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Home Africa & Middle East Jordan Desert castles

Desert castles

The term 'desert castle' has a broad meaning and can refer to any ruin that stands in the middle of the desert. It can denote Roman and Arabic fortresses, palaces, caravanserai (khans), bath houses etc. The most popular three are the following: Qasr Kharana, Amra and  Azraq. If you have enough time, it is worth adding one or more too. Starting from Amman, it takes about a half day to explore the following  monuments with your own driver. Hitch-hiking or public transport is no option to get to these monuments.

Qasr Amra 360° virtual tour

Quseir Amra, Qusayr Amra

Being the best-known of all desert castles in Jordan, this mysterious building has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Is commonly identified as a bathhouse built by Umayyad caliph Walid I (705–715 AD), but nothing is sure about it. Present structures could have belonged to a larger complex out of which only a few foundations remained. What stands today is either identified as a caravanserai or a royal retreat (a hunting lodge) without any military function. If the latter presumption is accepted, then the main building can be an audience hall with a bath attached to it. Inside there are fascinating strange frescoes depicting naked women and other scenes that should be banned in Islam.

This building is commonly identified as a caravanserai (a khan) but some historians claim it to have been a meeting place of Umayyad rulers and local Beduins. Based on a painting in one of the rooms, it has been dated to 710 making it to be a very early Islamic construction. According to some inscriptions, a former Roman or Byzantine building could also have stood here.

Not frequently visited by tourists, Qasr al Hallabat belongs to one of the so called desert castles in Jordan. It gets its significance from being a mixture of Roman forts and Umayyad pleasure palaces.

Qasr al-Azraq is a well-preserved Roman fortress about 100km east of Amman, one of the frequently visited desert castles. For most visitors, the link to TE Lawrence and the Arab Revolt is the major draw to come here.

Azraq Wetland Reserve is a natural reserve comprising pools and marshlands and is most reputable for being an oasis of about 300 species of resident and migratory birds. It was established in 1978 and occupies 12 square kilometres.