Castle Of Najm

an Important Castle in the Levant

Always Linked With Munboj Bridge

Since old times Arab people built castles and forts, but when the Arab nation established a large empire during the periods of the Umayyad and Abbassid Dynasties, the strength of the empire deterred enemies, so no ruler felt the need for defensive fortifications until the Crusades began in the 11th.century AD, when many castles were built to protect the main roads and important strategic points.

The Castle of Najm was renovated at that period to protect the eastern borders of the Kingdom of Aleppo. It was built on a strategic point at a ford on the Euphrates which was the only road of caravans and armies bound to Aleppo from north and north eastern regions. King alZaher fortified the castle, saturated it with weapons, and assigned hard fighting soldiers to defend it, although he once ordered it to be demolished, so that it may not fall in the hands of his rivals, according to an Ayyoubid habit; when the sultan feels that a certain city or castle is threatened and will sure be lost, he used to give orders to demolish it as was the case in Ashkelon, Jerusalem and other places.

The castle is located on the right bank of the Euphrates east of Munboj, in the eastern plains, 115 km north east of Aleppo. It is 377m above sea level, and 68m above the level of the Euphrates River.

Visitors can see the castle perching on a limestone hill near the Euphrates looking south at fertile plains with several villages: namely; Najm, alZiara, Jurn Kabir and Jurn Saghir. In the north, the castle looks at Tall Abiad with a deep valley. Due to the strategic importance of the site of the castle the Romans named it "Kasseliana" because it was an assembly point for Roman armies on their way to attacks the Parthians and Sassanids in Mesopotamia. The Cuneiform scientists TheauroñDangin believed that the Assyrians used the road adjacent to the castle to cross into Syria, instead of the main road through Tal alAhmar north of the castle. During the consecutive Islamic period the castle was the main entrance for armies and caravans coming from Iraq into the Levant and Upper Jezira. King Noureddin occupied it, with Bazagha fort in 1142. The Franks attacked the Zenghis but couldn't take Munboj because it was defended by the castle.

From Harran to Damascus history references say that Najm Gholam Jinni alSafwani, servant of the son of Safwan alUkaili, built the castle which took his name. Several kings ruled the castle after him until it was occupied by Saladin, and later was ruled by his son alZaher Ghazi who appointed Badreddin Edemor custodian of the castle. Edemor rebuilt the castle in 1216 and it was later taken by King alAziz, son of King alZaher Ghazi. When the Tratars occupied it was under the rule of King alNasser II, as Ibn Shaddad says in his Book (ALA'Alaq alKhateera of the history of the Princes of alSham and alJazira) while the historian AbulFida says that Noureddin built the castle. historian Yaqout alHamwi visited the of Aleppo's King alAziz Ibn alZhaer Ibn alNasser Yousef Ibn Ayyoub and described it saying:" It is a strong fort on the Euphrates, built over a mountain looking at a fertile plain with a bridge known as Munboj Bridge, especially built for caravans coming from Harran to alSham. The distance between the castle and Munboj is four miles". In 578 Hijira the traveler Ibn Jubair passed by it coming from Harran and said" We arrived there late in the morning, crossed the river by boats especially prepared to take us to the new Castle of Najm on the bank. The castle was surrounded by a desert with a small bazaar for selling fodder and bread".

The Rocky Cliff:

The style of the castle is mostly Arabic. All its remains belong to the reign of King alZaher Ghazi son of Saladin who was fond and expert in building military fortifications along the style of the Ayyoubid architecture. The castle enjoys a beautiful as well as a defensive shape. This is clear in the moat surrounding the castle and in the steep rocky cliff which hinders attackers from mounting the walls. The entrance was built along the Ayyoubid style which was followed in building castles, one gate with a huge defensive tower on both sides. A narrow corridor allows only a few persons to pass through, submitted to the arrows of defenders. The wall was built of baked brick blocks, well known since the days of Saladin, with Arabic writings on the lintel recording history of the castle. The main arched corridor leads to the chambers lined on both sides, with the castle  built above them. The castle has also an Iwan, a mosque, the prince's palace with its annexes: a bath house, a bakery, and a water cistern. Munboj's Bridge Rarely the castle of Najm is mentioned separate from the famous bridge of Munboj. historians differed on the date of building of the bridge; The Balatheri said it was not already built during the Islamic Conquest and it was built during the reign of the Caliph Ossman, but he also said that there were some ruins for it at that time. AlTabari confirmed the bridge was already built during the rule of the Caliph Ali Ibn Abi Taleb and it was mentioned in the chronicles of the battle of Saffin 658 AD. :"When Caliph Ali arrived in alRaqqa, he ordered a bridge of boats to be assembled for his army to cross to alSham, but the order was neglected, so he crossed over the bridge of Munboj. In their book "History & Civilzation of Mesopotamia-Syrian Jezira", researchers Dr. Taghrid alHashimi and Hasan Ukla, confirmed what Ibn alNadim said about the historical events during the rule of the Umayyad Caliph Marwan Ibn Mohammad: "Marwan, defeated, left the city crossing the Euphrates over Munboj Bridge, and then he burnt it". There are no remains of the bridge now and it was not renewed after it was burnt in 749AD. British traveler "Chizney" said he saw a bridge near the castle in the 19th century.


Haifaa Mafalani