We took a break from hanging around town in order to not miss any World Cup games to visit some ruins around Jordan. First site of the day was Shobak Castle in the south of the country, not far from Petra.
Like many other Crusader castles, Shobak was built in the 12th century, later taken by the Muslim armies under Salah ad-Din, and finally occupied by the Mamluks. The drive down goes quickly on the Desert Highway, but once you cut over to the King’s Highway you have to slow down quite a bit.
The setting reminded me of that around Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, except not as green. The ruins of the castle, set on a hilltop as always, are actually quite expansive. We were the only visitors save a Jordanian family and three Brazilians. Otherwise, our only company was a group of construction workers carrying out that odious restoration that seems to be going on at all the ruins these days.
Taking a leap of faith (ala Indiana Jones) on a rickety board bridge...
Here’s Miriam Damascus sitting in the remains of what is said to be the throne of Salah ad-Din himself.
There is a no-longer-secret passageway that descends from inside the castle to the road below the hill on which the castle is perched. If you’re brave enough to take it, and have a flashlight with you, you’ll emerge from what looks like an old well at the foot of the hill with rubbery legs from climbing down a steep, crumbly, stone staircase.
Shobak was more interesting than I expected it would be. I am glad that we were able to visit it before they got too far into their restoration project. I know lots of people might disagree, but I prefer to see these sites in all their original, deteriorating glory. Seeing walls made of pure white limestone blocks with crisp edges and solid construction, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of going to see a ruined Crusader castle.