Azraq Wetland Reserve – Azraq is a unique wetland oasis located in the heart of the semi-arid Jordanian eastern desert, one of several beautiful nature reserves managed by the RSCN. Its attractions include several natural and ancient-built pools, a seasonally flooded marshland, and a large mudflat known as Qa’a Al-Azraq. A wide variety of birds stop at the reserve each year to rest during their arduous migration routes between Asia and Africa. Some stay for the winter or breed within the protected areas of the wetland.
The best time to visit Al-Azraq is in late autumn, winter or spring. Winter rains often create pools and marshes over the reserve, which continue to attract many seasonal species of birds. The success of bird-watching visits depends largely on the amount of water that has accumulated in the reserve.
Azraq has an interesting geological history. It was once a vast oasis, its pools filled by a complex network of aquifers fed mainly from the Jebel Druze area of southern Syria – the waters taking up to 50 years en route. Surrounding the oasis is about 60 sq.m. of silt, beneath which is a vast concentration of salt.
The Azraq wetlands have been described as in the state of “ecological collapse”. RSCN continues to fight an uphill battle against rising population and a growing demand for water. The 10,000,000 cubic metres (353,146,667 cu ft) of water per year provided by the Jordanian Ministry of Water to maintain Azraq is only sufficient to restore Azraq to 10% of its original size. As of 2018, there are more than 500 illegal wells still pumping water from Azraq. In just 37 years, the number of migrant birds has reduced from 347,000 as of February 2, 1967, to 1200 birds as of February 2, 2000. Azraq provides drinking water for one-quarter of Amman. 25 square kilometres (9.7 sq mi) once covered by wetlands have now dried up.