Crusader Castle

Crak des Moabites,or Le Pierre du Desert to the Crusaders is the magnificent Crusader fortress of Kerak which soars above its valleys and hills like a great ship riding waves of rock.But Kerak's origins go back long before the Crusaders;the earliest remains are Iron Age,shortly after the Exodus,when this was a part of Moab.It was known as Kir-haraseth.Kerak fell out of history until the Byzantine period,when it was important enough to have an archbishop.

It was the Crusaders who made Kerak famous,the fortress was built in 1142 by Payen le Bouteiller,lord of Montreal and the province of Oultre Jourdain.He made Kerak the new capital of the province,for it was superbly situated on the King's Highway,where it could control all traffic from north and south and grow rich by the imposition of road- tolls.

There were-as there are today-two parts of Kerak,both contained within stout walls,but the citadel and its fortress are separated from the town by a deep dry moat.The fortress is typically Crusader,with dimly lit stone-vaulted rooms and corridors leading into each other through heavy arches and doorways.

The fortress had a citadel to protect the inhabitants from outer attacks,therefore,many attempts were made by Nur al- Din and his brother Salah al-Din to capture the castle.It was not until the end of 1188,after a siege of more than a year,that Kerak finally surrendered to the Arabs.The last lord of Kerak,the Perfidious Renaud de Chatillon,was executed by Salah al-Din himself.

In 1963 the Mamluk Sultan Baybars took Kerak and destroyed the church of Nasareth.The castle's strength was fascinating. Under the Ottomans it was ruled by local families until 1840,when Ibrahim Pasha,son of Mohammad Ali of Egypt,took it, greatly damaging its defences.After the First World War,Kerak was a British administrative centre until the Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921.It remains the centre of a large disrict.

Kerak is still a largely Christian town, and many of today's Christian families trace their origins back to the Byzantines.
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