Medieval Castles, Crusaders & Returning to Iraq

We drove from Jerash a dozen kilometers and eight centuries to the castle at Ajloun.   It was built in 1184 by the Muslims to secure local iron mines and as a counter to the Crusader castle at Belvoir, across the plains.  They say you can see Belvoir from Ajloun, but the day was a little too hazy in that direction for that, or maybe we didn’t look in the right spot.  If you notice the picture up top is very clear sky. That is looking NE.  I don’t know why there was so much haze to the west.

Ajloun never fulfilled its original purpose.  Saladin defeated the Crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hattin in 1189, which was the beginning of their expulsion from the region.  Castles are interesting to look at and sometimes beautiful, but it is well to remember that they were part of a military technology.  Before the advent of accurate cannon, it was very difficult to capture a well defended castle.  It was a real force multiplier and also a potent psychological symbol of the power and control. 

This castle looks like others I have seen.  It is a little less sophisticated than those I saw in Poland or Germany since it is an earlier version than most of those.  The most sophisticated castle I have ever seen in the Teutonic Knight’s castle at Malbork in Northern Poland.  That one is made of bricks, however, not stone.

below are some pines on the landscape. I think they are Turkish or Alleppo pines, but I am not very good at identifying such species.  Some of them almost look like my loblolly pines.

Ajloun is situated on a hilltop with wonderful views of the surrounding area.  The area here is semi-arid, but it supports olive, apricot and pistachio groves as well as significant pine forests.  As you can see from the pictures, it is a pleasant countryside.

As I write this, the pleasant countryside is a pleasant memory.   I am on my way back to Al Asad.   Right now I am stuck in Baghdad, in the Internet café waiting.  I have learned that I cannot get a flight to AA until Tuesday and then I have to go a circuitous route, on rotary wing, so I figure there will certainly be a dust storm somewhere to strand me in some shit hole along the way.   I have decided to go down to Kuwait instead.   I have a good chance of getting there tonight and then I have a better chance of catching a fixed wing flight to Al Asad.   The longer way sometimes leads faster home.  Wish me luck. It is going to be a long trip no matter what.

I am looking forward to getting back to work at Al Asad.  The work is usually interesting, even if conditions are sometimes challenging. There is still a lot for me to do in my last months.  I read the news about improvements in Iraq.  Casualties are way down for both Iraqis and Americans.  I think we are going to succeed here in Iraq put we have to finish our job and I have to finish mine.  Less than four months to do.  Hard to believe.  Time flies when you are having fun.