Desert Castles

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 Greco-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 centers, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local Bedouins.

Quseir Amra, one of the best preserved monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colorful mosaics.

Qasr Al-Mushatta, Qasr A-Kharrana, Qasr A-Tuba and Qasr Al-Hallabat have been restored and are all in excellent condition. The black basalt fort at Azraq, in continuous use since Late Roman times, was the headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab Revolt.

The story says, that it might be possible that some of the desert castles, like Qusayr Amra, Kharaneh and Mshash, served as resting places for high government officials on their way to Hejaz. This restricted and temporary use of these buildings may explain the scarcity of pottery shards from those sites. A combination of factors and coordinates therefore might have been involved in the construction of the Umayyad Desert Castles, and no single element is sufficient to explain them all.

Today, the Desert Castles, these lonely and evocative structures, can be visited in a one or two-day trips from Amman, as modern paved roads have replaced the ancient desert tracks.

The castles are scattered throughout the country and almost all of them have interesting elements of architecture and some mystique…