The Esh-Shobak Castle is one of the most interesting sights in Jordan. Although not that well preserved, it is still breathtaking.
The complex is less than an hour from Petra. Petra is one of Jordan’s top tourist destinations so you should have no problem getting a ride here.
What to See
The castle dates from the 12th century during the time of the Crusades. The surroundings are barren and it is atop a rugged mountain 4,265 ft (1,300 meters). From this vantage point you will get to see the trees below it. Its very isolation is part of the attraction.
Many of the elements you can see today were implemented during the Mamluk period. However, some parts of the Esh-Shobak Castle do come from the Crusader period. The northeast section is notable for the Quaranic inscriptions in Kufic script. Some researchers believe these were made during the time of Saladin. Close to the entrance is a church. It has an apse and a couple of niches. To the west side is a baptistery.
Traces of human activity go back to 500000 – 17000 BC during the Paleolithic period. Evidence for this includes scraping implements, knives, basalt hand-axes, flint and other tools. By 8500-4500 BC, small villages had appeared and animals were being domesticated.
By this time, tens of thousands of people were living in the area. It was in 840 BC when King Meshe of the Moabites fought against the House of David. This story is told in the second book of Kings in the Bible and supported by archaeological evidence.
Around 5500 – 4500 BC, pottery started being produced. The art of pottery making was probably learned from Mesopotamian craftsmen. By this time, the homes had many rooms and floors with plaster.
By 4500-3200 BC (Chalcolithic period) smelting of copper began. The life in the desert was probably akin to the Bedouins. Later on, the Nabatean kingdom appeared. Its capital was Petra, one of Jordan’s main attractions today.
Entrance to the site is free.
At the southeast of the castle is another church. It is adjacent to the Mamluk watchtower. At the east wall is a carved Crusader cross. There are Christian carvings, Islamic tablets and catacombs. There are large rocks which were used in catapults.
The Esh-Shobak Castle can be visited during the day. Even so, it can be dark in some areas. Make sure to bring a flashlight with you.