Monday, July 18, 2011


When the sixth crusade threatened to force their way through the Golan Heights towards Syria with the goal to reach Damascus, and with the German emperor Frederick II supporting them, the local Muslims under the leadership of Al Moatis, who was governor of Damascus at this time, and his brother Al Aziz Othman, started to build a very impressive, strongly fortified castle, to defend the road leading to the Syrian capital. This happened in the year 1227 CE. Three years later the fortress was reinforced even more and greatly expanded.

Qual'at Nimrud, in Arabic, is located on a rather narrow, high mountain range, about 800 m above sea level, at the northern Golan Heights, built in a remarkable size, about 450 meters long, its width varying according to the topographic givings of the ridge, from 50 to 150 meters, and going up gradually from the entrance to the keep. A strong wall, almost impossible to conquer circumferences the whole structure, interrupted by majestic and impregnable towers. Many of them have a 360 degree round view on the landscape below.

It was our weekend treat to visit there and hike up from the first tower at the entrance to the donjon at the end. The scenery is magically beautiful, the land below is hilly, strewn with fields, orchards and olive groves. Natural forest with mainly oak trees rises up the slopes. The donjon, the keep, is the most fortified and the highest part - the view from up there, makes you stand still and quiet and breathe deeply... Your eyes will wander from the mount Hermon over the Golan Heights, to the Galilee and the Hula valley.

A deep moat, hewn into the rock, surrounds the keep, and certainly made it even more secure. Four square towers were erected at the corners. The donjon was independent from the lower fortifications, and its defense was possible, even if the lower part was overrun in battle.
On the walk up there is much to see and to admire. The architecture in the Arab/Osman style is marvelous, grandiose, and in some places, like in the octagonal "Beautiful Tower", very graceful. We loved all the arches and the visible construction of them, sometimes with smaller stones, each fitting perfectly. After an earthquake in the 18th century struck the area some of the supporting stones of the arches were moved, but did not fall, they can be seen protruding near the neighboring slabs. The earthquake crumbled down many walls and destroyed roofs and buildings, the rubble is evident everywhere. But enough structure survived and remained standing to testify to the former glory of the fortress and to tell about its historical events.
Look at this marvelous piece of architecture - close your eyes - imagine - can you see the workmen preparing each rock to fit, first the big boulders, then the small stones, arriving at the end at a beautiful arch? Beauty created for battle - yes...

We examined all the towers, peeping down to the land through the embrasures, again and again enjoying the view. We admired the many inscriptions in ancient  Arabic, they look like beautiful calligraphic art, and we smiled at the lion carved in stone, the symbol of the great sultan Baybars. 

We climbed down a huge water reservoir, the steps leading to the bottom, musty brackish water was present in a large basin. As the route returns to the entrance a secret passage with a high arched ceiling can be explored, which ends in a hidden opening of the northern wall. Outside the fortress is the location of a large pool for holding rainwater.
I do not go deep into the history of the fortress, into all the battles it survived in the relative short time of its importance. In 1253 the crusaders returned and once more tried to conquer it, but did not succeed. By the end of the 13th century it had lost its significance and not much later was abandoned completely - sought after only occasionally by shepherds and their flocks seeking shelter.  
Where does the name come from? The Arabs tell a fable of Nimrod, a character from the Bible, grandson of Noah, a powerful evil hunter, who was punished at this place by Allah, who put a mosquito in his head, which drove him mad!

The flyer we got at the entrance of the Nimrod National Park gave me much additional information on this historical site.

All photographs by my husband Uri Eshkar.


Irmi said...

Liebe Yael,
heute bin ich wieder lange auf deinem Blog gewesen und habe alles begierig nachgelesen.
Ich bin begeistert, dass du uns deine Heimat so nahebringst. Sage deinem Mann ein herzliches DANKE für die fantastischen Fotos.
Ich habe sofort gegooglet und die etwas unklar gebliebenen Dinge (bedingt durch die Übersetzung) nachgelesen. Auch diese Sage vom Nimrod.
Einen guten Start in die Woche wünscht

Annuk said...

What a fascinating, breathtaking place! Thank you for taking us there, Yael!
I really love the way you make an ancient place come alive, I love the interplay of amazing photos, deeply interesting stories and your personal feelings! Another wonderful post!

Jutta said...

Liebe Yael,

wunderschöne Bilder aus Deiner Heimat zeigst Du uns. Dein Mann hat ein gutes Auge für Motive. Auch was Du schreibst, ist sehr interessant. Auch wenn ich mir das übersetzen lassen muss, bekommt man doch eine Menge mit.

Liebe Grüße

steinschmuckdesign said...

Wow, what a few from up there!!

Bernstein said...

Hallo Yael,
Herr Bernstein und ich haben den Ausflug mit Euch sehr genossen. Bei Euch erzählt wirklich jeder Stein eine Geschichte - das ist so spannend und interessant.
Die Bilder von Uri haben uns super gut gefallen. Meine Favoriten sind das Wasserspiegelbild und ganz besonders das Bild mit dem Rundbogen und der Schießscharte(?) - Steine, die eng begrenzen, einen geschützten Blick in die Weite der Landschaft zulassen und sich dabei gegenseitig Halt geben. Die Wurzeln, die da zu sehen sind, kommen die von den Bäumen, die auf der Anlage wachsen?
Habt einen angenehmen und erholsamen Abend
GlG Inbar

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

What a treat to wander through such history--the photos are marvelous, and the buildings incredible--wonderful photo of you, Yael!

Hilde said...

What a fascinating place, thanks for taking us there, Yael :)
I always love the way you share your visits with us with interesting photos and info.

Thanks to Uri for fabulous photos. The architecture of the fortress is beautiful, and the view is amazing!

Clare said...

What an interesting place - the architecture is incredible. thank you for documenting your visit and sharing it with us.

Pesky Cat Designs said...

A mosquito just near my head would drive me mad. LOL

What amazing views from an equally amazing fortress! Thanks for sharing your trip with us Yael.