Jordan Desert Castles

Jordan Private Tours & Travel – Jordan Desert Castles Tour

The History Behind The Desert Castles in Jordan –

Under the rule of the emperor - Caliph Omar, countries like Jordan, Palestine, and Greater Syria were conquered. But the Umayyad dynasty came into existence under Muawiya, who subsequently transferred the capital north to Damascus. This changed the power of the Islamic Empire north from the Hijaz. Subsequently, they became a part of the Umayyad Dynasty, the first among the Islamic dynasties. In fact, the Umayyads successfully ruled a huge empire spanning around ninety years.

The monuments in Jordan stood as the emblem of very beginning of development of the Islamic art and architecture. These desert castles in Jordan showcase the beginning of Islamic art. There was a huge abundance of decoration, including mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carving. On your Jordan desert castles tour with Jordan Private Tours & Travel, you will explore the illustrations depicting man, animals, as well as geometric patterns – which were borrowed from both Persian and Graeco - Roman traditions. These complexes of desert, are often referred as castles, served various purposes. It is even believed that some castles may have been built as caravan stations, others built to support agriculture, resort pavilions, some to forget the troubles of life, and house traders.

In short and simple words, these monuments stand as a reminder of the earliest days of the great Islamic empire and a short-lived dynasty whose base is in Jordan. The most important locations among these palaces include Mushatta, Kharranah and Amra etc.

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Fully Guided Jordan Desert Castles Tour

Um ej-Mal (Umm El-Jimal)

Umm El-Jimal is situated along the north-east of Amman and to the east of Mafraq. This monument is built using black basalt. During the Nabataean Period, Umm El-Jimal became a key destination for commercial and military settlement. Even, during the Byzantine Period, it stood as a Christian center as many churches were built inside it. But, in the eight century AD, Umm El-Jimal was destroyed due to an earthquake.

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Qasayr Amra

Qasayr Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is believed to be served as a hunting lodge and bathhouse. Situated in Wadi Butm, it is famed for the wild pistachio trees – which are now hiding deep in the wadi behind the castle. The term Qasayr means - little castle, which implies that this structure was smaller than the others located in the Ummayad network, and it is thought to have been part of a larger complex, comprising of a fort and living quarters, earlier built under Caliph Walid I in 711. Amra houses are some of the earliest examples of figurative art from the ancient Islamic era, just predating the edict of Caliph Yazid II (720-724), who had given an order of the destruction of the artistic images. Fortunately, the edict was first used in the religious buildings.

Jordan Desert Castles

The frescoes you will find here are incredible and fascinating, - which has a great evidence of the Byzantine and Persian influences. There are hunting scenes, including one of onagers being driven into a trap; athletes pursuing their sports; musicians, dancers, and craftsmen; animals, including a charming bear playing a guitar, and in the baths, handful number of people going about their own ablutions. Six figures amongst them seem to represent the rulers that Walid I either respected or had defeated the Byzantine emperor, Caesar, the Visigoth King Roderick; Choroes, the Persian emperor, the Negus of Abyssinia, and probably the emperor of China and the Turkish khan. The frescoes measuring 350 square meters were retained in the 1970s by a professional team of experts from the Madrid National Archeological Museum.

When you go outside of the Qasr Amra, there is a 40-meter deep well, which was powered by draft animals, - served as a source of water for the baths. Going inside will give an access to an audience hall, a bathhouse, and meeting rooms. The hall comprises of a triple vaulted ceiling – which was covered in frescoes. However, the bathhouse has three sections, like the apodyterium, in order to changing clothes, the tepidarium, for obtaining warm water and the caldarium, for getting the hot water. Moreover, the domed roof of the caldarium portrays the heavens at night, - which is considered as one of the earliest known representations of the sky based on a curved surface. It showcases the zodiac signs and many constellations. The meeting rooms have mosaic flooring.

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Besides, you will be indulged in one of the finest or the'Umayyad desert resort pavillons. However, interior of this bathhouse reveals a breathtaking treasure of splendid yet sensuous frescoes from the mid-8th century. The buildings were built from limestone, - stands out as a real attraction to Qusair 'Amra due to the extensive frescoes. You will see hunting scenes with wild onagers being driven into a net trap by men on galloping horses, women in bathing scenes, athletes demonstrating their collective prowess in an outdoor setting, the goddesses of poetry, philosophy and history, musicians and dancers altogether with an exotic bird and plant species, and, finally, the famous fresco of the six kings - which represents the rulers of the world, including the Byzantine Emperor as well as the Emperor of China.

Aside from this, you will see a female figure representing Victory, - which was flanked by servants and peacocks, dominating the audience hall. This example illustrates how the Umayyad uses of borrowed iconography from the Persian and Greco-Roman art. In the innermost part, you will explore caledarium - the small yet magnificent dome of heaven. It’s one of the first representations of the heavens based on a domed ceiling. On the central part in the map, there’s the North Star – which is surrounded by the northern hemisphere and Zodiac signs. There were survivors of the censorship of later, more puritanical periods, like frescoes – which reveal the extravagant eclecticism of the early Arab or the Islamic art. You will wonder that Qusair 'Amra was considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Qal"at al-Azraa - ( Qasr Al-Azraq )

Then, you will reach at Qal'at al-Azraq – which is located at the ancient main trade route. On your Jordan desert castles tour, you will see pools of fresh water, - which are now depleted, but formed the largest oasis in the Jordanian desert. These pools of water have given the name to the castle that means blue in the Arabic language. It indicates that the area was previously used as a main center - prior to Roman times. It is even believed to have been renovated during the reign of Constantine and was served as a defensive military fortress - overlooking the trade route. This fort was rebuilt during the 13 century by the Ayubbids. 

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However, Qal'at al-Azraq has the global fame for being the headquarters of Sheriff Hussein of Mecca and T.E. Lawrence, - which is better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence described the fort as the blue fort based on its rock just above the rustling palms, with the refreshing meadows and shining water springs. When you go inside, you will see the black basalt stone fortress. However, the room – located directly above the entrance gatehouse, is believed to have been used by Colonel Lawrence. There are so many traces of the people - who were built and settled in this fort, found scattered throughout the castle. When you access opposite the entrance, to the left, you will explore basalt altar that is divided into two parts. The lower portion is in Greek, whereas the upper one is in Latin. This magnificent altar dates back the fort to the third century under the reign of the great Roman Empire.

Moreover, Azraq is located fortuitously along the trade route connecting Syria and Mesopotamia in Wadi Sirhan, next to an oasis. But the first fort here may be built by Severus during the end of the 2nd century as a defense of the limes arabicus, and the later one was built by the Diocletian in the late 3rd century, perhaps complimenting his new road, the Strata Diocletania, which is expanded between Azraq and Syria. Both the Byzantines and the Ummayads had used this fort, Caliph Walid II usually for hunting purposes. In 1237, the Ayyubid governor Azz al-Din Aybak again built the fort, according to an inscription above the main entrance. 

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While the building comprises of three stories and had the original Roman black basalt doors to ensure protection, there was availability of little insulation against the cold, and their people patched the holes in the walls with the help of palm fronds and clay. But the building was destroyed partially due to an earthquake in 1927. However, the presence of black basalt makes this castle exceptional from the others. It’s due to the fact that the town of Azraq has grown up around it, lacking the isolation of Kharana or Amra. Some of the paving stones found in the main entrance still showcase the holes by former gatekeepers – which are carved in them so that they could play games being away the time.

Even, Lawrence inhabited a room above the main entrance. There was a small 3rd century Roman altar located just opposite to the entrance, and a 13th century mosque, - which was built over a Byzantine church, is now located in the courtyard. Other residential areas are present primarily in the northern region, including a room with some of the more beautifully carved stone decorations, including a ram and a mermaid, and steps connecting to a well - are in the northeast corner of the courtyard.

You will find prison ruins in the northwest corner of the castle. However, the Ummayad Castles are the wonderful reason to visit the eastern desert. Nevertheless of its use – be it for defense or relaxation, they give a great glimpse into a world-renowned sighting – which seem privileged to see. The tall walls of Kharana, the frescoes of Amra, and the historical associations of Azraq are sure to make your desert castles tour in Jordan, enriching and rewarding.

Qasr AL-Kharraneh (Qasr Kharana )

On your Jordan desert castles tour, your next stop will be at Qasr Kharana – which is situated approximately 55 km east of the Amman city. It comprises of two stories high, featured with puissant stone walls interspersed in a rounded interval and corner towers. Like some other desert castles, this caravanserai was never fully completed. In fact, Qasr Kharana is built from the limestone rubble and mortar and Kharana is a small castle of only 35 square meters. You will find an arched passageway –which acts as an entrance to the castle. Qasr Kharana is flanked by two huge rooms on both the sides. These are believed to have been served as stable and storage rooms.

When you will go inside, you will notice 61 rooms overlooking the central courtyard - most of them are arranged in suites of four or five communicating rooms surrounding a large hall. While going from the courtyard, there are two low - angled, long staircases leading up to the second store and the roof. Some of the rooms on the second floor of Qasr Kharana continue to maintain their ancient decorative stone - work, with colonnettes, rosette friezes, semi-domed ceilings, and age-old inscriptions. Moreover, Qasr Kharana building stands as an emblem of the both Syrian and Iraqi influences and one more interesting fact is that the second floor of the building still remains unfinished.

Jordan Desert Castles from Amman

Qasr Al-Mushata (Qasr Al-Mushatta)

After exploration of Qasr Kharana while you are on a Jordan desert castles tour, you will reach at Qasr Al-Mushatta – which is situated in the north of north runway of the Queen Alia International Airport's. It is believed to have been started by Caliph Walid II around 743-744 AD, - which was just before the time when the Umayyed dynasty gave way to the power of the Abbassid rulers at Baghdad. It is even said that the monument was planned on a magnificent scale. You will see the great fusion of classical art and Islamic geometric patterns on your Jordan desert castles tour with Jordan Private Tours & Travel.

Some the pieces of finely carved stone featured with floral, animal and geometric motifs, including bold rosettes, looped grape-laden vine-stalks, and acanthus leaves are still found at Qasr Al-Mushata (Qasr Al-Mushatta). As the castle seems to appear from the foundation stones and the standing ruins, but the only gate led through an array of rooms, courts and passageways into a triple­apsed throne room. Moreover, a mosque and small pool were located just inside the castle. At the back of the hall, you will find the latrines of Mushatta offering a glimpse into the daily lifestyle of the early inhabitants.

Book fully guided desert castles tour in Jordan through Jordan Private Tours & Travel as soon as possible and explore what the world of desert castles has on offer. 

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