Karak (also Kerak) (Arabic: Al-Karak الكرك) is a city in Jordan that is known for the famous crusader castle Kerak. The castle is one of the three largest castles in the region, the other two being in Syria. Karak is the capital city of Karak Governorate. Karak, once a Kingdom, lies 140 km to the south of Amman on the King's Highway. An ancient Crusader stronghold, it is situated on a hilltop about 1000 meters above sea level and is surrounded on three sides by a valley. Karak has a view of the Dead Sea.
A city of about 20,000 people has been built up around the castle, and it has buildings from 19th century Ottoman period. The town is built on a triangular plateau, with the castle at its narrow southern tip, but it is undoubtedly Karak Castle which dominates.
Al Karak has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age, and was an important city for the Moabites (who called it Qir of Moab). In the Bible it is called Qer Harreseth, 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 Syrians went before they settled in the regions north of Palestine, 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 ninth century BC. The area eventually fell under the power of the Nabateans. The Romans (with support from the Ghassanids or Ghassasinah الغساسنة) conquered it from them in 105 AD.
The Al-Ghassasneh (Ghassanids) tribe is believed to be the first tribe to inhabit the site of modern al-Karak. The tribe consists of the families: Suheimat, Dmour, Mbaydeen, Adaileh, Soub, Karakiyeen. During the late Hellenistic Period, Al Karak became an important town taking its name from the Aramaic word for town, Kharkha. Under Roman rule the city was known as Areopolis, and in Late Antiquity as Harreketh. Under the Byzantine Empire it was a bishopric seat, housing the much venerated Church of Nazareth, and remained predominantly Christian under Arab rule.
The Crusaders and Mamlukes:
In 1132 King Fulk, the Crusader king of Jerusalem, made Pagan the Butler Lord of Montreal and Oultrejourdain, the lands east of the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. Pagan made his headquarters at al-Karak were he built a castle on a hill called by the crusaders Petra Deserti - The Stone of the Desert. His castle, much modified, dominates the town to this day.
Karak is famous for its traditional Jordanian meal called mansaf.