Karak

Travel Guide Middle East Jordan Karak

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Introduction

Kerak (also spelt Karak, Arabic al-Kerak) is a small, Arab city (population 170,000) in southern Jordan. It has a significant Christian population. Kerak is on the King's Highway, 124 km south of the capital Amman, and is the site of a magnificently-situated Crusader castle, now an evocative ruin on the skyline above the city.

In biblical times Kerak was the capital of the Moab Kingdom. Later it was ruled by the Nabataeans, after which the Romans took over. Under the Byzantines it was used as the seat of a bishopric. Left abandoned until 1140, when the crusaders acknowledged its strategic meaning and built a mighty fortress here. Only 50 years later it was conquered by the Arabs.

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Sights and Activities

  • Citadel of Kerak (Qasr), ☏ +962 6 567 8444. A former Crusader stronghold, it was ransacked by Saladin and left to rot for 500 years until restoration started. It is impressive site. While parts are still in ruins, other parts have been restored, including some lengthy underground passages. And it had a commanding view of the area. Allow 60-90 min to visit. 1 JD, free with Jordan Pass.
  • Karak Archaeological Museum (Castle Museum). Closed for renovations as of Oct 2018. The museum is in the lower court of the castle. This museum introduces the local history and archaeology of Kerak castle, region and city. Detail history of the Crusader and Muslim dynasty at Kerak is introduced in museum, in addition to the exhibition of excavated artefacts from Kerak castle. Part of the citadel, no separate admission.
  • Al Karak Museum (Just outside the castle entrance).
  • Old city (Souq). As the commercial center, many different local shops can be found here, even fast-food or small eateries.
  • Roman Church Hall (in the old city).
  • El-Lejjun (Lajjun) (20 km east of Kerak). The archaeological remains of a fortress built in 300 AD named Betthorus then, associated with the Roman legion and for protection the Limes Arabicus. The fortress was later destroyed by an earthquake.
  • Mu'tah (15 km south of Kerak along the highway). This is supposed to have been the first battlefield between Christians and Muslims, 629 AD.
  • Prophet Nuh shrine (Tomb of Noah). The reputed tomb of Noah who survived the flood in the Bible and Quran. On a hilltop in central Kerak.

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Getting There

There are three bus stations in Kerak. One bus station is near the castle, and the Kerak Bus Station is in the south-eastern part of the city about 5 km from the old city. Ask someone local which one to use for the surrounding area, or to get to Madaba or Petra.

Minibuses Aqaba (1.75 JD) run roughly hourly. These also pass through Madaba and Ma'an (for Petra).

From Amman, mini-buses leave from the South Bus Station (Mujemma Al-Janoob) when full (2.25 JD, 2 hr, Oct 2018). They arrive at the station below the castle. A taxi up to the castle (al-Qasr) will cost 2 JD. It is a 20-min walk back down to the bus station. It is easy to see the castle on a day trip from Amman.

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Getting Around

Between the old city and the rest of the city local (shared) taxis should be used for around 2 JD.

By car, the roads in town are narrow and usually one-way, but the town is compact, so you can park wherever you find space and walk to the castle.

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Eat

Many medium-priced restaurants with local and partly international cuisine can be found around the castle. From there into the old city, restaurants get less expensive.

Kerak is most famous for the Jordan national dish mansaf, which you should definitely try. It is rice with lamb or chicken meat served with a sauce made from special yoghurt called jameed.

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Sleep

  • Towers Castle Hotel, Al-Qala'a Street, Town Centre, ☏ +962 3-2354293. Towers Castle in downtown central Karak is an Egyptian-run hotel with large, clean rooms, and it is popular with business and pleasure travelers. Breakfast is included in the room rate. Double room: 25 JD.
  • Karak Rest House (20 m from the citadel), ☏ +962 3-2351148. The fanciest digs in town with 3 stars, with excellent views. That said the price for the rather minimal rooms is still a little steep, and you'll be woken up bright and early by the mosque next door. 27.5/40 JD (including taxes and breakfast).
  • Cairwan Hotel, King's Highway, Town Centre (very close to the bus station), ☏ +962 3-2396022. Nine well-appointed rooms, bed-and-breakfast style hotel. Single from 27 JD.
  • Al-Kemmam Hotel, Al-Maydan Street, Town Centre, ☏ +962 79-5632365. This small, men-only guest house in Karak's central neighborhood is a good option for men seeking basic accommodations. The kitchen is available for guests to prepare their own meals.
  • Al-Mujeb Hotel, King's Highway (about 5 km south of Karak), ☏ +962 3-2386090. The Al-Mujeb Hotel is a convenient option for those travelling with a private vehicle – public transportation is not nearby. Guests will find satellite television and refrigerators, as well as a helpful staff. This hotel is somewhat larger than other area guest houses, and it is a good choice for groups traveling through the area.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Jordan is relatively well connected to the internet compared to many other countries in the Middle East. Internet cafes are all around Jordan and range from 1- 2 JD for half an hour. Wifi is getting more and more popular in Jordan, but is not very common everywhere. In larger places, you find free wifi and some coffee places and restaurants. Hotels tend to charge for wifi, but not always, so check beforehand.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Jordan's international country code is 962. The emergency numbers include 112 and 911, you can use them both.

Most of Jordan has mobile coverage. There are three mobile operators: Zain - the first and largest mobile provider, Orange and Umniah. You can buy SIM cards at any of these providers and if you are planning to make international calls, use Umniah as they are the cheapeast. Otherwise Zain is the better choice of mostly domestic calls. Using your own SIM in Jordan can be expensive, especially for internet.

Card-based temporary numbers can be purchased at the airport or any mobile shop for JOD5. These numbers can be subsequently recharged with a prepaid card starting at only JOD1. Temporary "throw away" phones can be bought at many mobile phone shops across the country for around JOD20-30, but a Jordanian must buy the phone before possession can be transferred to you.

Post

Jordan Post runs the postal services in the country. It has fairly reliable and cheap services and international post usually takes several days up to a week or more for countries further away. Opening hours of post offices are mostly between 7:00am and 5:00pm Saturday to Thursday and 7:00am to 1:00pm on Friday, although this depends whether it's a main city or smaller villages. In summer, there might be slighty longer opening hours. For larger packages, it might work out cheaper and certainly faster to use international courier services, including DHL, FedEx, TNT or UPS for example.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 11:38 on Jul 9, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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