This is the last day of our Jordanian adventures. We explored the Wādī Mūsā region, whose landscape is very similar to that of Petra. Another castle was waiting for us to explore! Surrounded by an impressive mass of rocks, the castle of al-Wu‘ayra occupies the zenith. We know that the castle was in the Frankish hands from at least 1144 on and probably fell to the Muslims in around 1188. The castle preserves certain tombs that probably belonged to children and to the members of a noble family.
Otto(wo)man at work!
We then moved to the Neolithic settlement of Bayda, located in a unique landscape. The site dates back to 9000 BC and was inhabited until 5500 BC. As we were walking to the site, with the help of the information panels on the pathway, we were reminded about the historical timeline of Jordan. Many buildings are well-preserved and following an experimental archaeology, round and square houses were so as to help the visitors to understand their size, height, building materials, inner space, function etc. The fact that both residential forms co-exist at the same site, recalling the sites like the nearby and oft-quoted Jericho gives us a very good sense of beginning of earliest towns in this region.
Our expedition continued with a tour of Siq al-Barid, Bayda also known as “Little Petra,”as once it reminded of Petra but on a much humble size. The Nabataean site dates from the 1st century CE and was used as a station for caravans which headed to Arabia and Gaza. Among the highlights of this site was a chamber with a unique painting decoration that represents interlocking floral motifs and several putti. We later had a break for coffee and we subsequently visited two recently-excavated mosques with rudimentary construction, dating to the fourteenth century, and a rock-cut chapel (?), whose carved out apse might hint at the fact that the building was originally built to function as a chapel.
Trail of Crusader-era scholars
Chamber with the painting and putti
Our last visit of the day was to the castle of Shawbak. Called Shoubak or Shawbak in Arabic was built by Baldwin I in 1115. Originally called "Krak de Montreal" or "Mons Regalis" indicating the royal patronage, the site gained its importance due to its location along the caravan and trade routes from Syria into the Arabian Peninsula. An impressive site with sturdy walls, had so much to tell us. Michalis gave us an introduction to the site and explained how the site become a locus of political revenge. Raynald Chatillon, the Lord of Oltrejordain decided to attack the Muslim caravans which were previously allowed to pass unharmed. This was untolerable for Saladin, the Ayyubid King. He besieged Montreal and after a two-year long siege, Montreal fell into the hands of the Ayyubids. As we were climbing up we noted a band of inscriptions dating to the time of Qalawun, the Mamluk Sultan who was in charge of Montreal in the fourteenth century.
A view into the tower with the Mamluk inscriptions
Examining the church at Montreal
There were fragments of several other sculpted pieces and inscribed fragments which we spent some time in reading and understanding. We also visited the residential complex within the castle, where we had a chance to compare and contrast other the residential complexes and their Ayyubid and/or Mamluk characteristics we have seen in Amman and Kerak. Our final stop in the castle was the Crusader church, where we spoke about how some of the local (read: late antique) structural details were visible in the church architecture of the region.
Text and Photos by Anthi Andronikou & Suna Cagaptay