Nimrod Fortress National Park
Meet Nimrod Fortress National Park
Nimrod’s Castle, lying at the foot of Mt. Hermon, is the largest castle remaining in Israel from the Middle Ages.
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Major points of interest
- The Baibars inscription – near the western gate, inside the fortress, is the largest and most imposing inscription ever found in Israel to date. Four lines, engraved on a stone six meters long, glorify the Sultan Baibars, in whose period the main part of the fortress was constructed, other commanders and the date: 674 after the Hegira (1275 CE).
- The south-western tower – an enormous 4-storey tower, that was expanded during the Mameluke period. The tower is of great importance because it defended the relatively vulnerable southern side. The tower is a wonderful lookout point to the whole southern wall.
- The large cistern – north east of the south-western tower there is a large cistern into which rainwater flowed via a now-ruined system of channels.
The drinking fountain – located on the external wall at the southern side of the reservoir.
- “The Beautiful Tower” – a very impressive seven-sided building. Due to its size, a clustered column was built at its center, from which the arches of the roof spread out to the walls of the building. The carving of the stones is on a very high standard.
- The moat – a channel carved out of the rock, separating the fortress from its keep. The purpose of the moat was to protect the keep from enemy attack.
- The keep – on the highest point in the castle is the keep, built as an independent fortress, with its own moat and wall. It provided a line of defense should the lower part of the castle be captured. There is a spectacular view from the top of the keep.
- The northern tower – an imposing tower at the western end of the northern wall, built in 1230 CE. The well-preserved tower includes a hall with arrow slits in its walls, from which a staircase can be climbed to the roof. In the 15th century, the place apparently served as a prison.
- The western gate – the stones of the arch over the gate moved in the earthquake that occurred in 1759 CE.
- The secret passage – alongside the gate there is a large opening leading to a beautiful staircase leading to a secret passage, through which it is possible to leave the fortress without being discovered by the enemy outside.
- The cistern – outside the fortress, on its eastern side, there is a water cistern measuring 26X54 meters, and 5 meters deep. Its location on a slope enabled the collection of rainwater that served the inhabitants of the castle.
- The Baibars inscription – close to the western wall, inside the fortress, is the largest and most imposing inscription ever found in Israel to date. The inscription was exposed by a fall of stones that was at the foot of the eastern wall of the tower. It is made of five granite stones totally six meters long and 1.35 high, and consists of four lines in Arabic. The inscription was built into the wall above the internal eastern opening, and it commemorates the building of the tower. The inscription that was read by Reuven Amitai-Price, professor of Middle Eastern history, mentions Sultan Beibars as patron, his officer Bilich as having initiated the building, two of the fortress commanders, the architect, the builder and the writer of the inscription, as well as the date the construction was completed – 674 after the Hegira (1275 CE).
- The south-eastern tower – an enormous four-storey tower that was expanded during the Mameluke period. The south-eastern tower is of special importance. It commands the access roads along the southern wall, which is relatively vulnerable, and therefore the tower was expanded as part of the reinforcements of the castle. The stairs lead to the interior hall, with its arrow slits (which were always built into exterior walls) evidencing the fact that it was formerly the original tower. The tower was expanded in the time of Baibars and then additional arrow slits were built. From the platform a spiral staircase descends to the rooms facing south, which also have arrow slits. The top of the tower affords a wonderful view of the entire southern wall, the Galilee, the Hula Valley and the slopes of the Golan and the Hermon.
- The large cistern – to the north-east of the south-eastern tower there is a large cistern, measuring 25X9.5 meters, and 8 meters deep. Rainwater flowed into it via a system of channels that cannot be seen any longer since it was destroyed. The northern side is covered by a barrel vault, and at its edge stairs descend to the bottom. The southern part is covered by a groin vault. A later break in the southern wall – made by shepherds – enabled them to look into the cistern.
- The drinking fountain – located at the southern side of the cistern on the external wall. The water came from the cistern. Above the fountain is an inscription by Fakhr a-Din Hassan, who renovated the drinking facility in 1240 CE.
- The “Beautiful Tower” – this tower, protruding from the wall in a kind of semicircle, was built by Beibars. The interior is sloped and the roof is vaulted. The construction, the stone carvings and the finish of the arrow slits are of remarkably high quality. At the right-hand corner is a toilet cubicle, similar to that in the north-western tower.
- The moat – this is a channel cut out of the rock, separating the keep from the fortress. The purpose of the moat is to protect the keep from enemy attack. The path crosses the moat at a place where it was blocked up a little, but it can be seen clearly on the right. The moat was crossed at this point by a narrow bridge. At the end of the moat, at the south-western corner of the keep, the earliest Arabic inscription in the fortress was found, from the time of the ruler Al-Aziz Othman (1227 CE). (Inaccessible.)
- The keep – built at the highest part of the fortress (French: donjon). This is a fortified and independent structure with its own moat and wall. In the event of a breach of the lower fortifications, the fighters could continue the battle and defense from inside the enormously strong keep. Its gate is at the north-western corner. Square towers were erected at its four corners. In the space between them are remains of the arches of the ceremonial hall, additional halls and water cisterns. From the top of the tower there is a spectacular view.
The northern tower – an imposing tower at the western end of the northern wall, built in 1230 CE by the Ayyubid ruler Al-Aziz Othman. The tower was built at the top of a steep rocky cliff, which left no room for additional construction. The tower is well-preserved, including a hall with arrow-slits in its walls, from where a flight of stairs leads to the roof. In the 15th century the place apparently served as a prison.
- The western gate – built in 1230, according to the inscription over the external entrance to the tower. In the earthquake of 1759 the stones of the arch moved but, amazingly, did not fall. Over the years, the tower was greatly expanded by building walls set into the moat, under the rock cliff. The walls, 3.5 meters thick, were built of giant granite stones weighing five to 37 tons.
The “patio” in front of the gate is part of a room whose roof caved in, which was built in 1275 by Bilich, the fortress commander. He also enlarged the tower, adding two storeys. This spectacular construction can be seen in the enormous stones with their dressed edges, strewn among the fallen stones caused by the earthquake. The construction of the trapdoor on the ground floor of the tower, leading to the cistern, is also attributed to him. Above it a shaft was installed, over 7 meters high, via which water was raised to the upper floor. South of the room a toilet cubicle was discovered.
- The secret passage – west of the gate tower, at the edge of the “patio”, a secret passage was built leading outside of the northern wall. Next to the western gate there is a large opening leading to a beautiful staircase, 27 meters long, 1.8 m. wide, covered by a high, spectacularly beautiful vaulted ceiling. In this ceiling a row of stones can be seen that was moved out of place by the earthquake. The staircase leads to the secret passage, through which it is possible to exit the fortress without being discovered by the enemy outside. The height of the passage is impressive, and is more appropriate for a splendid royal entrance than for a secret passage. The passage ends in a hidden opening (postern) built at the bottom of the external northern wall, concealed from the outside by natural rock.
- The cistern – outside the fortress, on the eastern side, is a water reservoir measuring 26X54, and 5 meters deep. It is located on a slope, enabling the collection of rain water that served the inhabitants of the fortress in peace time, and may also have been used for agriculture and animals. In the past, the cistern received water from the region of the road leading to Nebi Hazuri. This conveyance system also included a sump. However, over the years, the conveyance system stopped working, and the cistern presently receives water only from the rain falling over it.
Nimrod Fortress National ParkUseful Information
Entrance to the park closes one hour before cited closing timeSummer hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 - 08:00 Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 - 08:00 Holiday eves: 13:00 - 08:00 Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 - 08:00
By car – on road 989 between Kiryat Shemona and Mt. Hermon. 30 minutes from Kiryat Shemona.
Reserving a visit to Nimrod Fortress National Park
|Adult in group||₪ 19.00|
|Child in group||₪ 8.00|
|Israeli senior citizen||₪ 11.00|