Travelling 76KM northwest from Amman, visitors will find the legendary hilly town called Ajloun. With a population of around 176,000, the town and the surrounding area consists of a number of smaller villages and towns which covers an area of 420KM.
What’s fascinating about the town is that there are both Muslims and Christians living here. There are various tribes such as the Al-Qudah and Al-Share Muslim tribes and Rabadi and Haddad Christian tribes. Though the Muslim tribes may be the majority, there are still a great number of Christians still living here due to their immense impressive Christian history the place possesses.
Ajloun is definitely one of those places that’s less touristy and most tourists tend to go there for a day trip only. However, it was and still is one of the most beautiful regions in Jordan and is home to a very vast and impressive nature reserve.
Once in Ajloun, you have a range of things to do, see and experience.
Ajloun Castle is the towns most visited landmark. This place was once a old monastery and supposedly home to a monk called Ajloun, which is where the town got it’s name. Whilst the castle may be a tense 3KM uphill walk from the town centre, it sure does promise beautiful panaromic views of the countryside and the Jordan Valley. Whilst it may have been a castle and monastery in the past, it was converted into a fort by one of Salahuddin Ayyubi’s generals in the Crusader period (1184). It was a very important checkpoint as the fort was then used to control traffic for those travelling between Damascus and Egypt.
Heading back down into the town centre, walk 150m along the market street from the bus station and you will find the Great Ajloun Mosque. This is one of Jordan’s greatest extant mosques which was constructed 800 years ago. With a stone dressed minaret, an unnoticeable small green dome, and a humble architectural design, this mosque is one of the main tourist sites in the town. Visitors can hear the call to prayer and traffic around the mosque five times a day as fellow Muslims assemble to offer their prayers. It really is a unique experience.
The next place to head to is Tell Mar Elias. Let me first explain what the word Tell means. تَل in arabic or ‘tall’ pronounced ‘thal’, is referred to as a small hill or mound. History tells us that the Prophet Elias (Elijah) AS was born in the close by village called Tishbe. It was only during the Byzantine period when the mound grew in popularity due to this historical narrative. The mound may not be the most pleasant thing to see, but due to its historical significance, it makes for a great visit. Plus, at the top of the mound, visitors will see the ruins of a Byzantine church which is very impressive. Venerating the place for religious reasons, you’ll come across Muslims, Christians and Jews.
The next best place to visit is the Ajloun Forest Reserve. The main reason to visit this forest reserve from others is that is recorded to once have been the largest forested area in the Middle East. Covering an area of 13 square kilometers, the forest reserve is home to woodlands of Evergreen Oak, Pine, Carob, Wild Pistachio and Wild Strawberry trees. The place is not only used for breaks, sightseeing and leisurely activities, but the plantation there are used for sourcing herbs, food and medicine.
Ajloun has been home to human settlement for a very long time now and this is one of the main reasons why the place attracts visitors. With a pleasant climate throughout the year, it makes for a great destination year round.
Ajloun was also the birth place of Isma’il Ibn Muhammad Ajlouni who was a well known Muhaddith of his time. A Muhaddith is basically someone who has mastered the study of Hadith i.e. the Prophetic Traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. He was born and raised here and later travelled to Istanbul, Palestine and Makkah/Madinah for pilgrimage. His Hadith compilation, known as ‘Aqd al-Jawhar al-Thamin Fi Arba’in Hadithan Min Ahadith Sayyidil Mursalin, is definitely amongst the compilations which are less known. In it, he has compiled forty Hadith. Whilst many Muhaddith have accomplished the compilation of forty Hadith before him (as there is special merit for one who does so), his was unique. He approached forty different Hadith texts and took the first Hadith from each text, with the hope to highlight what each compiler found most important.
Within the town, visitors will find the Muslim cemetery. I’m not sure if he is buried here. Companies offering day tours and trips from Amman may be able to offer some insight into this matter. If anyone does know where this scholar is buried, please do let me know.