Ajloun, Jordan

Ajloun, a city where nature and the cleverness of man intersect, is truly a marvel to behold. Ajloun is a city that is home to two of the most significant ecological and military sites in all of the Middle East. The wide-ranging forests of the Ajloun-Dibbine area and the Ayyubid castle at Ajloun (Qal’at Ar-Rabad) are historical and beautiful sites to visit while touring Jordan.

The Ajloun Castle was built in 1189 by one of Saladin’s generals to help control the iron mines of the region and also to deter the Franks from further invasion. The three main routes through Jordan were protected by the castle, thus preserving healthy trade between Jordan and Syria. The castle also sought to defend against the Crusaders, who literally spent decades attempting to capture the castle and the nearby village, but were defeated with the aid of the castle and its military might.

The original Ajloun Castle had four towers, arrow slits cut into the thickset walls, and was even surrounded by a moat that was nearly 15 m. deep. In 1215 the original castle was expanded upon, by the addition of a fifth tower in the southeast corner, and a decorative, functional bridge, which can still be seen today. In the 13th century, further expansion of the castle was planned, but the Mongols invaded at the last minute, and destroyed much of the original castle. The castle and the village were quickly recaptured by the Mameluk-Sultan Baybars, who rebuilt the fortress in very little time. The Ajloun Castle is certainly a historical site not to be missed.

The Ajloun region is also known for its verdant and lush pine forests. The Ajloun Nature Reserve is a 13 sq. km. reserve that is managed and maintained by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. The Reserve was founded in 1988, when a captive breeding program for the propagation of the Roe deer was first introduced. The Ajloun woodlands consist mostly of oak trees, mixed with pine, pistachio, wild strawberry, and carob trees. These trees have long been important to the local populace, for their use in medicine, food, and for their beauty and wood usage.

The Roe Deer was sustained for millennia by the lush wooded areas of Ajloun. The Mediterranean-like climate and vegetation provided an ideal habitat for them, offering food, protection and space enough to expand their numbers. However, in the past 200 years, deforestation and the desertification of the region have led to drastic reduction in the numbers of Roe Deer (and the extinction around the turn of the century of the Persian Fallow Dear), which is why the Nature Reserve began its breeding program. Due to the success of the Nature Reserve’s program, and the increased ecological guardianship of the area, the numbers of Roe Deer have increased slightly.

Ajloun is a region where one can take a long hike through the Southernmost complete pine forest in the world, or enjoy a day or more touring ancient fortresses and soaking in the rich, complex history of one of the most significant regions on the globe.

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