Built on a rocky outcrop, at more than 900m above sea level, the castle of Kerak dominates the Dead Sea valley.
PictureJordan in the 12th Century, a territory ruled by the crusaders, who built the fortress of Kerak, with the aim of controlling the land around Jordan.
The town of Kerak itself is built on a triangular plateau, with the castle on its southern point. 200m long and 125m high at its highest point, the fortress is imposing, to say the least. Thick-walled, its moats fathomless, a visit to Kerak is a trip back in time, which will plunge you into the history of the crusaders.
The ancient stronghold is notorious due to the person of Renaud de Châtillon. This cruel man had just been released from a few years in prison when he was appointed lord of the castle, and he was thirsty for vengeance against the Arabs. Ignoring the truce established between Baudoin IV, then King of Jerusalem, and Saladin, Renaud de Châtillon pillaged numerous caravans travelling through his lands, which were situated along a trade route between Egypt and Syria. Not content with simply torturing the merchants he took prisoner, he then threw them off the castle ramparts, a drop of more than 400 m. This fierce man then led raids to neighbouring town, threatening these holy Islamic towns. Saladin, driven mad with rage, led three sieges against the castle before gaining a victory. A magnanimous man, he spared the lives of the citizens, but with his own hand, he beheaded Renaud.
Roam through the maze of small rooms: you'll get a feel for the life the crusaders lived. Walk through the gallery of the crusaders, a vaulted hall which was once used as a stables. In the kitchen, you can almost smell the olives being pressed, and it's incredible how new the large circular stones, used as presses, look. Walk to the southern side of the castle, and you'll be able to admire the impressive Marmeluke keep, with its 6.5m thick walls, its four levels and its murder holes.
One tip for making the most of a visit to the castle: bring torches with you so you can see into the various nooks and crannies. Feel free to request the services of a local guide, who will show and tell you the secrets and legends of Perak, with its rich history.
In the distance, you'll be able to make out the Dead Sea valley, where the ancient towns of Sodom and Gomorrah are said to have been situated, which were destroyed by God with fire and brimstone.
To extend your travel back in time, head to the South, where the magnificent castle of Shobak dominates its surroundings. Although this castle is not in as good a state of preservation as Kerak, it's worth the detour.