10) Ajlun Castle
The Ajlun Castle, also known as “Ajloun Castle” is a 12-th century castle built by the Ayyubid dynasty on a hilltop to protect three valleys of the Jordan Valley. According to Wikipedia, the name “Ajlun” apparently goes back to a Christian monk, who lived on the mountain in the Byzantine Period and archaeologists were able to find traces of ruins of a monastery underneath the castle. The Ajlun castle was strategically built on the high hill where the monastery once stood, as it overlooked the surrounding areas. It is a large structure that can be seen from many miles away. It was probably easier to get the castle started from the ruins of the monastery, since it required quite a bit of stone and other building materials to complete the castle. The primary purpose of the castle was to fight off both local Bedouin tribes and the Crusaders, who were allied at the time. It was later enlarged by the Mamluks in the 13th century.
Located in northwestern Jordan, approximately 47 miles away from Amman, the Ajlun Castle has seen quite a bit of history, including its eventual partial demolition by the Mongols in the 13th century. Although the Mamluks defeated the Mongols and restored the castle, it was not used for large military operations afterwards. The castle was eventually abandoned and later inhabited by the locals.
Before you get to the castle entrance, you will be presented with opportunities to photograph the surrounding areas located in the lower hills. It was a harsh, sunny day in Jordan and I did not get a chance to capture a nice photo, but you get the idea:
If you arrive before sunrise or stay after sunset, you might be able to capture some great shots of the area. I would definitely recommend to take a telephoto lens for the job!
Since the Ajlun castle is surrounded by a fosse (averaging 52 feet in width and 40-50 feet in depth), you will be walking over a bridge to enter the structure:
The exterior of the castle presents good opportunities for photography, as there are some tall structures and ruins to check out from different angles:
You can also get some great views of the valley from the top of the castle:
The local police did not mind me going to the different areas of the castle, although I would be very careful about climbing any of the structures. First, you do not want to damage anything and second, it might not be safe, as many of the rocks are loose:
There are a number of different exterior areas you can explore in the castle. Here is a view you can get once you climb up the long stairs of a very narrow area – not recommended if you are afraid of heights or tight spaces:
Judging from the ruins, it looks like this particular area was once enclosed.
You will find plenty of other interesting details to photograph in the castle. Here is a window-like structure that was probably put in place to support the rocks on the top – not a very convincing method, but it seems to work:
The interior of the castle is truly fascinating. Here is the main hall, showing stairs that access the different rooms of the castle:
The door on the bottom there opens up a room that serves as a museum today and you can find plenty of artifacts and inscriptions that were preserved for the tourists.
As you explore the castle interior, you will come across a number of large rooms, as the one below:
With windows being so small, there is very little light that actually comes through, making these rooms extremely difficult to photograph. The police did not seem to care about people with cameras, so you can probably bring a tripod with you and take some long exposures. I captured the above shot hand-held at 1/13th of a second and the image stabilization of the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 proved to be extremely useful in such situations.
While exploring the interior, I would also encourage you to capture the windows. These will be tough to photograph, since there is very little light on the inside and too much light coming in, so it is a good idea to shoot in brackets for HDR:
Lastly, don’t forget to explore the outside of the castle, as you might be presented with some interesting opportunities to capture vegetation growing on rocks and maybe even some pigeons posing for you:
The castle was heavily damaged by two earthquakes in the early 19th and 20th centuries and the government of Jordan has been working on restoring and preserving this historic castle.
I would definitely visit the area and take a tour of the Ajlun Castle if you visit Jordan, hopefully in better light!
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