Qasrs or Desert Castles

The desert castles or qasrs are often called Umayyad desert castles, since the vast majority of these fortified palaces or castles were built by the Umayyad Dynasty (between 661 and 750 AD). The desert castles are scattered over the semi-arid regions of north-eastern Jordan, our last region in Jordan to explore.

Endless plains with rocks in the north-east of Jordan

Qasr Amra was built between 723 and 743, by Walid Ibn Yazid, the future Umayyad caliph Walid II, whose dominance of the region was rising at the time. It is considered one of the most important examples of early Islamic art and architecture.

Well where a donkey would have to walk in circles

The building is actually the remnant of a larger complex that included an actual castle, meant as a royal retreat, without any military function. What stands today is a rectangular audience hall and a bathhouse. But what makes this building so spectacular are the frescoes which depict, among others, hunting scenes, working craftsmen and most astounding: nude women. The bathhouse is one of the oldest surviving remains of a hammam.

Qasr Harrana

Qasr Harrana was built on top of a ridge which overlooks the Wadi al-Kharana, the primary source of water for the palace. An inscription on an upper wall dates the building to before 710 CE. It was supposedly used as a meeting place between local Bedouin leaders, as it is far away from any old trading routes.

At the bottom floor are 2 big rooms used as stable for the camels. Inside, a large courtyard might once have had a roof. 2 stairs lead to the upper floor with many rooms with arches and decorations.

Our last town in Jordan was Azraq, once an important oasis, now a hub on the truck routes to and from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.  Since ancient times, this oasis has been the crossroads of both human trade routes and bird migrations. Millions of cubic meters of freshwater attracted camel caravans carrying spices and other goods travelling between Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Syria. Millions of migrating birds stopped in Azraq on their route between Africa and Europe. In the 1960s, water began to be pumped to Amman, to support its booming population. In 1978, a wetland reserve was established. By 1992, however, the springs dried up. All the water buffalos of Azraq died, and many migrating birds went to the Sea of Galilee instead. Today, water is pumped back into the wetlands to create a lake and a boardwalk and bird hide give you the opportunity to spot some birds.

Young Barn Swallows waiting for their parents

Beside of the young Barn Swallows, we also spotted a Squacco Heron and a Black-crowned Night Heron, besides of some Moorhen and ducks.

We are now on the way to Kuwait, taking the much longer route to Iraq and Turkey – more soon!

1 thought on “Qasrs or Desert Castles”

  1. Qasr al-Azraq im Winter 1917 errichtete Lawrence von Arabien hier sein Hauptquartier während der arabischen Revolte gegen das Osmanische Reich .
    Ab 1914 war er eine Schlüsselfigur im arabischen Unabhängigkeitskampf, obwohl er doch die ganze Zeit über gewusst hat, dass der nördliche arabische Raum nach dem Krieg gemäß dem geheimen Sykes-Picot-Plan von 1916 in britische und französische Einflusszonen aufgeteilt werden würde.

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