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Dween Castle • قەڵای دوین • قلعة دوين

Associated with Salahaddin, this spot is as memorable for its stunning natural beauty as for the impressive ruins. Dween (Dwin) Castle is also commonly transliterated as Dwin.

The current architecture is from the Ottoman era most likely and the association with Salahaddin is probably confused, as he was born in modern-day Armenia.

Make a left after Massif, and continue past the hard-scrabble villages and a mosque named after Salahuddin Ayubi. Locals say this area was his birthplace or that of his father. Some elaborate that he even set out from here to begin his military campaigns with his earliest followers.

Driving to the fortress, there is an abrupt turn before the fortress ruins come suddenly into view, perched atop an incisive col in an arête that is so blade-like it seems carved personally by god. The natural beauty is overwhelming, and the surrounding valley is carpeted in emerald green grasses in springtime.

But the fortress is not the only ruin. Below the fortress are the remnants of wall foundations, which together show the plan of an ancient, abandoned village. And across the road is a sprawling cemetery which, upon closer inspections, is zoned into different epochs.

Documented history is scant. Dating back to the Soran Emirate of the 16th century, the fortress was used by a Kurdish emir. But lore goes back even further in time. The region is considered the birthplace of Saladin, the Kurdish Muslim hero who repelled Crusaders in the 12th century and retook Jerusalem, establishing a sultanate over Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hijaz, and Yemen. In particular, the site of the castle is considered the historic place of Dwin village, which is thought to be the hometown of Saladin and where his parents were born. There is little academic information about Dween. Locally, there are books and lore about Saladin, Dween and Saladin's tribe the Zarzary. Kurdish historian Abdul Khaleq Sarsam wrote the most respected book on Saladin and he said the castle belonged to Jalaladdin, Saladin's grandfather. The castle foundations and some walls still stand, as well as parts of the guard posts. It is built of strong mountain stone.

Rene Turner -- a heritage expert who works for British Conservation and Development Company, a consultancy company that wrote the renovation master plan for Erbil's 7,000-years-old Citadel -- believes the castle and its guard posts were built to watch and protect the village, which is at the foot of the mountain, on the river. You can still see remnants of the village that was once the home of Saladin's grandfather. Kurdish Globe


To access the castle, take the Hamilton Road to Pirmam. Once you leave Pirmam, on the left side of the main street is a narrow side street to Armawa and Zargos villages. Ten minutes from Zargos, you will see the ruins on top of a mountain on the left side of the street. On the right side is an old graveyard. It is located on the western side of Mount Serbn. The road to Qalai Dween goes by Armawan, Shekh Maxmoudian, and the modern Dwin village before reaching the castle.


The hike down to the river and up the opposite mountain is a short and worthwhile crawl up the loose scree.

Don't forget to stop to admire the flowers,