first counter, and then pass through to the second counter to receive the stamp.Money exchange is available before passport control, ATMs after customs.

By Bus

Minibuses to Amman (JD 0.750) and Aqaba (JD 1.750) run hourly.Note that the Abdali bus station is now closed.The new bus station is called Tabarbour Bus Station and is in the North fringes of Amman. Most of the buses to the various cities ('Ajloun, Jerash, Irbid etc.) in Northern Jordan leave from here.To get there from downtown, take Serviis (A sedan car that works like a bus) #6 from Raghadan Tourist Service Station (Raghadan Al Seyaha) which is located right next to the Colosseum.The Trababour Bus Station is the last stop on the Serviis' route.There are numerous buses pulling into the city of Amman, most of which are operated by JETT (Jordan Express Tourist Transport).

By Train

Train operator in Jordan HJR (Hedjaz Jordan Railway) check seat61 for details.Since about 2005, scheduled services within Jordan and to Damascus have been sadly been suspended.They are unlikely to resume.Train excursions run occasionally, as do local services to Zarqa.Neither operate more often than once per week, if at all. Amman's tiny, charming railway station (Mahatta) with its museum is worth a look even if you do not take a train.

Key places to visit
Kerak Castle, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Hammamat Main


Places to Visit

Kerak Castle

Is a large crusader castle located in Kerak in Jordan. It is one of the largest crusader castles in the Levant.Construction of the castle began in the 1140s, under Pagan, the butler of Fulk of Jerusalem. The Crusaders called it Crac des Moabites or "Karak in Moab", as it is frequently referred to in history books.Kerak should not be confused with Krak des Chevaliers.


The trip south from Amman along the 5,000-year-old Kings Highway is one of the most memorable journeys in the Holy Land, passing through a string of ancient sites.The first city to encounter is Madaba, “the City of Mosaics."The city, best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, is home to the famous 6th century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of coloured stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.

Mount Nebo

One of the most revered holy sites of Jordan and the place where Moses was buried.A small Byzantine church was built there by early Christians, which has been expanded into a vast complex. During his visit to Jordan in 2000, the Late Pope John Paul II held a sermon here that was attended by some 20,000 faithful.

Hammamat Main

Visitors to the Dead Sea should also take advantage of another nearby wonder, Hammamat Ma’in (Ma’in Hot Springs).Popular with both locals and tourists alike, the springs are located 264m below sea level in one of the most breathtaking desert oases in the world.Thousands of visiting bathers come each year to enjoy the mineral-rich waters of these hyper-thermal waterfalls.These falls originate from winter rainfalls in the highland plains of Jordan and eventually feed the 109 hot and cold springs in the valley.This water is heated to temperatures of up to 63° Celsius by underground lava fissures as it makes its way through the valley before emptying into the Zarqa River.

Right Time to Visit

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