Towns and Tourist Sites in
(with short notes on Wadi Mujib and Dana)
immensely strong castle of Kerak was one of the prizes of the
wars for the Holy Land during the period of the Crusades.
This photo gives you an idea of just how strong it was. There
is an enlargement of the photo on the page of photos of Kerak
in the Photo Gallery.
on the Kings' Highway, Kerak is chiefly known for its
castle, one of the chain of "Crusader Castles"
which once stretched from Turkey to the Egyptian border.
These castles were supposed to be in line of sight of the
next one along, and to be able to pass a message from
Aqaba to the Turkish border in less than twelve hours,
using a heliograph or light signals at night.
To be honest, and whatever
the guidebooks say, I find Kerak Castle much less attractive than
the castles of Syria. It has a particularly bloodthirsty history;
notably under the ownership of Reynald de Castillon, who married
the widow of the previous owner. [One
wonders a bit about that marriage!] Reynald
was killed at the battle of Hattin, some sources say that Saladin
(Salah ad-Din in Arabic)
took care of him personally, but the bloody history of the castle
continued. When it was besieged by Saladin's army, it is said
that the defenders "sold" their wives and children to
the besiegers in exchange for food. Perhaps the unhappy
atmosphere is still there.
In any case, Saladin was
impressed by the "courage" of the defenders, and when
they finally surrendered he freed them without asking for
Nowadays, Kerak has a
reputation of being a "radical" town. Any time there is
unrest in Jordan for whatever reason, the citizens of Kerak are
invariably in the front line. They particularly distinguished
themselves a few years ago when the price of grain, and hence of
flour and bread, was sharply increased and it took a personal
appeal from King Hussein to calm them.
There is rather a nice
site about Kerak and the Crusades, written from the Arab point of
view, at http://www.acsamman.edu.jo/~ms/crusades/index.html
people stay in Kerak for longer than it takes to look over the castle, although
there are a few hotels.
If you want to eat in the
town, you will almost certainly be directed to the restaurant actually inside
the castle. However there are a couple of acceptable and much cheaper alternatives
immediately opposite the main entrance if you just
want a quick meal. If you are happy with omelette, salad
and/or filafel sandwiches, you will pay half the cheapest price of the big
restaurant. You can also get very good fresh fruit juice there, and the service
is usually very rapid.
There are some
more photos of Wadi Mujib on the Photo Gallery pages
and a full description of the Nature Reserve of Wadi Mujib in the "Jordan out of doors"
scale of the cliffs in this photo is difficult to see at
first glance, but I assure you that those are fair-sized
trees that you can see down near the water.
A spectacular canyon [sometimes
called "the Grand Canyon of the Middle East")
crossed by the Kings' Highway, this area is now a Nature Reserve,
administered by the Jordanian Royal Society for the Conservation
of Nature http://www.middleeast.com/mujib.htm. It is well over 500m deep and
runs down from the mountains to the Dead Sea. For those
interested in exploring a dramatic site and seeing some of the
rare birds and plants to be found there, the RSCN organises treks
through the canyon. See the page on the Nature Reserve for some descriptions of these. If you are
interested in "canyoning" see also the page on "Canyoning
The entrance to the
Reserve and the RSCN office are close to the Dead Sea, just
beside the bridge which crosses the Wadi, and you can get full
information there. There is another entrance at Faqa'a close to
the Kings' Highway, but you must have reserved a trekking tour to be able to
enter here. There is a map of the Nature Reserve and
the trails there at the Wadi Mujib Map
There are some
more photos of Dana on the Photo
Gallery pages and a full description of the
Reserve of Wadi Mujib in the "Jordan out of doors"
Dana, some 20 kms south of
Tafileh on the Kings' Highway, is quite beautiful. It is a nature
reserve in a spectacular valley, there is a difference of 1500m
between the floor of the valley and the hills around it. There
are two cheap hotels: the
Dana Hotel (phone
++962.3.227.0537) which is run as a village cooperative and which
deserves support, and the Dana Tower Hotel (e-mail
by phone at:
or fax at: 00962.3.227.0237) - both come with good recommendations) and the Guesthouse (Tel +962.3.227.0497 Fax
+962.3.227.0498), from the terrace of which one has a gorgeous
view. They have an email address but I am told that they don't
reply to emails! If you want to try anyway here it is : firstname.lastname@example.org. [Send a fax
as well, huh?] . It's really best if you
reserve here through the RSCN directly - see
Accommodation in Dana is in fact something of a problem, there are not nearly
enough rooms to fill the demand, and in the tourist season you are likely to
have a considerable problem finding somewhere to stay.
In fact this is yet
another ancient village in Jordan which was falling into abandon.
The only water had to be brought in on donkeyback from a spring
higher up on the mountain and several miles away. One of the
first things the RSCN did was to run a conduit to the village
from the spring, which encouraged a few of the older people to
stay on. The Reserve is providing employment for many of the
younger ones, who otherwise would have joined the exodus.
The official brochure says
: " Dana is a world of natural
treasures containing a wealth of natural scenery, ancient ruins
and a large number of flora and fauna, some only indigenous to
the area. The Dana reserve is a system of wadis and rugged
mountains, which extend from the top of the Jordan Rift Valley
down to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba. It supports a wide
variety of wildlife, including many rare species of plants and
The Dana village is a
great example of a timeless and traditional Jordanian village, it
contains a visitors' center selling organically grown produce
from the village terrace gardens, and silver jewellery and
pottery produced by the women of the village. The reserve
contains the Rummana and Feinan campsites and a Village
guesthouse. Dana offers a selection of trails to key points of
interest for both the casual and adventurous hiker."
now getting known as a serious tourist attraction, even for those who are not
particularly interested in hiking. It is possible to do a "gentle stroll" ("Traditional
Tribal Arts Tour")
around the village, and visit the various handicraft centres, varying from jam
and soap making to silver jewellery. See the page about the
Nature Reserves where you will find
a great deal more detail. It is not very easy to reach for those without their own transport,
but the Petra bus from Madaba would make a detour if you wish.
Otherwise, apart from one daily bus from Amman, you need to go through Tafileh. Dana is about 40kms from Petra, but no direct public
transport links the two [a pity],
you would have to go back to Tafileh and from there to Ma'an. Like Petra
and Wadi Rum, it needs a few days to visit properly, but even
just sitting on the terrace of the Guesthouse, you can appreciate
the beauty and the peace of this site. One thing about
the difficulty of access is that it is much less frequented than would otherwise
be the case.
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