A lonely reminder of former Crusader glory is Shobak Castle, less than an hour north of Petra. Once called “Mont Real,” Shobak dates from the same turbulent period as Karak.

It is the earliest Crusader castle in Jordan. Built in 1115 by Baldwin I, it was only surrendered in 1189, two years after the Battle of Hattin. The strength of this fortress was, in a sense, its weakness; cut off and surrounded, its garrison nevertheless held fast, amid incredible privation and suffering, long after any rational hope of relief had vanished.

It is perched on the side of a mountain, with a grand sweep of fruit trees below. The castle’s exterior is impressive, with a foreboding gate and encircling triple wall. Despite the precautions of its builder, the fortress fell to Saladin only 75 years after it was raised. Inscriptions by his proud successors appear on the castle wall.