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Exploring the highlands of Ajloun

Ajloun Castle, one of the best preserved sites from the middle ages, is pictured in Ajloun Governorate in this undated photo. (Photos: Handouts from Jordan Tourism Board)
Ajloun Castle, one of the best preserved sites from the middle ages, is pictured in Ajloun Governorate in this undated photo. (Photos: Handouts from Jordan Tourism Board)
JERASH — In terms of nature and landscape, Jordan is not just a desert landscape as some typically imagine. The country’s northwest consists of highlands covered with natural forests of pine and oak and scattered towns and hamlets dotting the landscape in between.اضافة اعلان

One such are, the governorate of Ajloun, is situated 76km north of Amman and provides a remarkable variety of history and natural attractions that can diversify any trip to Jordan.

Most of the time, visitors only pass through Ajloun as part of a day excursion to the north of Jordan, which includes sites such as Jerash and Umm Qais; however, for a complete experience, each site deserves more than a single day’s visit.

As for historical sites, Ajloun is unjustly famous for its crusade-time’s castle; however, the governorate has much more of distinctive archaeological places that worth visiting.

The castle
Ajloun Castle is one of the most preserved monuments in the Levant from the middle-ages. It was built by Saladin’s general Izz Al-Din Usama in 1184AD on a hilltop known as Jabal Auf in order to control the wadis that ascend from the Jordan Valley.


Ajloun Castle, one of the best preserved sites from the middle ages, is pictured in Ajloun Governorate in this undated photo. (Photos: Handouts from Jordan Tourism Board)

Nowadays, the castle provides a panoramic view that includes the Jordan Valley, the West Bank, and Mount Hermon in Syria and Lebanon.

Pilgrimage sites
The area also contains a number of pilgrimage sites such as Mar Elias and Our Lady of the Mount located in the town of Anjara.


Clergy from the Orthodox Church perform mass at Mar Elias, which is associated with the Prophet Elijah, in this undated photo. (Photo: Handout from Jordan Tourism Board)

These are two of five Christian pilgrimage sites in the Kingdom that were designated during the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The area of Mar Elias has a number of archaeological attractions all associated with Prophet Elijah.

The Orthodox Church holds a mass at the archaeological site of Mar Elias annually.

Additionally, in the town of Ajloun’s center, stands one of the oldest continuously used mosques in Jordan with a remarkably tall minaret. According to an inscription, the mosque was built in 1247AD during the Ayyubid era.  

Exploring nature
Alongside the historical attractions, visitors can enjoy nature and accommodations at Ajloun’s Forest Reserve with activities and hikes facilitated by reserve’s visitor center.


A forested valley overlooks a town in Ajloun Governorate in this undated photo. (Photo: Jason Ruffin/Jordan News)

One of the trails area’s trails also includes a visit to three local shops that showcase and sell food, fabrics adorned in Arabic calligraphy, and soap all made by local women societies.

Near the reserve, His Majesty King Abdullah laid the cornerstone for the Royal Academy for Nature Conservation, which was later inaugurated by HRH Crown Prince Hussein.

The academy was the first specialized academy for training people on the protection of nature and sustainable development in the Arab World.

According to the academy’s website, it aims to train around 100 people a year to meet expected market demands in sustainable development, eco-tourism, and environmental-related fields.

In cooperation with EU’s organizations and the USAID, the Ministry of Tourism has also established Rasoun Trail, a 37km line that includes several historical sites, hostels, restaurants, and panoramic views.

For those already interested in the Kingdom’s country-spanning Jordan trail, there is a section of the trail that begins at Ajloun castle and ends at Khirbet Al-Souq. Of course, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious you can always hike the trail through and walk from Jordan’s highlands to the sea and the port of Aqaba.

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