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Ajloun

     

Ajloun is a remarkable place that   clearly illustrates the connections between the land, its people, and the   cultures that have created its rich history. Located in the highlands 70   kilometers northwest of Amman, Ajloun is a green escape. It is a crossroads   where people of several cultures have met. Today, Ajloun is an agricultural   community with an immense pride in the RSCN's Ajloun Reserve and a deep   interest in the ruins and archeological sites being excavated in the region.

 

This region has been inhabited   since Neolithic times. While Ajloun was not one of the cities of the Decapolis,   it benefited from its proximity to several of them. The number of early   churches and Biblical sites here speak to the importance of the area.

 

Saladin's nephew built a castle in   the late 1180's to protect the iron mines from the Crusaders in the 16th   century.

 

The Saracen Qala'at Ar-Rabad served   as Saladin's base as he evicted the Crusaders from Jordan in 1189. Located on   the summit of Mount Auf about 1200 meters above sea level the original castle   had four towers protected by a moat about 16 meters wide. Its commanding   position allows views over Wadi Kufranjah, Wadi Rajeb and Wadi Al-Yabes, as   well as over the Jordan Valley and Lake Tiberias, providing an important   defensive advantage. It served as a check to the Crusader Belvoir Fort in   Israel and was part of the messenger system of beacons and carrier pigeons   that carried news from Damascus to Cairo in only one day.

 

In 1260 the castle was destroyed by   the Mongol invaders, but was almost immediately rebuilt. Later in 1837 and   1927 earthquakes damaged the castle, but it is currently being restored. It   is one of the best examples of Arab military architecture in the Levant.

 

After walking across the bridge   over the dry moat, walk through the doorway into the main body of the castle.   Don't miss the carvings of the pairs of birds, indicating the importance of   carrier pigeons to its history. The galleries and rooms form a warren to   wander through, with fabulous glimpses of the surrounding countryside visible   from every arrowslit. Architectural features such as the gap in the ceiling   for pouring boiling oil, and the storehouses of stone catapult missles, allow   the imagination free rein. It is worth climbing to the top of the castle for   the views and an interesting perspective of the shape of the castle. RSCN has   a guided hike here from the Ajloun Reserve, which provides not only an   interesting walk through the region, but also a unique perspective on the   castle's defenses.

 

Kaneesit Mar Elyass, or St.   Elijah's Church, has been known as a sacred place for many years. Excavations   carried out in the late 1990s uncovered a Byzantine cross-shaped building   measuring 33 x 32 meters, with mosaic floors covered in geometric or floral   designs. One mosaic states in red letters that the presbyter Saba and his   wife offered the church as an expression of their faith in the year 622 AD;   this is the same year that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) went to Mecca. Another   smaller room has a mosaic floor and cultural artifacts that date from the   2-3rd century.

 

RSCN's Ajloun Reserve is located on   13 acres of oak, pistachio and carob trees, with seasonally available tents,   cabins and a center for education. Several hikes are available, including the   guided hike to Mar Elyass and its continuation to Ajloun Castle. Another   guided hike climbs up to the eagle habitat, down to the RSCN community-based   soap factory in Ourjan, and then to a delicious lunch hosted in one of the   local farms.

 

At its highest point, Ajloun sits   1500 meters above sea level; a quarter of an hour later, in the Jordan   Valley, the land drops to 412 meters below. The drama of the area, its   bio-diversity and the connection of the people to the area make this a   memorable place to learn about the rich history Jordan has to offer.