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Margat - Castle of the Watchtower)

Listed under Castles & Palaces in Tripoli, Lebanon.

Photo of Margat - Castle of the Watchtower)
Photo by flickr user jamesdale10
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Like Krak des Chevaliers, Margat was a Syrian fortress, built on the highest point in the region and held during the crusades by the Knights Hospitaller. Its original Arab foundations were built on by the Byzantines before being sold to the Hospitallers who expanded it further. With fourteen round towers and fortifications in the latest French standards (similar also to Krak des Chevaliers), Margat’s position overlooking the sea on one side and thick walls enclosing the entire plateau the castle sits upon made it seem impregnable. Archaeological studies have unearthed arrow heads wedged in the walls from past attempts to take the fort, proving the effectiveness of building five metre thick walls!

Saladin had the castle under siege but was unable to take it and the Hospitallers retained the surrounding land until it was finally taken in a siege at the end of the Crusades, but only after the attacking army had mined deep into the cliffs on which Margat stands. Not wishing to destroy the fort, merely to take it, the Hospitallers were notified of the position of further mines so they could surrender it peacefully, it was then used as a military fort by the sieging army.

As well as the indomitable defences, Margat also protected a town complete with a large gothic chapel, which is one of the most interesting places in the castle, a very European looking construction of graceful vaulted ceilings and arched windows.

Margat is a fantastic architectural achievement. It was built on and developed over time so you can see the improvements made in military architecture as they were added to the fort. It is also historically interesting (hence my depth about the story of the place.). Don’t miss Margat thinking it is Krak des Chevaliers Mark II, it is worth a pilgrimage in its own right.

Written by  Kynan Wieltz.

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