Today we wanted to visit Karak castle and try to make it to Dana for the night. We woke fairly late, with no real plan on how to make this happen. To catch a bus to Karak we would have to go back to Amman and to make it to Dana later, once again we would first have to go back to the capital. Madaba – Amman – Karak – Amman – Dana… Seems like a long way around..
Once again we checked the taxi prices and as they were all the same, we decided to go with Abu Sameer again. This is the more expensive way of traveling, but it is quicker and we can save quite a bit of time.
First we needed to visit the Map church in Madaba. This is where they found the big mosiac map of the holy land. It stretches from Karak to the meditaranian to Medina and Egypt. It is a bit hard to see inside the curch, but they have big posters outside, listing all the different points of interest. The curch itself is nice, Greek Orthodox. Just a quick visit as we have a long drive ahead.
The drive out to Karak was ok. On the way out of town we passed some burnt out cars, a testament to the action last night. Still apparently the last time this happened was fifty years ago. Some nice views along the way and Abu Sameer was nice enough to stop for good photo opportunities. One such point was a look out over Wadi Hussan. The grand canyon of Jordan. The views are stunning. A little shop is set up to buy a drink or the standard souvenirs. Jewelry and carpets. The wind was blowing the carpets everywhere, but nobody seemed to care. Besides these there was also a big range of fossils. This whole area is littered with them. There are the mid Devonian fossils that we had been seeing and also clams and bigger shells from about 60 million years ago. A quick chat with the store holder turned out to be surprising. He spoke Dutch! We never expected to come across a dutch speaking Jordanian, let alone on a rock over looking the grand canyon! He is practising his dutch with the visiting tourists, as he really wants a wife from holland. Apparently holland has the most beautiful women in the world.. With Anna smiling from the compliments, we loaded back in the car for the last stretch to Karak castle.
Karak lies on the route that ancient caravans traveled between egypt and Syria. It is mentioned in the bible and it features on the famous mosaic we some in Madaba of the biblical lands.
The castle is a crusader stronghold and lies with in the walls of the old city. King Baldwin
(strange name for a king?) had the castle build in 1142AD. It was an important position between Jerusalem and Shobak castle further south (hoping to visit that one later)
The castle eventually was in the hands of Renauld de Chatillon, a sadistic crusader leader who enjoyed throwing people of the walls into the valley 450 meters down. He even got them to put on wooden helmets, so the prisoners would not pass out before hitting the ground with a splash. He peed off the leader of the islamic armies Saladin for disrupting their supply lines. When Saladin took the castle in 1183 after a siege, he had Chatillon beheaded. Chatillon was the only crusader leader beheaded by Saladin, who is know for treating his prisoners fairly well.
In 1263 the Mamluks took the castle and fortified it.
Abu Samir dropped us off and was going to wait for us in a little restaurant. We headed up to the ticket office. and started exploring the lower terraces. Great views again and quite a nice museum, set up with help of the Japanese government. It took us a while to go through all the history. apparently under the lower terrace are tunnels and meeting room, but unfortunately we were not allowed in them due to the structure being unstable and unsafe.. To bad.. We started making our way up, when an arabic man called us over. He had a flashlight and wanted to show us some of the darker rooms here. He led us around some living quarters, kitchen, winepress etc. Interesting, but we are loosing track of where we are. He is trying to have some fun and drags Anna and Sophia into a dark corner, when the boys are not paying attention. We can then jump out and scare them. It works, and our guide is over the moon! He keeps doing this though, and
Sophis and Anna are stuck in little dark corners with him for longer than amusing. Besides after the first scare the guys aren’t falling for it anymore. He continuous to show us around even when we have left the dark rooms, where a torch was necessary. We are now out in the light, but he is not leaving. Andrew and Anna are starting to feel what will happen at the end of the “impromptu tour”. We see the old church built by the crusaders, and the mosque built by the Muslims. A few carvings in the stone along the way. Hard to tell if they were done on purpose or if they were already on the building stones as the crusaders recycled everything they could get there hands on. In some of the walls are perfectly round stone, that used to be pillars in pagan temples.
We had a good look around and as it was now about 17.00 we were starving. We should have eaten before visiting the castle like Abu Samir told us, but we hadn’t. When making our way back out, our guide did do what we were expecting. He held up his hand for a “tip”. We kinda knew it was coming, but this is the first time in Jordan. So far the local people that have showed us around, have done so for free and even when offered some money would not take it.
We find Abu Samir having a shave and haircut at the local barbershop, and went to get some
lunch. For once we are not doing the falafel sandwich or kebab, but do the buffet that is set out. We ask for a 2 people serving though as it is more expensive. We share this between the four of us and it is still more then enough. They served us Kofte (mince is a yoghurt sauce) and a red sauce with okra. This came with rice and of course some flatbread on the side. Great to eat something different for a change and try out some local food. Opinions afterwards were divided though, ranging from delicious to tasteless. None the less we were all full and loaded back in the car to go to Dana. UP and down the hills again.
We did not arrive in Dana until about 19.00. Dana is a small village perched on the rocks overlooking the Dana nature reserve. Uba Samir had called ahead to the Dana hotel and had booked the four of us in for the tents on the roof. 5 Dinar including breakfast.
On arrival we were informed that the tent were not available as they wanted to clean them. Instead we were offered the more expensive twin rooms for the same price! The rooms are lovely with the traditional roof and mosquito netting. We have picked the perfect place to chill out for a few days. On the roof of the hotel is a dining room and lounge set out and on the other side is even a double swing. The people are welcoming and ask if we still need diner. We agree as there don’t seem to be many restaurants in town (possibly none..) Diner was served at 21.00 and it was amazing. Rice, chicken, flatbread, salad, a mince dish with red sauce and a dish with meat balls, pumpkin and potatoes. We delved in and did our best, but it was way to much food for our little group. Considering it was our first real meal in Jordan we put a big dent in it.
Overfull, tired and happy we went to sleep. Our only plan is to cill here for a few days. Check out the Wadi and update the blog.