I was lucky enough to visit Jordan with a medieval art scholar, so on our way to the famously impenetrable Kerak Castle, I got a full narration of the Battle of Hattin and the Third Crusade, including the dastardly deeds of Reynald de Chatillon and the ultimate revenge of Saladin.
Not only that, but my friend Beth had the name of a curator at Kerak, so we were treated to a special tour that involved opening locked doors and descending underground. The image above is the underground hall which served as a war room, with the throne at one end. That's natural light coming from above.
After our tour of the hidden depths of the castle, we clambered around on top, a cold wind whipping at our clothes. Further along the way to Petra, there was one more small castle, and our driver knew we would want to stop, having witnessed Beth's enthusiasm.
Shobok is much smaller than Kerak, but its isolated location on a high promontory lends drama to the ruins.
My photos from both castles show my penchant for arches, especially in multiples.
I also loved the hand-hewn projectiles for the catapults (Beth calls them trebuchets.) The site was littered with these handmade stone spheres, and they made me smile, somehow losing their sense of weaponry after so many centuries.
It's impressive to think that theses were built to be in communication with one another. A fire signal from Shobok could be seen in Kerak, and the signal from Kerak would reach Jerusalem.
I had a very hard time imagining the scene during the Crusades, but Beth has a vivid imagination and a huge wealth of knowledge. Her expertise shone in full glory in this show at the Getty Museum.