Part of the great beacon chain of Crusader fortresses, Shobak Castle is by far the most lonely. Built in 1115 AD by Baldwin I, who later built Karak, it was originally known as Mont Realis (Montreal) and was the first outpost of the kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusader district of Outrejordain.
Situated on an isolated knoll overlooking the trade routes that ran through the wadi below, Shobak is breathtaking.
The original entrance to Shobak Castle was through a dog-legged triple gate. Above this is the Crusader Church, with strategic views of the old village. There are several wells found within the castle walls, although the main water source was the spring at the foot of the hill. One of the treasures of this site is secret passage of over 350 steps that goes down to the spring, ensuring that during times of siege, the castle would have access to adequate supplies of fresh water. Baldwin l’s court, a large room with antechambers running around it, has been partially reconstructed. Other rooms hold olive presses and a second church. It is still possible to see the cisterns, baths and pipes for harvesting rainwater.
Shobak fell to Saladin in 1189. In the 14th century the Mamluks took the castle and renovated it. Many of the outer walls now feature beautiful Kufic and Quranic inscriptions. The Mamluks built a watchtower and used the court as a school.
Below Shobak is a shrine to Abu Suleiman al-Dirany. Women still come here today and leave handprints in henna as a request for children and for the sick to become well. Some experts believe that the shrine was built by the Mamluks.
Shobak’s daunting position made it a strong sentinel during the 12th century. The visible bones of the castle provide a startling insight into its anatomy, both as a Crusader castle and as a Mamluk edifice. Today, it is a wonderful, romantic destination. The tranquility of the site, and its magnificent views, allow for peaceful reflection.