While Al-Harrana Castle – or Qasr al-Kharanah as it is often referred to – represents a fabulously well-preserved example of early Islamic architecture, the building itself is shrouded in an seductive mystery that only serves to heighten its appeal as a not-to-be-missed tourist destination in Jordan.

This air of enigma stems from the undiscovered purpose of the castle, with many believing it to be a resting place for traders, a caravanserai, a meeting point for Bedouin, or a military fortress used to protect the area. However, the castle’s remaining features contradict many of its suggested functions, with the two-storey building’s solid round towers unsuitable for armed soldiers and the arrow slits too narrow for shooting through.

The 60 odd internal courtyard rooms may have been used as meeting places, while the decoration and architectural style of the upper storey shows a distinct Mesopotamian influence. Looking in depth at the wall inscriptions on this second floor, archaeologists have speculated that the castle was built sometime before the early eighth century AD.

Today Qasr al-Kharanah’s convenient location close to the capital city of Amman, coupled with the building’s status as one of the most photogenic of the desert castle’s has made is a popular stop-off for many visitors to the country.