Around 70 km distant from Amman, you find in norther Jordan Ajloun Castle, in Arabic called Qal'at Ar-Rabad. It was built by Izz al-Din Usama, one of Salah al-Din's generals in 1184 AD. It had several purposes, to control the iron mines of Ajloun, and to protect the country from Crusader attacks. The castle dominated the three main routes leading to the Jordan Valley and protected the trade and commercial routes between Jordan and Syria; it 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 it was surrounded by a moat averaging 16 meters in width and up to 15 meters in depth. 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 was conceded in the 13th century to Salah al-Din, ruler of Aleppo and Damascus, who restored the north-eastern tower. These expansion efforts were interrupted in 1260, when Mongol invaders destroyed the castle. The Mameluk Sultan Baybars reconquered and rebuilt the fortress. In the last two centuries Qal'at Ar-Rabad was struck by earthquakes in 1837 and 1927.
Nearby the castle you find the Ajloun Nature Reserve, a hilly countryside covered with dense woodlands, characterized by oak, pistachio, carob, and wild strawberry trees. In 1988 the reserve was established to support a captive-breeding program for the roe deer. You find here several hiking trails:
The Scenic Viewpoint Trail/Roe Deer Trail (ca. 1 hr) is open 1st April until 31st October. This short circular trail starts at the campsite and offers nice views over the reserve. You will find an old stone wine press, with a bit of luck you may see the roe deer in the early morning. Open all year is the Soap Maker's Trail (2-3 hrs), offering a 6 to 7 kms hike through open evergreen oak forest with many panoramic view points. Visit the Soap House to see local women produce natural olive oil soap. Return by bus to the reserve.
For the following trails a guide is mandatory. The Rockrose Trail (3-4 hrs) passes across heavily wooded valleys and ridges, through villages and olive orchards and offers beautiful panoramic views to the West Bank and Syria. There are steep scrambles en-route that demand a reasonable level of fitness. The 8.5 kms Prophet's Trail (4 hrs)
links the nature reserve with Tel Mar Elias. Trek through a beautiful rolling forest landscape, ending at the church mosaics of Mar Elias, where a locally prepared tea & picnic lunch will be provided. Return to the reserve by bus. A maximum of 9 persons are allowed to do the Village Orchards Tour (6 hrs). Trek 12 kms through oak forests to lush orchards. Stop-over at local soap workshop, see the village spring and enjoy a traditional home-made brunch. Return to the reserve by bus. The most difficult trek is the Ajloun Castle Trail taking a full day to the Ajloun fortress.