THE DARB AL HAJJ
THE PILGRIMAGE FORTS
In 661 AD the Umayyad dynasty established Damascus as its capital. With the city remaining the fulcrum of the Islamic world for nearly a century, the Darb al Hajj (or Darb al Shami - the Syrian Way) soon became the most important of the pilgrimage roads leading to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca.
Following the ancient trading routes into the heart of Arabia, the path used by the pilgrims was determined principally by the issue of security. The flattest and most direct route lay across the desert plains. However, a scarcity of water and the threat of attack from Bedouin raids meant that for many centuries, the pilgrims followed the Via Nova Traiana (the King’s Highway) in order to take advantage of safe stopping places close to the great medieval castles of Kerak and Shawbak. Over time the route was developed, with fortified resting places being established to provide greater security and a way of supplying the pilgrims with sufficient food and water for the 40-day journey.
The Darb al Hajj