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Ajloun

Enjoy the best panoramic views of the Jordan Valley.

Ajlun Castle (Qal’at Ar-Rabad) was built by one of Saladin’s generals in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajlun, and to deter the Franks from invading Ajlun.

The marvels of nature and the genius of medieval Arab military architecture have given northern Jordan two of the most important ecological and historical attractions in the Middle East: the sprawling pine forests of the Ajlun-Dibbine area, and the towering Ayyubid castle at Ajlun, which helped to defeat the Crusaders eight centuries ago.

Ajlun Castle (Qal’at Ar-Rabad) was built by one of Saladin’s generals in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajlun, and to deter the Franks from invading Ajlun. Ajlun 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, who, unsuccessfully spent decades trying to capture the castle and the nearby village.

The original castle had four towers, arrow slits incorporated into the thick walls, and was surrounded by a moat averaging 16m in width and up to 15m deep.
In 1215 AD, the Mameluk officer Aibak ibn Abdullah expanded the castle following Usama’s death, 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 ed-Din Yousef Ibn Ayoub, ruler of Aleppo and Damascus, who restored the northeastern tower. These expansion efforts were interrupted in 1260 AD, when Mongol invaders destroyed the castle, but almost immediately, the Mameluk Sultan Baybars re-conquered and rebuilt the fortress.

Ten Salah ed-Din soldiers guard the castle every day of the week. They are placed at the castle’s four different gate levels. Two are on the roof where the yellow Mameluk is flying. Siege ladders leaning against the wall add to the war-like atmosphere.

Ajlun is just a short journey from Jerash through pine forest and olive groves and boasts scores of ancient sites, including watermills, forts and villages, all in the beautiful hills and valleys of northern Jordan.

If you have binoculars, bring them with you to Jordan. You will be able to appreciate not only the varied wildlife in the nature reserves but also the fantastic views from places such as Ajlun.

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Cooking with Local Residents – Ajloun Forest Reserve

Learn about local Jordanian culture and cuisine and have hands on cooking experience with local families in Ajloun. Guests will enjoy learning how to cook and then sitting down to their delicious home-cooked traditional meal with their local hosts, a truly immersive cultural experience.

 

Roe Deer restaurant and Al-Ballout restaurant

There are two main restaurants at Ajloun Forest Reserve, one at the cabins area called the Roe Deer restaurant and Al-Ballout restaurant located at Royal Academy for Nature Conservation. Both restaurants serve homemade traditional local meals.

Enjoy al fresco dining at Ajloun Forest Reserve restaurants with winning local flavors!

 

Eat with the local

To experience a truly authentic cultural experience, guests at Ajloun Forest Reserve can enjoy home-cooked meals at local residents’ homes. Local hosts can also teach guests how to cook these meals!

Eco & Nature

The large pine forest that stretches from Ajlun towards the north is a unique environmental resource, for it is the southernmost complete pine forest in the world. The area’s cool forests, beautiful picnic areas, and extensive walking trails attract visitors throughout the April-October season, especially from the Gulf and other warmer regions of the Middle East.

The combination of the invigorating forests, clean air, cool summer temperatures, easy access from all northern Jordan, and a series of major antiquities sites make this a leading tourism destination, for both international and domestic tourists.

The Ajlun Campsite is located at the edge of the forest in the reserve. It occupies a large grassy clearing, enclosed by oak, pistachio and strawberry trees, and offers beautiful views of the reserve and beyond. There are 10 four- person tented bungalows available and nearby showers and toilets. The Ajlun Campsite opens from the 1st of April till the 31stof October.

 

Ajlun Nature Reserve

The Ajlun Nature Reserve is located in the Ajlun highlands (North of Amman). It consists of Mediterranean-like hill country, dominated by open woodlands of oak and pistachio trees. The Reserve was first established in 1988 when a captive-breeding programme for the Roe Deer was initiated.

The Reserve (13 sq. km) is located in an area named Eshtafeena. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has set up two hiking trails and provides a special area for camping.

Ajlun’s woodlands consist mostly of oak trees, interspersed with pistachio, pine, carob, and wild strawberry trees. These trees have long been important to local people for their wood, scenic beauty and, very often, for medicine and food.

The Roe Deer is adapted to forest habitat, and feeds on a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses. The rich Mediterranean-like forests that covered the Ajlun area provided an ideal habitat for millennia. However, deforestation and desertification over the past 200 years led to the decline in numbers of the Roe Deer. Three Roe Deer were introduced to the captive breeding enclosure in Ajlun in 1988, from a similar habitat in Turkey, and their numbers are now increasing.

The Persian Fallow Deer is another species that was once common in Jordan. This animal probably became extinct by the turn of the century although measures are in place to ensure their return to the local countryside. This species of deer derives its name from the old English word “falu,” meaning “brownish-yellow,” which describes the colour of its coat.

Not far from Ajlun is the tomb of the venerable companion Ikrimah bin Abi Jahal. One of Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) bitterest enemies until he embraced Islam, he later distinguished himself by contributing to the spread of Islam. Martyred in the Battle of Yarmouk, he also took part in the wars of Apostasy and the conquest of Syria.

Also in Ajlun is a shrine for Al-Khadir (St. George). While not a prophet, St. George was a righteous worshipper and a popular saint. He has many shrines in Jordan as a number of miracles were revealed through him. His famous story with Prophet Moses can be found in the Holy Qur’an.

Other nearby sites include the birthplace of the Prophet Elijah at Listib and the Church of St Elijah at Khirbet Mar Elias.


In Anjara, in the north of Jordan, there is the Our Lady of the Mountain Church – a rebuilt cave that is venerated as a place where Jesus and his mother Mary passed during their journeys between the Sea of Galilee. Anjara was designated by the Vatican as a Millenium 2000 pilgrimage site.

Eco & Nature

The large pine forest that stretches from Ajlun towards the north is a unique environmental resource, for it is the southernmost complete pine forest in the world. The area’s cool forests, beautiful picnic areas, and extensive walking trails attract visitors throughout the April-October season, especially from the Gulf and other warmer regions of the Middle East.

The combination of the invigorating forests, clean air, cool summer temperatures, easy access from all northern Jordan, and a series of major antiquities sites make this a leading tourism destination, for both international and domestic tourists.

The Ajlun Campsite is located at the edge of the forest in the reserve. It occupies a large grassy clearing, enclosed by oak, pistachio and strawberry trees, and offers beautiful views of the reserve and beyond. There are 10 four- person tented bungalows available and nearby showers and toilets. The Ajlun Campsite opens from the 1st of April till the 31stof October.

 

Ajlun Nature Reserve

The Ajlun Nature Reserve is located in the Ajlun highlands (North of Amman). It consists of Mediterranean-like hill country, dominated by open woodlands of oak and pistachio trees. The Reserve was first established in 1988 when a captive-breeding programme for the Roe Deer was initiated.

The Reserve (13 sq. km) is located in an area named Eshtafeena. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has set up two hiking trails and provides a special area for camping.

Ajlun’s woodlands consist mostly of oak trees, interspersed with pistachio, pine, carob, and wild strawberry trees. These trees have long been important to local people for their wood, scenic beauty and, very often, for medicine and food.

The Roe Deer is adapted to forest habitat, and feeds on a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses. The rich Mediterranean-like forests that covered the Ajlun area provided an ideal habitat for millennia. However, deforestation and desertification over the past 200 years led to the decline in numbers of the Roe Deer. Three Roe Deer were introduced to the captive breeding enclosure in Ajlun in 1988, from a similar habitat in Turkey, and their numbers are now increasing.

The Persian Fallow Deer is another species that was once common in Jordan. This animal probably became extinct by the turn of the century although measures are in place to ensure their return to the local countryside. This species of deer derives its name from the old English word “falu,” meaning “brownish-yellow,” which describes the colour of its coat.

Roe Deer Trail

Guided or self-guided Grade: Easy Distance: 2 km Time: Less than 1 hour Group size: 4 – 18 people

Description: This short circular trail starts at the campsite and offers great views over the reserve. Not far from the campsite, you will find an old stone wine press. Early in the morning, you may be lucky enough to see Roe deer before you return to the visitor center.

 

Rasoun Trail

(Year-round, except during Ramadan), Guided only Grade: Moderate Distance: 6 – 7 km Time: 2 – 3 hours Group size: 4 – 18 people

This trail begins at the Reserve’s Visitor Center; you will hike through thick, healthy woodlands filled with Oak, Pistachio, and oriental Strawberry trees. Take a short detour to view a ruined wine press before you pass one of the oldest Strawberry trees in the Reserve on your way down into the valley.

The trail climbs 1000m above sea level at Eagle’s View Point descending to Rasoun village, and then you will be transferred to visit the Soap House at the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation where the local women of Ajloun follow the traditional process of making Orjan pure Olive Oil soap.

 

Rockrose Trail

Guided only Grade: Moderate Distance: 8 km Time: 3 – 4 hours Group size: 4 – 18 people Requirements: Reasonable level of fitness

Description: Named for the flowers that can be seen around the trail every spring, this hiking loop passes through thick woodlands, orchards, farms and villages in and around the reserve. It offers beautiful views of the West Bank, Syria, and the Jordanian countryside. About halfway through the hike, observe the wine and olive press from the Byzantine and Roman eras, and just before reaching the end of the trail, rest in the shade of a large Maloul tree. Each season has different vegetation to enjoy.

The first half of the trail is uphill and the second half is downhill; there are steep scrambles enroute that demand a reasonable level of fitness.

 

The Prophet’s Trail

Guided only Grade: Moderate Distance: 8.5 km Time: 4 hours Group size: 4 – 18 people

Description: This hike takes you from Ajloun Forest Reserve Visitor Center to Mar Elias, the ruins of one of Jordan’s oldest churches. It is named for the Prophet Elias, or Elijah, to whom Mar Elias is dedicated. The trail leads through fig and pear orchards, amongst forests of oak and oriental strawberry trees. The stonewalls that crisscross the valley guard the farmers’ crops inside from both the winter rains and wild boar. Relax in the shade with a glass of tea before climbing to the hilltop ruins, which provide sweeping views of the surrounding area. The hike also includes a locally prepared picnic lunch near the ruins.

 

Ajloun Castle Trail

Guided only Grade: Difficult Distance: 18 km Time: Full Day Group size: 4 – 18 people

Description: Once you have reached Mar Elias, you have the option of continuing on this challenging trail, which takes you by small farmhouse and their adjacent orchards on your way to Ajloun Castle, built between AD 1184 – 1188 by Salahadin’s nephew. In the first section of the trail, you can enjoy views of the West Bank and Syria, before you descend into a wooded valley. The final difficult uphill is rewarded by the incredible Castle and the marvelous views that accompany it. The hike also includes a locally prepared picnic lunch.

 

Ajloun Hiking Trails

Roe Deer Trail

Guided or self-guided Grade: Easy Distance: 2 km Time: Less than 1 hour Group size: 4-18 people

Description: This short circular trail starts at the campsite and offers great views over the reserve. Not far from the campsite you will find an old stone wine press. Early in the morning, you may be lucky enough to see Roe deer before you return to the visitor center.

 

Please note: All trails are available all year round depending on weather conditions.

The Ajlun Archaeological Museum was established in 1993, inside one of the halls of the Ajlun castle. The castle, on the west side of the city, was built in 1184 by ‘Izz al-Din Usama ibn Munqidh’ a commander and nephew of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin).

Archaeological investigations in the Ajlun district are limited. During the past few years they concentrated on surveys with limited excavations at Wadi al-Yabis and Wadi ‘Ajlun-Kufrenjeh, in addition to the excavations at Tell Abu Sarbut in the northern Jordan Valley.

The showcases at the Ajlun Archaeological Museum contain exhibits from the following periods:

  • The pre-pottery Neolithic A (8300-7300 BC): various flint tools including microliths, worked bone including needles and borers, and basalt objects. These finds came from the 1991 excavations at ‘Iraq ad-Dubb to the northeast of Ajlun.
  • The Early Bronze Age (2300-1900 BC): pottery vessels from salvage excavation at various sites in the district.
  • The Byzantine period: pottery vessels from the excavation of the Khirbet Mahrama cemetery.
  • The Islamic periods (Ayyubid-Mameluk): a collection of pottery vessels, lamps and sugar pots, copper and bronze tools and grinding stones, in addition to several Arabic inscription found in the Ajlun Castle.