Attractions > AJLOUN CASTLE
27 km northwest of Jerash, on a beautiful short journey through the pine forested northern hills, lays the stronghold Castle of Ajloun (known as Qala’at el-Rabbad), which is strategically perched on a 1250m high hilltop, formerly the site of a Christian monastery and home to a monk named Ajloun.
For its strategic position and commanding views, the historic castle was built, by the Arabs -Saladin’s nephew Izz al-Din Usama- of the Ayyubid dynasty, as part of Saladin’s defensive chain of forts against the Crusaders in AD 1185, and as one in a chain of beacons. The castle was also a strategic message station for the carrier pigeons which relayed messages between Cairo, the headquarters of the Ayyubid’s dynasty, and Baghdad (Iraq) or Damascus (Syria).
The impressive military castle of Ajloun is a fine example of Islamic architecture. It was once surrounded by a sixteen-meter deep moat with a drawbridge, for defense purposes, along with towers that had narrow arrow slits and gaps in the stonework through which boiling oil was poured on assailants. The castle’s chambers were also filled with boulders for hurling at invaders by catapult. The views from the towers are very rewarding through the entire surrounding countryside.
Attractions > AJLOUN FOREST RESERVE
The Ajloun Forest Reserve is a beautiful and peaceful nature reserve located in the north of Jordan, in Ajloun’s remote highlands.
The rolling woodland is home to a diverse collection of plant and animal species, and was established in 1987 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to conserve the Evergreen Oak, Pine, Carob, Wild Pistachio and wild Strawberry Tree forests.
It is also a wildlife sanctuary for the locally endangered Roe Deer which has been reintroduced into the reserve by the RSCN captive breeding program, as well as wild boar, polecats, Persian Squirrels, Indian Crested Porcupines, Stone Martins, golden jackals, Asiatic Jackal, Red Fox and grey wolves along with birds such as tits, finches and jays.
The geography of the reserve is comprised mostly of rolling hills and valleys as well as some springs, making it ideal for hiking especially in spring, when the reserve is coated with wild flowers such as the Black Iris, rock roses, several orchids and wild tulips.
Several hiking trails of different levels are available within the reserve offering fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. Some hiking trails are compulsory guided by an RSCN guide and some are self-guided. Hiking trails include visits through the reserve and some to the surrounding villages of Rasun and Orjan where visitors may get to see the art of Arabic calligraphy and the local women at their workshops making pure olive oil soap and Tasali Jordanian delights. Trails to the archaeological sites of Mar Elias and Ajloun Castle are also offered. The RSCN supports three workshops in and near the reserve to help generate sources of income for the local community.
Attractions > PELLA
The ruins of the ancient city of Pella (known in Arabic as Tabaqat Fahl) lay amidst the fertile Jordan Valley, 130 km North West of Amman. Pella is historically considered as the most significant site in all Jordan as it is thought to have been continuously inhabited for more than 6,000 years, from the Stone Age to medieval Islamic times.
Under the Greeks, the settlement earned the name ‘Pella’ after the birthplace of Alexander the Great and it was to Pella that Christians sought refuge from the Roman persecution in Jerusalem in AD 66. Although Pella was a Decapolis city but it is not that impressive nowadays as most of the ruins are scattered and need excavations due to the devastating 747 AD earthquake which destroyed most of the city.
A visitor can observe the ruins of a Byzantine civic complex church, a small Odeon, a 14th century small square Mamluk mosque, various churches, baths and tombs from different periods and the remains of an Umayyad settlement, which consisted of houses, shops and storehouses.
Attractions > UMM QAIS
110km north of Amman, on the northwest border of Jordan, lays the Decapolis city of Umm Qais which was known by the Romans as Gadara. The city reached its full glory under Roman rule, and was famous for the richness of its intellectual life, being the birthplace of several classical Philosophers, poets and writers. Not only popular because of the extensive ruins but because of its magnificent panoramic views over the Golan Heights, Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee) and the Jordan Valley.
The ancient city of Gadara is also believed to be the site where Jesus Christ cast out demons from two men and forced the evil spirits to enter a herd of pigs, which in turn rushed down the steep slope and drowned in the Sea of Galilee (Matthew chapter 8, 28-34).
Much of what can be seen today was actually constructed during the 2nd century AD. A visitor can observe the West Theater which was constructed from the black basalt, and once seated an audience of 3,000 people. Beside the West Theater, stand the black basalt Corinthian columns of the 6th century octagonal Byzantine church, and further west is a bath complex. Numerous Greco-Roman tombs and a colonnaded street can also be observed.