Jordan’s desert castles, beautiful examples of both early Islamic art and architecture, stand testament to a fascinating era in the country’s rich history. Their fine mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carvings and illustrations, inspired by the best in Persian and Graeco-Roman traditions, tell countless stories of the life as it was during the 8th century. Called castles because of their imposing stature, the desert complexes actually served various purposes as caravan stations, agriculture and trade centres, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local Bedouins. Several of these preserved compounds, all of which are clustered to the east and south of Amman, can be visited on one – or two-day loops from the city.
Named Al-Harrana Castle as it is positioned in the Al-Harrana Valley; the square fortress was resurrected during the reign of Al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik. The castle has been restored several times as a result of the constant invading empires. Located on the international road on the way to Azraq, visitors are encouraged to get medieval and explore inside the fortress walls.
Built during the reign of the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Abd al-Malik, who is considered to be the sixth caliph of the Umayyad successors, Qasr Amra is believed to have been a location to aid in hunting. With the preservation of castle carvings and fresco paintings the Qasr Amra is sure to be a castle experience unlike the others.
On the edge of dusty Azraq, this imposing fort is where TE Lawrence and Sharif Hussein bin Ali based themselves in the winter of 1917–18 during the Arab Revolt against the Turks. Lawrence set up his quarters in the room above the southern entrance, while his loyal followers braved the elements in other areas of the fort. They were holed up here for several months in crowded conditions with little shelter from the intense cold – gaping holes in the roof were patched up with nothing but palm branches and clay.
Despite the hardships endured during his stay at Azraq, TE Lawrence writes fondly about the time spent with his men at arms. In the evenings everyone would assemble before a great fire in the open courtyard and break bread while swapping stories of war, peace and love. At the time, the castle also commanded sweeping views of the nearby palm-fringed oasis at Azraq.
Constructed out of black basalt stone, Qasr Al Azraq was originally three storeys high. Some paving stones in the main entrance have small indentations, carved by former gatekeepers who played a board game using pebbles to pass the time. By the courtyard entrance, look for the carvings of animals and various inscriptions.
Comparatively little is known about the history of Qasr Al Azraq, and there’s been little excavation and renovation. Greek and Latin inscriptions date earlier constructions on the site to around AD 300, coinciding with Roman occupation.
The fort was renovated by the Umayyad caliph Walid II, who used it for hunting and as a military base. Its present form dates to 1237 when it was fortified by the Ayyubids as a defence against the Crusaders. The Turks subsequently stationed a garrison here in the 16th century. In a turn of the tide in 1918, it was from this building that the Arab Revolt launched an attack on Damascus that proved successful in ousting the Turks from the region.
All Tour Packages
The beauty of this country goes far beyond the sweeping desert views that inspired the iconic film sets of Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia. It’s rooted in the long tradition of Jordanian hospitality, inviting visitors to explore a slice of the Middle East with open arms.
Culture Tour Packages
There is no mistaking the fact that Jordan is a Kingdom steeped in history and culture.