A Brief History of Crusader Castles in Jordan

Jordan Karak Castle
Jordan Karak Castle | © Kyle Taylor / Flickr
Photo of Ginin Dunia Rifai
29 March 2017

Jordan is a cradle of ancient civilizations that left remarkable stamps on the treasured history of the country. Jordan has six Crusader castles, so named because they were built during or served important purposes during the Crusades—read our guide to some of their highlights and their glorious histories.

Kerak Castle

Kerak Castle, built in the 12th century, is one of the largest Crusader castles in the Levant region. According to Biblical tradition, Kerak was designed by the king of Israel.

In the early 1170s, the Crusader kingdom was ruled by Reynald of Châtillon, a notorious leader who took joy in savage acts such as throwing prisoners off the castle wall onto the rocks below. When the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin launched his attack on the Crusader kingdom and executed the tyrant himself, Kerak eventually fell under Saladin’s rule. The castle holds the honor of being the first site to use contemporary artillery in the Middle East.

On December 18, 2016, the castle was attacked by ISIS, who killed more than 10 people and injured more than 34.

Kerak Castle | © Uwe Brodrecht / Flickr

Montreal Castle

Named in honor of Mont Royal, King Baldwin I of Jerusalem’s 1115 contribution to the structure, the castle was built on a hilltop to control pilgrimage and trade caravans passing my from Syria to Arabia, and travelers required Baldwin’s permission to pass through. After the downfall of the king’s reign, the castle passed to Philip de Milly and later to Reynald of Châtillon.

In 1187, the Montreal met the same fate as Kerak Castle. Saladdin carried out sieges on the castle for a solid two years. It was said that the defenders sold their wives and children for food and that some had gone blind because of a lack of salt in their diet. Eventually, Saladdin was successful in claiming the castle, which thrived in his reign until is was captured and rebuilt by the Mamluks.

Vaux Moise

Vaux Moise, or the Valley of Moses, is a small castle in Wadi Rum, also built by King Baldwin, that served an an outstation for the main castle of Montreal.

Shobak Montreal | © Uwe Brodrecht / Flickr


It was built in the 12th century by the Crusaders. During the siege of Saladin, the city and its fortress fell in his rule. Two centuries later, it was claimed and rebuilt by Qansah Al-Ghouri, one of the last Mamluks sultans. The Fortress is located on Pharaoh’s Island, a small island close to Aqaba and Egyptian Taba.

Today, all of these castles are well-preserved, marvelous archaeological sites that are open to visitors from all around the world.

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