The Nimrod Fortress was considered a Crusader castle for many years until recent archaeological efforts proved that this was a mistake, as you can see below.
I love the fortress and spent hours taking photos – as is obvious in this post. Qala’at Namrud is the biggest Ayyubid-Mameluk castle in all of Israel, a mountain-top stronghold spanning back to the 13th century. With awesome views of much of the Golan, the Nimrod Fortress is situated on a peak neighboring Israel’s highest and only snow-capped mountain, Mount Hermon. Below the fortress are the lush Banias forests with the rivers and waterfalls. The ruins of Nimrod Fortress are beautiful and well-preserved, a truly visible snapshot of history. The fortress was built in 1228 by Al-Maliq al-‘Aziz ‘Othman, the governor of Banias, to block passage to the army of Friedrich II, who threatened to march from Acre to Damascus. The fortress was built simply at first, but after its conquest by the Mamluk Sultan Beibars it grew huge and sophisticated.
Within the stately ruins of the Nimrod Fortress – some 420 meters in length and 150 meters in width, a route has been mapped out, each place of interest marked with descriptive signs. From the lower western section, where most of the interesting antiquities are found, to the upper eastern section, the oldest part of the fortress, some 13 marked sites are to be seen on the route.
Starting with the Northwest Tower, a short walk up from the parking lot, a collection of rooms, arches and even a small toilet room are seen. Here you can see the the Baybars Inscription
Next is the Western Tower. which is not yet excavated.
Then, still following the route, the Southwest Tower and the Large Reservoir – a spectacular indoor reservoir pool within an arched room, are to be enjoyed. Water was stored in rock-cut plastered pools below the fortress, accessible via protected staircases, thus guaranteeing the supply of water in times of siege.
During 1993-94, the debris which blocked the tower-gate on the western side of the fortress were cleared. On this side, a deep moat cut into the rock, probably with a drawbridge, protected its entrance. The gate-tower, according to an inscription inside it, was built by the Ayyubid ruler al-Aziz Othman in 1230. The double-paneled entrance doors were locked with wooden beams inserted into grooves in the doorjambs. Also well preserved is the narrow groove for lowering the defensive iron net (portcullis).
Fragments of a monumental Arabic inscription of considerable length indicate that the Mameluke sultan Baibars restored the gate-tower in 1275. This new gate house was constructed of particularly large, well-trimmed stones weighing several tons each; it measured 29 x 23 m. and was 30 m. high. A toilet from the period can be seen next to the gate-tower. In 1998, a large stone was discovered on which the image of a panther, Beibars’ heraldic symbol, was carved.
A large cistern was hewn in the rock beneath and a narrow staircase connected the tower’s different stories. A 27-meter-long stepped, secret passage led from the gate tower to the outside. It would have enabled the defenders of the fortress to launch a surprise attack on besiegers, or if necessary, to flee from it.
Continuing along the wall to the upper western section, the “Beautiful Tower” can be found, a round room with a great faceted pillar holding up the stone ceiling.
Crossing the dry Moat, the Donjon (Keep or dungeon-fortress within a fortress) measuring 65 x 45 m. is next. Atop the Keep one gets the best view of both the fortress, the outer fortress, an outside reservoir and the surrounding area, a beautiful blend of stone and foliage. The keep served as living quarters for the commander of the fortress; in time of siege it became an additional inner defense position.
Returning to the western section, the Prison Tower can be visited and when you want to “escape” you can sneak through the Secret Passage (27 meters or 88.5 feet long) which opens up in the Northwest Tower – where the route started.
Along the walls, particularly on the southern side and Secret Passage where extra strength was required, numerous rectangular and semi-circular towers, roofed with pointed cross-arches, were erected.
The full circle can take up to several hours, depending on how long one spends both examining the magnificent architecture and the incredible panoramic vista.
The Nimrod Fortress National Park, containing the fortress and the forested mountain on which it rests, covers a total of 195 dunams (49 acres). Somewhat hidden in the land and accessible either by walking down from the fortress or up from the main road, a huge pool can be found. The pool, once used for irrigation and watering the herds, measures an impressive 26 x 54 meters (85 x 177 feet) in surface area and holds the depth of 5 meters (16.5 feet).
The Nimrod Fortress (known in Arabic as both Qal’at Subayba and Qal’at Nimrud, Cliff Fortress and Nimrod Fortress, respectively) once controlled the region’s road which began in Tyre (part of modern-day Lebanon) and ran down the Mediterranean coastline, through the Hula Valley and Banias on the way to Damascus. The fortress is named after Nimrod, the great warrior from the early days in Biblical times, who was also rumoured to have built his own castle up on the mountain. Some thousands of years later when the Crusaders lost to Saladin, the nephew of Saladin, al-Aziz Othman, built up the eastern section of the fortress. Throughout the next 50 years, the fortress was enlarged and improved in three more stages. Bilik of the Mamelukes finished off the building in the year 1275 and signed his work with a glorious stone inscription which can still be seen today.
At the end of the 13th century, the Muslim conquest of the port city of Acre on the Mediterranean signified the end of Crusader rule in the Holy Land. The Nimrod fortress lost its strategic value and fell into disrepair; the ruins visible today bear silent witness to its past might.
October to March: Saturday to Thursday: 8am-4pm and Friday: 8am-3pm
April to September: Saturday to Thursday: 8am-5pm and Friday: 8am-4pm
Adult: NIS 21 Child: NIS 9
Combo ticket (Nimrod Fortress & Banias): Adult: NIS 38 Child: NIS 19 Groups of 30+ qualify for special rates
Directions to Nimrod Fortress
1. Take Road 99 east from Kiryat Shmona and Banias or west from Masada
2. Exit Road 99 north onto Road 989
3. Exit Road 989 northwest at Nimrod Fortress
Contact: Phone: 04-694-9277