Pickup from your central hotel, settle into your private, air-conditioned vehicle with your private driver, who doubles as your guide on your journey.
Visit Qasr Kharana, Qasr Amra, Qasr Azraq.
60 kilometres East of Amman on highway 40 in an arid part of the Syrian-Jordanian desert, Qasr Kharana welcomes tourists as one of the Desert Castles in this region. It is square, with each side 35 metres long. This unit was often used as a module, being multiplied by two and sometimes by four for this kind of construction. Its plan is typical: a courtyard surrounded on two levels by rooms arranged as accommodation units, or bayt. In this case, they are of the type Creswell defines as “Syrian”, as opposed to “Persian”: four rooms laid out two by two around a central courtyard which provides the sole access.
On the outside bricks are laid at an angle of 45° recalling the minaret of the Grand Mosque in Raqqa. The most striking decorative feature, however, is the stucco work over the entrance and on the upper floor. During this period carved or moulded stucco ornamentation was widespread from Afghanistan to Spain. Very popular with the Romans, it reappeared in Carolingian Europe – in Germigny and Cividale, for instance – at a time when there was very close contact between Orient and Occident.
Qasr Amra, situated 75km East of Amman on highway 40, is one of the best-preserved monuments and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colourful mosaics. The paintings include themes such as hunting, dancing, and musicians, bathing scenes, cupids, and personifications of history, philosophy and poetry.
Most of the buildings are still standing and can be visited. The plan of the building consists of 3 main elements: a rectangular audience hall with a throne alcove in the middle of the south side, a bath complex which comprises 3 rooms corresponding to the frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium, i.e. the cold, warm and hot rooms respectively and the hydraulic structures which include an elevated water-tank, a masonry-lined deep well, and the apparatus for drawing water from the well into the water tank. Two feeder pipes drained water from the elevated tank to the shallow pool or fountain in the audience hall into a plastered tank, which stood above the furnace. Recent excavations by the Spanish Archaeological Mission discovered the foundations of a smaller courtyard castle.
Qasr Azraq, along with Qasr Kharana and Qasr Amra, both east of the capital and reached via Highway 40. Visitors can explore most of the castle, both upstairs and downstairs, except for some sections closed off while the rock is shored up. Its strategic value came from the nearby oasis, the only water source in a vast desert region. The settlement was known in antiquity as Basie and the Romans were the first to make military use of the site, and later an early mosque was built in the middle.
It did not assume its present form until an extensive renovation and expansion by the Ayyubids in the 13th century, using locally quarried basalt which makes the castle darker than most other buildings in the area. Later, it would be used by the Ottoman armies during that empire’s hegemony over the region. During the Arab Revolt, T.E. Lawrence based his operations here in 1917–18, an experience he wrote about in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The connection to “Lawrence of Arabia” has been one of the castle’s major draws for tourists.