My trip to Jordan was only for four days and meant as a sort of ‘teaser’ to myself. I often do that, visit a country for a short period of time to get an impression and an overview and then return at a later date to look at things that interest me in more detail. By then I have worked out the logistics, know how best to get around, found my bearings , can concentrate on the details and don’t waste any time on things that are not so great. That’s just the way I travel.
Jordan is one of the countries that absolutely cry out for another visit, or, if you can only go once, you can easily spend two weeks. It’s so incredibly full of a variety of sights and things to do, from visiting such breathtaking world famous sites like Petra, to exploring Amman, to floating in the Dead Sea, to water sports and diving in Aqaba, to camping in the wilderness of Wadi Rum to… do I have to say more?
This time around I didn’t even get to see the Desert Castles which really aren’t castles at all but a conglomerate of scattered pavilions, baths and caravanserais to be found all over the black basalt desert east of Amman. These isolated buildings were once part of a cultural and trade center of the Umayyads (661 – 750 AD) Muslim Arabs who transformed the fringes of the desert into well watered settlements and are widely regarded as representatives of early Islamic art. A visit there is a full day trip, but my trusted driver Hani wanted me to have a look at at least two castles in the sand which were on our way.
One was Ajlun castle which stands atop Jabal , approx. 30 minutes drive from Jaresh. It’s an Islamic fortress which was built in 1184 to defend against the crusaders and is surrounded by a deep fosse. The castle has seen history and battles and suffered from two major earthquakes in 1837 and 1927 but has undergone restoration which continues.
Climbing around and up the corner tower affords splendid views of the valley below. I just loved the interior, where you can visit a small museum which interesting exhibits, like the huge rock canon balls. The castle is just such an unexpected sight when it suddenly looms up on its hill after your round a bend on the road from Jaresh.
The next castle Hani took me to was Shoback castle on the way to the Dead Sea on my third day in Jordan. Shoback castle, built in 1115 is a crusader castle and remarkable because of its round towers which show the influence of Armenian architecture. This is truly a castle in the sand as it rises high above the desert highway and is as unexpected a sight as Ajlun castle.
So, despite the limited time, I got my taste of Jordanian castles in the sand, but next time, I won’t miss the desert castles.