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Karak (also Kerak) ( ) is a city in Jordanmarker that contains a famous Crusader castle. It is the capital city of Karak Governoratemarker.


Karak City is the capital and largest city of the Karak Governoratemarker.Karak, once a part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, lies 140 km to the south of Ammanmarker 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 commands a magnificent view of the Dead Seamarker. A city of about 20,000 people has been built up around the castle and continues to boast a number of restored 19th century Ottoman buildings, restaurants, places to stay, and the like. 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 Book 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 Damascusmarker. Evidently it eventually fell under the power of the Nabateans, as the Romans conquered it from them in 105 AD. During the late Hellenistic Period, Al Karak became an important town as was known as Kharkha. Under the Byzantine Empire it was a bishopric seat, housing the much venerated Church of Nazareth, and remained predominantly Christian under Arab rule.

Al Karak's greatest importance was during the Crusader and Ayyubid periods which were responsible for most of the architectural remains to date.


Karak City's Metropolitan population is estimated to be 68,800 (2003 estimate). making up 31.5% of the total population of the Karak Governorate. Most of the population of the city are Muslims, there is also a significant Christian population. In general the percentage of Christians in Karak City is among the highest in Jordan.


Al-Karak Castle.
Construction of the Crusader 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.

Paganus was also Lord of Oultrejordain (Transjordan), and Karak became the centre of his power, replacing the weaker castle of Montrealmarker to the south. Because of its position east of the Jordan Rivermarker, Karak was able to control Bedouin herders as well as the trade routes from Damascus to Egyptmarker and Meccamarker. His successors, his nephew Maurice and Philip of Milly, added towers and protected the north and south sides with two deep rock-cut ditches (the southern ditch also serving as a cistern). The most notable Crusader architectural feature surviving is the north wall, into which are built immense arched halls on two levels. These were used for living quarters and stables, but also served as a fighting gallery overlooking the castle approach and for shelter against missiles from siege engines.

In 1176 Raynald of Chatillon gained possession of Karak after marrying Stephanie of Milly, the widow of Humphrey III of Toronmarker (and daughter-in-law of Humphrey II). From Karak, Raynald harassed the trade caravan and even attempted an attack on Mecca itself. In 1183 Saladin besieged the castle in response to Raynald's attacks. The siege took place during the marriage of Humphrey IV of Toron and Isabella of Jerusalem, and Saladin, after some negotiations and with a chivalrous intent, agreed not to target their chamber while his siege machines attacked the rest of the castle. The siege was eventually relieved by King Baldwin IV.

After the Battle of Hattinmarker in 1187, Saladin besieged Karak again and finally captured it in 1189.

In AD 1263, the Mamluk ruler Baybars enlarged and built a tower on the north-west corner. In AD 1840, Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt captured the castle and destroyed much of its fortifications.

An Ottoman cannon in the castle
During the Ottoman period, it played an important role due to its strategic location on the crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Greater Syria.

The castle extends over the southern part of the plateau. It is a notable example of Crusader architecture, a mixture of European, Byzantine, and Arab designs. Its walls are strengthened with rectangular projecting towers, long stone vaulted galleries are lighted only by narrow slits, and a contains a deep moat from the west which completely isolates the site.

In the lower court of the castle is the Karak Archaeological Museum, which was newly opened in 2004 after renovation work. It introduces local history and archaeology of Karak region – the land of Moab – from the prehistoric period until the Islamic era. The history of Crusaders and Muslims at Karak castle and town is introduced in detail.


Al Karak is widely accepted as the capital of Jordan's national dish Mansaf.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Al Karak is twinned with:

See also


External links


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