Ayyubid Medieval Watchtower, Amman Governorate, Jordan 

Ajlun Castle is located on the site of an old monastery. It was renovated as a fort in 1184 by Izz al-Din Usama, a general in the army of Saladin. The castle controlled traffic along the road connecting Damascus and Egypt.

According to Saladin’s historian Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad, the fortress was primarily built in order to help the authorities in Damascus control the Bedouin tribes of the Jabal ‘Auf. These enjoyed enough autonomy as to ally themselves to the Crusaders, and had at one point set up a 100-tent camp next to the Hospitaller castle of Belvoir on the opposite side of the Jordan Valley. As such, Ajlun Castle is one of the very few Muslim fortresses built by the Ayyubids to protect their realm against Crusader incursions, which could come from Beisan or Belvoir in the west and from Karak in the south.

From its location, the fortress dominated a wide stretch of the northern Jordan Valley, controlled the three main passages that led to it, and protected the communication routes between southern Jordan and Syria. It was built to contain the progress of the Latin Kingdom, which with the Lordship of Oultrejourdain had gained a foothold in Transjordan, and as a retort to the castle of Belvoir a few miles south of the Sea of Galilee. Another major objective of the fortress was to protect the development and control of the iron mines of Ajlun.

Epic Jordan Culture & Adventure Route © Monika Newbound

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