Jordan’s iconic desert castles are integral and fascinating part of the country’s history and stand today as time-honoured proof of mankind’s ability to survive in the harsh conditions of the arid desert.
The remains of Jordan’s desert castles can be visited in a day, by following the desert castle loop trail from Amman out to Azraq, where one of the most famous of these palaces in the sand, still stands tall as an emblem of the prolific Muslim architecture that was characteristic of the time.
Translating to mean ‘The Blue’, the vast expanse of desert that is the Azraq region, is home to a large oasis, whose clear waters attracted both the Bedouin tribes and hordes of indigenous wildlife until around the Byzantine era, when building infrastructure was introduced and the iconic Qasr al-Azraq (or Azraq Castle) was begun.
Started by the Romans in the third century A.D, the structure that remains today is the result of a collaborative effort between the many dynasties who conquered the area including the Mameluks during the Middle Ages, with the final additional being made by the Ayyubids.
Standing out from the desert castle crowd because of the local black basalt stone used to construct the building making it darker from the other castles in the country, Qasr Azraq has also reached international repute as an important headquarters for T. E. Lawrence during the Arab Revolt of the early 20th century.
Although no longer the formidable three story high palace it once was, the remains of the castle are impressive to see, with the stone carvings, the courtyard with its small mosque built on the ruins of a Byzantine church, the ruined prison, dining rooms, kitchen, stables and Lawrence’s own room above the entrance with its massive stone door.
A trip to Al Azraq can easily be combines with a visit to the nearby Shaumari wildlife reserve, where visitors can learn about the rich wildlife of the region.