Jordan is truly an open air museum; everywhere you turn, there is beauty whether in its diverse landscapes or multitude of archeological ruins.
Like any museum, the only way to really appreciate the art is to wander from one masterpiece to the other, pause before the ones that strike a cord and enjoy the emotions and thoughts they trigger.
During my exploration of Jordan, I come across many of its most popular sites. Luckily, I also manage to see some of its unknown masterpieces just to find them as sublime but in need of care!
Karak governorate in the South of Jordan had a strategically important location through history. It was on the route of the ancient caravans traveling between Egypt and Syria that needed protection. Therefore, many fortresses were built. Some are well known tourist destinations nowadays like the Kerak Castle, but others got lost in the crowd.
Bashir Fortress is one of those. I came to know this fortress in a recent hike to Wadi Mujib. The fortress sits neglected in the middle of nowhere in Al Qatrana. Unfortunately, treasure hunters have vandalized it, natural elements and earthquakes have also contributed to the destruction of some of its walls. Nonetheless, it is still standing and defiant to all challenges.
The Roman fortress was built to host an auxiliary cavalry unit to protect against the Bedouins at the beginning of the 4th century AD. Exploring it, is a trip back in time when the Assyrians followed by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Muslims inhabited Karak.
The Roman inscription at the entrance once welcomed a great emperor, now welcome the eyes of the curious who are willing to take the least traveled trails. The inscriptions say:
“Optimis maximisque principibus nostris Caio Aurelio Valerio Diocletiano Pio Felici Invicto Augusto et Marco Aurelio Valerio Maximiano Pio Felici Invicto Augusto et Flavio Valerio Constantio et Galerio Valerio Maximiano nobilissimis Caesaribus Castra Praetorii Mobeni fossamentis Aurelius Asclepiades praeses provinciae Arabiae perfici curavit”
And translate to:
“In honor of our best and greatest rulers, Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletian, our pious, lucky, and unconquered emperor, and Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximian, our pious, lucky, and unconquered emperor, and to Flavius Valerius Constantius and Galerius Valerius Maximianus, our noblest caesars, has Aurelius Asclepiades, praeses of the province of Arabia, ordered to build Castra Praetorium Mobene from its foundations”.
Just outside, the Bedouins have settled with their tents, sheep, and camels. Once built to defend against their attacks, now has turned into their playground. I walk up to them with amazement, trying to understand the life style of these wanderers that survived the test of time when empires with all their might & glory disappeared.
Further deep in the desert, there are several scattered towers. They were built as part of a fortification system to guard and communicate danger with smoke signals in case of an attack.
The desert has its own unique way of covering the tracks of those who pass it. It sends an impression that its paths were never taken and that you are the first to set foot. But this is an illusion and the desert is the mistress of illusions. Civilizations existed for centuries here and the Bashir Fortress stands testimonial to that. It refuses to disappear in spite of the many challenges. A caring hand will allow it to survive the test of time so that this masterpiece will always adorn this amazing open air museum.
For more about Bashir Fortress:
Writing & Photography
Samar M. Salma
PS: This blog reflects my personal opinion and my personal take on many issues. Its not a scientific paper, the information used is based on internet searches rather than scholarly articles. Its purpose is to entertain and everything mentioned is open for debate and correction.