Desert Castles in Jordan

Another day trip takes me to the “Desert Castles” in the east, most of which are not castles at all, but probably holiday homes of the Umayyad dynasty (see also Damascus and Jerusalem). Perhaps they were also intended for trade, or for pilgrims on their way to Kufa or Medina, or they were farms, or…. All we really know for sure is that they date from the 7th / 8th century.

Amra is really not a castle: a well, a small hall and a bath, that’s all. Inside there are great early Islamic frescoes, quite profane frescoes. There is a bear playing a guitar-like instrument, many hunting scenes and in another place there are even naked women.

The defiant Qasr Kharana, in light desert colour, may have been a caravanserai. If this is true, it is the oldest caravanserai in the Islamic world. But again, this is only speculation.

One of the castles, Azraq, is built of black basalt, black and brooding heat that slowly cooks the many tourists. The Romans already had a fortress here, which was rebuilt by the Mamluks in the 13th century. I hear a funny answer to the question why the castle was built here: the borders to Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are very close by… The tourist swallowed the answer, even though the countries mentioned did not exist at that time. However, the large oasis already existed at that time, reason enough. I find the roof construction exciting: narrow basalt slabs, barely two metres long and only roughly hewn, resting on arches or other protruding slabs.

Amman looks as if a giant had scattered a lot of light grey cubes on light grey mountains. There are still a few dabs of green, but little else of variety.

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Backpacking trip Middle East and Caucasus 2008
Wadi Rum
Dead Sea and Madaba