What could make this hulk of black volcanic stone, brooding above the sea, more daunting? The fact that it was garrisoned for over a century starting in 1168 by the Knights Hospitaller, a feared and powerful Vatican-backed military order that took residence in a number of fortresses across the Levant during the Crusades. Known to the Europeans as Margat Castle, it escaped Saladin’s campaigns — he took one look at the al-Marqab and decided it wasn’t worth his time — and fell to an Egyptian Mamluk army in 1285 mostly because the number of knights defending it had dwindled over the years. The Ottomans were impressed by it; they used al-Marqab as a prison.
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