Aljoun Castle, Qala’At Ar-Rabad

In the late 12th century, Saladin's nephew built this castle to protect the land from Crusaders.

One of a series of castles

Aljoun is one of a chain of castles built to repel the Crusaders. It was also part of a communication line made up of fire beacons, heliographs, and pigeon posts. Messages sent from Damascus could reach as far as Cairo in 12 hours. Today, we can send messages in the form of pulsing beams of light traveling through glass and have them delivered between these two places in a few milliseconds.

Earthquakes in the 18th and 20th century destroyed the castle. However, thanks to several restoration projects, I'm able to explore much of it when I visit.

A man selling tea near the castle's entrance.

Ascending the castle's steps. The corridors and passages are well lit.

An open terrace. The tunnels lead to arrow slits.

Arrow slit.

The castle's a bit labyrinthine. Not by design, but because several passages and entryways are blocked off by rubble. To get from one courtyard to another takes some trial and error as I run into dead ends or through errant tunnels.

This is true even on the upper terraces where my bird's eye view of the rooms fail to indicate their accessibility. The only sure thing are the sweeping hills lined with olive groves in the distance.

This area is accessible to visitors, but how can I get there?

When we've left the castle, I remember to take one last photo of it from a distance. Far away, Aljoun Castle does indeed look quite defensible.

The castle from afar.