The Desert Castles of Jordan, built between the 6th and 7th centuries (660-750) are quite interesting historically, and should not be missed during your visit to Jordan. Built under the rule of the Caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty, their actual purpose is still being debated by scholars and historians.
The Castles are fine examples of early Islamic art and architecture. They are filled with frescoes and reliefs, many depicting humans and animals in various activities, items not often found in later Islamic artworks. The art recalls the finest of Graeco-Roman traditions, linking them to other cultures and peoples.
The true purpose of the Castles is still being debated by scholars and historians. Some believe that they were agricultural compounds, as they were all extensively irrigated and farmed. Others argue that they served as caravanserai— roadside inns for travelers. The caravanserai served important roles in furthering communication between people who lived at great distances, allowed travelers a place to rest from their journey’s hardships, and helped trade progress along the ancient trade routes, particularly along the Silk Road. Still others argue that the castle compounds served as fortresses to help protect the land and safety of the regional rulers. And finally, some argue that the purpose of the Castle compounds was far simpler—that they were built as a way for distant rulers to forge ties with the local Bedouin. Whatever their purpose, they are treasures not to be missed when visiting historical Jordan!
Among the notable surviving structures (many were destroyed and rebuilt by other dynasties) is Qasr Amra. Qasr Amra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is situated approximately 85 KM from Amman. The walls of Qasr Amra are covered in vivid murals, and two of the rooms are paved in very colorful mosaics…mosaics being found in many of Jordan’s historic sites. Among the other notable Desert Castles are Qasr Al-Mushatta, Qasr A-Kharrana, Qasr A-Tuba, and Qasr Al-Hallabat, all of which have been restored and are in excellent condition for visiting. Azraq, another fortress, has been in continuous use since the Late Roman era, and was the headquarters of the famed Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab revolt.
The Dessert Castles of Jordan will not disappoint! Be sure to schedule a visit to one or more of these amazing places while visiting Jordan!