Perched in a wild, remote landscape, Shobak Castle wins over even the most castle-weary visitor, despite being less complete than its sister fortification at Karak. It’s especially imposing when seen from a distance, as it sits on a dramatic hill (formerly called Mons Realis, or the Royal Mountain), imposing its might on the surrounding countryside. Local guides, who really know their stuff, are available at the gate for around JD10.

Shobak was built by the Crusader king Baldwin I in 1115. Its defenders withstood numerous attacks from the armies of Saladin (Salah ad Din) before succumbing in 1189 (a year after Karak), after an 18-month siege. It was later occupied in the 14th century by the Mamluks, who built over many of the Crusader buildings. As you climb up from the entrance, there are some wells on the left. Soon after passing these, you’ll see the reconstructed church, one of two in the castle, down to the left. It has an elegant apse supported by two smaller alcoves. The room leading off to the west was the baptistery; on the north wall there are traces of water channels leading from above.


“The smallest hotel in the world”

Like his most recent business idea, Abu Ali is unique. In 1990, the now 65-year-old retired as a security guard. His small pension was not enough to support his family of five, and Abu Ali continued his professional career as a tourist guide all the way to Israel. During this time he bought an old VW Beetle from a friend. Because of an engine failure, it stood still after two years. Abu Ali made what he calls a hotel out of the old car  and advertises it with the slogan: “The smallest hotel in the world”.