Crusaders and Fortresses
I read that Richard with the heart of a lion made the trek to the Holy Land to do battle with Saladin the Great, spent two years in daily combat, and received a delicious fruit bowl and fine Arabian steed with compliments from the great Sal for valor and bravery. Two years of living in the rough can be tough on your stomach and feet, and no doubt the reason for the complimentary fruit and steed.
The Crusaders were in the Holy Land for a long time, and medieval battles prompted the building of fortresses for protection, where combatants can safely grow their own fruit and care for their steeds. I have always been amazed by the colossal size of a fortress and the immense labor that goes into building it, especially on top of a hill or mountain.
I found out that there is a remnant of a fortress in the Golan Heights, built during the time of the Crusades, and locating this fortress became my quest.
The Golan Heights has seen its share of battles, and the area is considered disputed territory with neighboring Syria. In the present situation, it may not be an easy task to trek on your own in the Golan region.
When I set off on my quest, I was fortunate to have a local guide who was familiar with several routes leading to the fortress. We took a long, mostly deserted route from Tel Aviv to the northern Golan region. During the trip, we stopped at a few points of interest. The problem with drinking lots of water is that you have to make a few pit stops along the way!
On one stop, I was about to climb a fence and head for a convenient tree, when a shout from the guide alerted me to a sign written in Hebrew/Arabic/English that stopped me in my tracks – we were close to a minefield!
This is a cardinal rule for travelers, especially strangers to the area: Always read the signs!
The fortress is located on top of a cliff, 2,600 feet above sea level. It was founded in the Middle Ages, probably by the Crusaders, and later rebuilt by the Muslim rulers of Damascus to defend their border against the Crusaders in the 12th century. The Arabic name is “Castle of the Large Cliff”, but during the 18th century, Druze refugees moved into the area and called it “Nimrod”, after the biblical figure. It is now known as Nimrod’s Fortress. According to legend, Nimrod, grandson of Noah, hunted in this region.
It is a steep climb on foot to get to the top of the cliff where the fortress is located. This makes you wonder about the strength and endurance of the medieval warriors and the laborers involved in the building of Nimrod Fortress. It is built of massive stone blocks with arches, tunnels, ramparts and towers.
A spiral staircase takes you up to the tower and there is a secret passageway that leads under the fortress to the outside. There are great views of the surrounding countryside through the arched windows, and the walls are filled with narrow archers’ slits that allow light in. If you like castles and fortresses, this might be a good quest for you!
I have provided a link below to a site with a great description of Nimrod Fortress accompanied by a series of amazing photographs.
The photograph of Nimrod Fortress below was provided by MapIsrael showing the sorrounding landscape.