Desert Castles Tour

Desert Castles Tour

East from Amman, easily reachable on a roundtour of about 260 km, are a series of desert retreats, built by Umayyad princes in the 8th century, among them astounding palaces, bathhouses and hunting lodges.

The caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty who had made Damascus their capital in 661 AD, became best known for these 'castles' (Arabic plural qusur, singular qasr), which served a variety of political, residential, agricultural, and commercial purposes. Partially using older architectural structures, blending Greco-Roman, Byzantine and Persian styles, they created some of the most impressive examples of early Islamic art and architecture, including outstanding figurative frescos and reliefs.


Map: Desert Castles Tour

Qasr al-Mshatta

Qasr al-Mshatta

The Umayyad palace from the mid 8th century, close to Amman's airport, is world-famous for its carved ornamentation. Remains can be seen on the site, extensively restored in 2013.

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Qasr al-Kharana

Qasr al-Kharana

Imposing and well preserved castle from the early 8th century used for political meetings between Umayyad rulers and local tribal leaders.

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Qusayr Amra

Qusayr Amra

One of the most fascinating Umayyad castles, with extensive fresco paintings in the audience hall and bath complex, including bathing and hunting scenes, portraits, trades, animals, and a zodiac under the dome. UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

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Qasr al-Azraq

Qasr al-Azraq

The black basalt Roman fort, used by Umayyads, Ayyubids, and Ottomans, was the headquarters of T. E. Lawrence and Sharif Hussein Bin Ali during the Arab Revolt.

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Hammam al-Sarah

Hammam al-Sarah

The bath-house ensemble, which included an audience hall and walled garden, is a remarkable example of the Umayyad strategy of political representation.

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Qasr al-Hallabat

Qasr al-Hallabat

One of the largest palatial ensembles, including a mosque, a huge water reservoir, and an agricultural enclosure. Built on the site of a former Roman fort at the Limes Arabicus. Excavations uncovered Greek inscriptions from the Byzantine Empire on 160 basalt blocks.

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Recommendations for cultural travellers: Contemporary art, art history, architecture, design, cultural heritage

Web guide, including informative photo tours with interactive maps and special presentations of venues, sites, events

Jordan Tourism BoardIn cooperation with the
Jordan Tourism Board

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