Al-Karak

Al-Karak

مدينة الكرك
City
The Kerak Castle
Nickname(s): 
Qir of Moab
Al-Karak is located in Jordan
Al-Karak
Al-Karak
Coordinates: 31°11′0″N 35°42′0″E / 31°11′0″N 35°42′0″E / 31.18333; 35.70000
Country Jordan
GovernorateKarak Governorate
Area
 • Metro
765 km2 (295 sq mi)
Elevation
930 m (3,051 ft)
Population
(2003)[1][2]
 • City21,678
 • Metro
68,810
Time zoneGMT +2
 • Summer (DST)+3
Area code(s)+(962)2

Al-Karak (Arabic: الكرك‎), also known as just Karak or Kerak, is a city in Jordan known for its Crusader castle, the Kerak Castle. The castle is one of the three largest castles in the region, the other two being in Syria. Al-Karak is the capital city of the Karak Governorate.

Al-Karak lies 140 kilometres (87 mi) to the south of Amman on the ancient King's Highway. It is situated on a hilltop about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level and is surrounded on three sides by a valley. Al-Karak has a view of the Dead Sea. A city of about 20,000 people[when?] has been built up around the castle and it has buildings from the 19th-century Ottoman period. The town is built on a triangular plateau, with the castle at its narrow southern tip.

History

Al-Karak has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age, and was an important city for the Moabites. In the Bible it is called Qer Harreseth or Kir of Moab, and is identified as having been subject to the Assyrian empire; in the Books of Kings (16:9) and Book of Amos (1:5, 9:7), it is mentioned as the place where the Arameans went before they settled in the regions in the northern of Levant, and to which Tiglath-Pileser III sent the prisoners after the conquest of Damascus. In 1958 the remains of an inscription was found in Wadi al-Karak that has been dated to the late 9th century BC. During the late Hellenistic Period, al-Karak became an important town taking its name from the Aramaic word for town, Kharkha (כרכא).[3] Al Karak contains some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating as early as the 1st century AD after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. [4]

The area eventually fell under the power of the Nabateans. The Roman Empire – with support from the Arab Ghassanid tribe, or Ghassasinah – conquered it from them in 105 AD. The city was known in Late Antiquity as Harreketh. Under the Byzantine Empire it was the seat of a bishopric, housing the much venerated Church of Nazareth, and remained predominantly Christian under Arab rule. Its bishop Demetrius took part in the council of the three provinces of Palaestina held in Jerusalem in 536. Another, named John, is said to have existed in the 9th century.[5][6]

Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods

Al-Karak fell within the Crusader Oultrejourdain, the lands east of the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. In 1132 King Fulk of Jerusalem, made Pagan the Butler Lord of Montreal and Oultrejourdain. Pagan made his headquarters at al-Karak where he built a castle on a hill called by the crusaders Petra Deserti - The Stone of the Desert.[7] His castle, much modified, dominates the town to this day.

The castle was only in the Crusader's hands for 46 years. It had been threatened by Saladin's armies several times but finally, surrendered in 1188, after a siege that lasted more than a year.[8] Saladin's younger brother, Al-Adil was governor of the district until becoming ruler of Egypt and Syria in 1199.[9] Yaqut (1179–1229) noted that "Al Karak is a very strongly fortified castle on the borders of Syria, towards Balka province, and in the mountains. It stand on a rock surrounded by Wadis, except on the side towards the suburb."[10] Al-Dimashqi (1256–1327) noted that Karak: "is an impregnable fortress, standing high on the summit of a mountain. Its fosses are the valleys around it, which are very deep. They say it was originally, in Roman days, a convent, and was turned into a fortress. It is now a treasure house of the Turks."[10] Abu'l-Fida (1273−1331) noted that Al Karak "is a celebrated town with a very high fortress, one of the most unassailable of the fortresses of Syria. About a day's march from it is Mutah, where are the tombs of Ja'afar at Tayyar and his companions. Below Al Karak is a valley, in which is a thermal bath (Hammam), and many gardens with excellent fruits, such as apricots, pears, pomegranates, and others."[10]

In 1355, Ibn Battuta visited and wrote: "Al Karak is one of the strongest and most celebrated fortresses of Syria. It is called also Hisn al Ghurab (the Crow's Fortress), and is surrounded on every side by ravines. There is only one gateway, and that enters by a passage tunnelled in the live rock, which tunnel forms a sort of hall. We stayed four days outside Karak, at a place called Ath Thaniyyah.[11]

The castle played an important role as a place of exile and a power base several times during the Mamluk sultanate. Its significance lay in its control over the caravan route between Damascus and Egypt and the pilgrimage route between Damascus and Mecca. In the thirteenth century the Mamluk ruler Baibars used it as a stepping stone on his climb to power. In 1389 Sultan Barquq was exiled to al-Karak where he gathered his supporters before returning to Cairo.[12]

Al-Karak was the birthplace of Ibn al-Quff, an Arab Christian physician and surgeon and author of the earliest medieval Arabic treatise intended solely for surgeons.

Ottoman era

In 1596 Al-Karak appeared in the Ottoman tax registers, situated in the nahiya (subdistrict) of Karak, part of the Sanjak of Ajlun. It had 78 households and 2 bachelors who were Muslim, and 103 households and 8 bachelors who were Christian. They paid a fixed tax-rate of 25% on agricultural products, including wheat, barley, olive trees/vineyards/fruit trees, a special product (bayt al–mal), goats and bee-hives; in addition to occasional revenues, for a water mill, and a market toll. Their total tax was 15,000 akçe.[13]

Al-Karak is dominated by five major tribes known as the Al-Ghassasinah tribe, the Al Majali tribe, who originally came from Hebron,[14] the Tarawneh tribe and the Saraireh tribe, who in turn had replaced the once dominant El 'Ahmer.[15] The Ghassanid tribe is believed to be the first to inhabit the site of modern al-Karak.[citation needed] The tribe consists of the families: Suheimat, Halasa{Halaseh}, Dmour, Mbaydeen, Adaileh, Soub, and Mdanat and Karakiyeen.

In 1844 Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt sent an expedition west of the Dead Sea. His troops occupied the castle at al-Karak but they were starved out with much loss of life.

Mohammed Al-Majali who had control of al-Karak in 1868, was involved in the events that led to the destruction of the Moabite Stone.[16]

In 1893 the Sublime Porte Abdul Hamid II established the sub-province of Ma'an, with a resident governor (mutasarif) in al-Karak, under the Wāli of Syria based in Damascus.[17] One of the first governors, 1895, was Hussein Helmy Bey Effendi (see also Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha), aged 40, formerly the General Secretary at Damascus. He ruled with a garrison of 1,200 troops, in 3 regiments, mostly conscripts from West of the River Jordan doing their three years of military service. There were also 200 Circassian cavalry.[18][19] One of his achievements was the disarming of the local population. He also established a Military Hospital with a Jewish doctor; enforced the regulation of coinage and weights and measures; introduced a weekly postal service to Jerusalem, Damascus and Ma'an; and set up agricultural projects such as the planting of 5,000 grape vines at Madeba.

One estimate of the population of the town and the surrounding area at this time gives a total of 10,000. Of these, 8000 were Muslims and 2,000 were Orthodox Christians whose Church, St George, had been built in 1849. The Latin Mission was established in 1874 and in 1886 Al Majali gave permission to the English Mission to work in the town.[20] The town's Orthodox school had 120 boys and 60 girls. The same source notes that the town's Mufti had been educated in Hebron and al Azhar, Cairo, and that there was a newly built mosque.[19] Merchants from Damascus came to the town twice each year.[21]

20th century

Following the San Remo conference, 1920, Great Britain was given a mandate to govern the area. The newly appointed High Commissioner in Jerusalem, Herbert Samuel, sent several officials east of the River Jordan to create a local administration. Major Alec Kirkbride was based in al-Karak with a small detachment of policemen. He established what he named The National Government of Moab with himself as president. In January 1921 Emir Abdullah Hussein began assembling an army in Ma'an and announced his intention to attack the French in Syria. After a brief consultation with his superiors Kirkbride's government welcomed the arrival of the Emir. At the Cairo conference, March 1921, Abdullah was recognised by the British as ruler of Emirate of Transjordan.[22]

In the 1920s, al-Karak had a population of 8,000 and had the third largest urban population (after Amman and Salt with 20,000 each) in Transjordan.[23]

In 1961, the population of Karak town was 7,422 persons,[24] of whom 1,622 where Christian.[25]

In August 1996, there were food riots in the town after the government increased the price of bread.[26]

The town and castle were the scene of an attack by gunmen on 18 December 2016 in which at least 19 people were killed; 13 Jordanian civilians and security forces, a Canadian tourist, and all 5 attackers.[27]

Other Languages
العربية: الكرك
български: Карак
čeština: Kerak
Deutsch: Kerak
Ελληνικά: Αλ Καράκ
español: Al Karak
Esperanto: Kerak
euskara: Karak
فارسی: کرک (اردن)
français: Al-Karak
한국어: 카라크
हिन्दी: अल-कराक
italiano: Al-Karak
עברית: כרכ
қазақша: Эль-Карак
lietuvių: Karakas
مصرى: الكرك
مازِرونی: کرک (شهر)
Nederlands: Kerak (stad)
norsk: Al Karak
norsk nynorsk: Al Karak
پنجابی: کرک
polski: Al-Karak
português: Al Karak
русский: Эль-Карак
shqip: Kerak
српски / srpski: Ел Карак
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Al-Karak
Türkçe: El-Kerak
اردو: الکرک