Jordan’s desert castles, beautiful examples of both early Islamic art and architecture, stand testament to a fascinating era in the country’s rich history. Their fine mosaics, frescoes, stone and stucco carvings and illustrations, inspired by the best in Persian and Graeco-Roman traditions, tell countless stories of the life as it was during the 8th century. Called castles because of their imposing stature, the desert complexes actually served various purposes as caravan stations, agriculture and trade centers, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local Bedouins.
It was first built by the Romans but has gone through many transformations over the centuries, being occupied by Byzantines, and all the Islamic Dynasties up until the Ottomans in the early part of the 20th century.
To avoid the flooding after heavy rains in Syria, the caliphs-built castles in the Jordanian desert to serve as summer retreats. The leaders were accompanied by their odalisques (female slaves), hunting weapons and their children for their trips
Although many of the castles have already been destroyed through time and the difficult desert conditions, there are still many well preserved and restored castles which you can visit. Some of these include Qasr Al Castal, Qsar Mshatta, Qasr al Hallabat, Qasr ‘Amra and other castles scattered throughout the area.
One of the most popular castles is the Qasr Azraq, also known as the blue fortress. Its charm to visitors is probably because it was T.E. Lawrence’s headquarters during his campaign in 1917-1918 and the fact that it became known in his book the Seven Pillars of Wisdom as well as his popular nickname Lawrence of Arabia.
The Qasr Amra is the best preserved and the most eye catching among the castles. The castle was built to serve as a bath house for important people. Another interesting attribute of the castle is the mosaic art on the walls and the intriguing art depicting important people despite the fact that Islamic art prohibits depicting humans.