Karak is a unique and fascinating ancient town, located east of the Dead Sea. Upon arriving in Karak, you’ll instantly feel like you’re in a movie set, or that you have managed to travel back in time several centuries. The vast majority of buildings in Karak were built in or around the 19th century, and although most have been renovated since then, the town still has a very ancient, archaic feel to it. Karak was an outpost of the Ottoman Empire during the late 18th and 19th centuries, and their legacy remains there today.
The centerpiece of this town is the amazing Karak Castle. This large fortress was built sometime around the 12th century, yet its history dates back far further than that. Karak, then called Kir Heres, is mentioned often in the bible. Although the existing Karak Castle was not built until 1161 AD, the area now known as Karak has been a military fortress for as long as we have had written history books. The history of Karak deserves a book of its own.
If you are interested in visiting Karak Castle and learning about the town’s history, the best way to go about it is to visit during one of their Sight and Sound events. The local tourism agency hosts these events regularly. During the event, the castle is lit up at night by 50 light posts, giving it an eerie yet beautiful appearance. Visitors are free to explore certain areas of the castle, inside and out. There is also a film screening of a documentary made about Karak Castle and the major events of the area, some taking place as early as 800 BC. The documentary highlights both the history and the modern uses of Karak Castle, and explains that Karak, as a town, is a beautiful example of how Muslims and Christians can coexist peacefully.
Karak Castle is not huge, as far as castles go, but it appears massive when seeing it in person. The castle measures approximately 220m long, 125m wide at the north end, and 40m wide at the southern end. It’s interesting to view the walls and architecture of the castle, and note the different types of stone used, as well as the different styles of masonry. As a place where violence occurred often, Karak Castle had to be repaired and renovated many times over the years. It also changed hands often, passing from one powerful empire to the next. Evidence of each empire’s legacy is still visible within the walls of the castle if you look hard enough.
While Karak Castle is by far the main attraction of this area, the rest of the town is well worth exploring. Karak is currently home to around 170,000 people, and is largely surrounded by ancient walls, which were used for preliminary lines of defense in wartime. Evidence of the city’s age is apparent everywhere you look, yet the city functions as a modern dwelling place. Overall, Karak is a beautiful, unique place with a rich history, making it a common tourist attraction.