Hegira 508–9/ AD 1115–16
Baldwin I (r. AH 509–12 / AD 1115–18).
Wu'ayra, Frankish 'Les Vaux Moises' is one of several fortresses and installations built in and around Petra by Baldwin I, King of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, in 1115–16. The castle, an irregular rectangle measuring approximately 100 m x 65–80 m, and built of sandstone blocks of various sizes and shapes, is located about 34 km to the south of Shawbak (Montreal) and 1 km north of the main entrance to Petra. The irregularity of the plan is due to the nature of the terrain since the walls of the castle are built along natural sandstone ridges.
The outer enclosing walls were combined with a series of small towers, the two primary ones being near the middle of the west side, and the other in the northeast corner overlooking wadi Wu'ayra. Entrance to the castle was through a narrow rock-hewn tunnel southeast of the castle which was connected to a bridge spanning wadi al-Wu'ayra. The northwestern corner is occupied by a single nave chapel (14 m x 7 m) with a barrel-vaulted roof.
The castle was part of an elaborate system of defensive installations which included long walls, observation towers and cisterns dug out of the sandstone rock. The three contemporaneous Crusader castles of Shawbak, Wu'ayra and Habis in the Petra basin were meant to secure the region southeast of the Dead Sea for the Franks in Jerusalem, and had the further advantage of hindering both the commercial and military connections between Syria, the Hijaz and Egypt.
Crusader occupation of Wu'ayra came to an end when it fell to the soldiers of Salah al-Din (Saladin) in AH 584 / AD 1188 shortly before the fall of Shawbak.
There is no evidence of major Ayyubid constructions; only minor modification and additions are attested for this period.
The castle at Wu‘ayra, Frankish ‘Les Vaux Moises’, was part of a defensive system built at Petra in AH 509–10 / AD 1115–6 by Baldwin I, King of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Together with Shawbak, about 34 km to the north, the Petra fortifications gave the Franks loose control over the area southeast of the Dead Sea, and hindered the commercial and military connection between Syria, Egypt and the Hijaz. Wu‘ayra fell to the forces of Salah al-Din in 584 / 1188 shortly before Shawbak. There are no major Ayyubid constructions at the castle, which was built along steep natural sandstone ridges.
The monument is dated by both archaeological excavations and documentary sources.
Bini, M., and Bertocci, S., “The Survey of Al-Wu'aira: A Contribution to the Knowledge of the Crusader Castles in Jordan”, Annual of Department of Antiquities of Jordan, XLI, 1997, pp.403–14.
Brown, R. M., “A 12th-Century AD Sequence from Southern Transjordan: Crusader and Ayyubid Occupation at El-Wu'aira”, Annual of Department of Antiquities of Jordan, XXXI, 1987, pp.267–87.
Vannini, G., and Desideri, A. V., “Archaeological Research on Medieval Petra: A Preliminary report”, Annual of Department of Antiquities of Jordan, XXXIX, 1995, pp.509–38.
Ghazi Bisheh "Wu’ayra" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;22;en
Prepared by: Ghazi BishehGhazi Bisheh
Ghazi Bisheh is an archaeologist and former Director General of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. He studied archaeology at the University of Jordan, and history of Islamic art and architecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan for most of the period between 1980 and 1999, and was its Director General twice (1988–91 and 1995–9). He was also an associate professor of archaeology at Yarmouk University during the early 1990s. He is the author of numerous publications, including The Umayyads: The Rise of Islamic Art (Brussels: Museum With No Frontiers, 2000), of which he is a co-author. He has carried out excavation work both inside and outside Jordan in sites such as Qasr al-Hallabat, Madaba, Carthage and Bahrain. He is a member of the German Archaeological Institute and is the Deputy Director of the International Council of Museums for the Arab countries.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: JO 22