Ajloun , is the capital town of the Ajloun Governorate, a hilly town in the north of Jordan. It is just about 76 kilometers (around 47 miles) North West of Amman.
As it has a Mediterranean weather rainy and snowy in winter season and pleasant in the summer time, The Ajolun Mountains are famous for their lush vegetation and thick green forests and a good place for hikes.
Its highest mountain peaks reach around 1268 meters above sea level , and Ajloun mountains receive a few snow storms every year usually in winter season from December to March. It’s one of the country’s most beautiful regions.
Ajloun is just a short journey from Jerash through pine forest and olive groves and boasts scores of ancient sites, including watermills, forts and villages, all in the beautiful hills and valleys of northern Jordan.
The marvels of nature and the genius of medieval Arab military architecture have given this city two of the most important ecological and historical attractions in the Middle East :
the sprawling pine forests of the Ajlun-Dibbine area, and the towering Ayyubid castle at Ajloun,
Ajloun has a rich history that stretches over more than a hundred thousand years. There is a theory that the town’s name is connected with the Moabite King Eglon mentioned in the Bible, though the precise derivation is obscure. Byzantine era records also mention “Ajloun” in reference to a priest who resided is a monastery on the top of Mount ‘Awf, which is where Ajloun Castle sits today.
The crusader castle was built AD 1184-1185, by a commander nephew of Saladin, and was designed to protect the trade and commercial routes between Jordan and Syria. The castle dominates the Ajloun skyline and as you will see for yourself, the views are amazing and on a clear day you can see as far as The Dead Sea, Jordan Valley, the West Bank and the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias).
Arab and European travelers have been passing through Ajloun for more than a thousand years. Their accounts offer vivid description of the city and its suburbs.
A traveler from Andalusia, Benjamin Bin yaneh Al Tatly, visited Ajloun between 1165 and 1173 and described is as a spacious city with an abundance of water and orchards. The Arab traveler Shams al Din Dimashqi , who died in 1326 AD, remarked that it was a city with abundant fruit and running water, and that a citadel that could be seen from a distance of four days travel. The Muslim traveler Ibn Battutah described is as a beautiful city with many markets, a huge castle and running river.
The Swiss traveler and orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who is credited with the European discovery of Petra, passed through Ajloun in 1812 and described its people and their way of life. in 1886, American civil engineer (of German origin) and archaeologist Gottlieb Schumacher visited Ajloun when he was asked by the Palestinian Exploratory Fund to survey the Golan, Hauran and Ajloun districts in preparation for the construction of the Damascus-Haifa railway. An important figure in early archaeological explorations of the region. Schumacher produced the first accurate maps of the area along with detailed description of the archaeological remains and the contemporary villages that existed
The castle of Ajloun is another highlight of northern Jordan. The “Qalat er-Rabad”, as the Ajluon Castle is locally known, was the base of the Arab forces of Saladin, when he defeated the Crusaders in the 12th century. It was built by one of Saladin’s generals in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajloun.
dominated the three main routes leading to the Jordan Valley and protected the trade and commercial routes between Jordan and Syria; The castle became an important link in the defensive chain against the Crusaders.
The original castle had four towers, arrow slits incorporated into the thick walls, and was surrounded by a moat averaging 16m in width and up to 15m deep. In 1215 AD, the Mameluk officer Aibak ibn Abdullah expanded the castle , by adding a new tower in the southeast corner and a bridge that can still be seen decorated with pigeon reliefs.
The castle of Ajloun was one of the chain of castles which, using heliograph, fire beacons and pigeon post, could transmit messages from Damascus to Cairo within twelve hours. It was severely damaged by earthquakes in the 18th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, and restoration work is proceeding.
Alone on its hill, and looking over some magnificent countryside, Ajloun was admirably sited and was never taken by the Crusaders, although the Mongols in the 13th century occupied it for a short time before it was retaken by its original owners. The entrance to the castle the moat is still there and the castle is entered over a modern bridge.
The interior is full of rambling corridors and staircases, through which boiling oil or pitch (or whatever else was handy) could be poured on any invader. From the castle one has an impressive view over the cultivated terraces nearby. The grass is lush, and the goats are finding ample forage.
Great Ajloun Mosque.
Located in the center of Ajloun is the Great Ajloun Mosque. This mosque is one of the oldest extant in Jordan and dates back around 800 years. This edifice was previously a Byzantine Christian church; there have been reports of Greek writing in the oldest sections. The prayer tower is called “the filter” by some locals (referring to a cigarette filter, because half of the tower was built over a square tower, most likely a Church bell tower). In 2007 work began on improving the mosque to allow tourists to visit it. There are also reports that when the west wall fell apart in the heavy rains and snow in January 2013 a Bible and crosses were found in the old section.
The oldest church in Ajloun.
Maqateh, an area in Ajloun, is home to the oldest church and mosaic in Ajloun (Maqateh Church), which is from 482 AD during the Byzantine era. The data was found in a Greek inscription found there tht mentions a local priest named Ayyub, along with other clergy who donated money to build the church.
Our Lady of the Mountain Church.
Ajloun is home to a significant place of pilgrimage, the Our Lady of the Mountain Church in Anjara. This church marks the location of a rebuilt cave that is venerated as a place where Jesus Christ and his mother Mary passed during their journey to the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberius). The Vatican designated Anjara as a Millennium 2000 pilgrimage site.
Tell Mar Elias.
Tell Mar Elias is located just outside the city limits. This site contains Byzantine church mosaics which were uncovered during the summer months for tourists. T tohis location for Saint Elijah (Mar Elias) has been a shrine for centuries – people would go there and walk around the shrine singing ancient songs to cure a disease called “Rigeh”. There are folk songs they sang for this visit. However, prior to the Pope’s visit in 2000. A scholar on both Mar Elias and Ajloun Castle is Mohammad Abu-Abeileh in Jordan.
The Ajloun Forest Reserve
The Ajloun Forest Reserve is also located nearby. The whole area had been reputed to be the largest forested area in the Middle East – however, the area was largely deforested by the Turks to secure fuel for their railroad.
The town of Ajloun is about 3 kilometers from the castle. Ajloun is well served by public transport; there are regular minibuses from the Abdali bus station in Amman and also from Jerash. An early start would let you visit both sites in the day. When you reach the town of Ajloun a taxi will be happy to take you to the castle! You can probably negotiate a rate allowing a visit there and a return trip in the same taxi. If you prefer to walk it, why not, but 3kms up a steep hill in the sun is thirsty work..