Desert Castles


This weekend we visited three desert “castles” on the way to Azraq in eastern Jordan.  These structures are called castles because of their size not because they housed nobility.

The first was Qasr al-Kharraneh.  It is believed to date back to 711 AD.  Archeologists are unsure whether its original purpose was an Umayyad retreat, a caravan way-station, or fort.


Next up was Qusayr Amra.  An early 8th century desert bath house complete sauna and steam room.  The most intriguing element is the painted frescos on the ceiling that are examples of early Islamic art.  These features are among the reason why Qusayr Amra is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Last up was Qsar al-Azraq.  The current structure was a redesign and fortification of the original 300 AD Roman fortress by the Ayyubids in 1237 CE.  Since that time it has been used by Ottoman Turks and T.E. Lawrence in 1917 as a winter headquarters during the Great Arabic Revolt against the Turks.


In Azraq (“blue” in Arabic) we stayed at the Azraq Eco-Lodge, adjacent to the Azraq Wetlands Reserve.  The lodge is a converted British field hospital from the 40s, and sits on top of a ridge that overlooks the Wetlands and Qa’ al-Azraq (a large mud flat).


In the morning, before heading back to Amman, we stop at the Azraq Wetland reserve for a quick visit.  Unfortunately, a fire damaged a large portion of the reserve several months ago.


But, we were still able to get a glimpse of a herd of Water Buffalo roaming near the visitor’s center.


© Scudder Photography 2019