Qalaat Jaabar

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Jaabar Castle, locally known as Qalaat Jaabar, lies on an island connected by a causeway to the east bank of the artificial Lake Assad in Syria.

The history of Jaabar Castle is closely linked to that of the town of Ar-Raqqah, only 30 km away.

Jaabar Castle was preceded by a pre-Islamic settlement known as Dausar since the 7th century which may have been fortified.

In 1011 this Dausar fell into the hands of the bedouin Wattab ibn Jabar of the Banu Numayr tribe. His tribe probably built Jaabar Castle. In 1040 the castle was bought by the Fatimidic general ad-Dizbari to threaten the Lord of Ar-Raqqah; Tamal ibn Salih. In 1042 the general had fallen out of grace and the castle was returned to the Banu Numayr tribe.

Because the inhabitants of Jaabar Castle were frequently robbing passing travellers the castle was sieged in 1080. The siege ended after they had agreed to stop their criminal acts. Because they didn’t keep to this agreement the castle was sieged again in 1083 by the Seljuk sultan Malik-Shah I. This time the castle was taken and the lord and his sons were crucified.

In 1086 the former Commander of the Aleppo Citadel; Salim ibn Malik ibn Badran, received Jaabar Castle as a fief from Malik-Shah I.

Later Jaabar Castle became part of the Uqaylid state together with Ar-Raqqah. Although this state kept a neutral policy, also against the Franks, the future King of Jerusalem Baldwin II, Count of Edessa and his cousin Joscelin I were kept hostage in Jaabar Castle for a short time in 1108.

In 1146 Jaabar Castle was sieged by Zengi, the atabeg of Aleppo. After almost 4 months of sieging the castle, Zengi was killed by his Frankish slave; Yarankash, who fled into the castle after his action. Subsequently the siege was abandoned by the leaderless besiegers. In 1168, the castle passed into the hands of Zengi’s son Nur ad-Din, who undertook major construction works at the castle. Most of what can be seen today dates to this period.

In 1202 the castle came into the hands of Az-Zahir Ghazi, son of Saladin and Lord of Aleppo.

The castle was heavily damaged during the Mongol invasions of Syria. Restoration works were carried out in the 14th century.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s Jaabar Castle underwent major restoration works to protect it from the newly emerging Lake Assad as a result of the building of the Tabqa Dam nearby. It is a rather unique castle in Syria in that it is completely built out of mud baked bricks. Entrance to the castle is through a tunnel cut out in the rock. The castle is freely accessible.