This splendid Crusader fortress – Crak des Moabites, or Le Pierre du Desert to the Crusaders – soars above the wadi is and hills like a great ship riding waves of rock. It is strategically situated in the midst of rich agricultural land, on the ancient crossroads between the north-south trade route of the King’s Highway, and the east-west route that climbs Wadi Karak from the Dead Sea and runs to the edge of the eastern desert. Karak’s origins go back at least to the Late Bronze Age. In the Iron Age, as Kir-haraseth, it was a major town of Moab under King Mesha (c. 85 3-830 BC). Later it also figured in Isaiah’s prophecies, in which he rather oddly mixed messages of doom with mention of what may have been a local delicacy, now unknown – ‘Let everyone wail for Moab. Mourn, utterly stricken, for the raisin-cakes of Kir-hareseth’ (Is. 16:7). Carvings, column drums and inscriptions indicate that this was a significant town in Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine times – it minted its own coins in the 3rd century, and appears prominently in the Madaba mosaic map as Characmoba. But these earlier towns were obliterated by the new Crusader castle.