Amman - AzraqWe’ll begin with a friendly introduction, and a small tour briefing. A detour to Starbucks to pick up your favourite coffee will take place after, on your request. From there, it’s a 1-hour (80 km / 50 miles) drive from Amman to Qasr Kharana, our first stop in a luxury car which includes WiFi, sipping coffee and enjoying your selected snacks. Water and soft drinks are provided at no extra cost. There is also an iPhone charger, headphones and you’ll have access to an iPad with an internet connection, and Netflix.
Qasr Kharrana80 kilometres (50 miles) East of Amman on highway 40 in an arid part of the Eastern desert, Qasr Kharana welcomes you as one of the Desert Castles in this region. The castle was built in the early Umayyad period by the Umayyad caliph Walid I whose dominance of the region was rising at the time. Here you will discover a square castle, with each side 35 m long. There are many rooms in this 2-store building, some still have decorations. I will guide you through the best-preserved and most interesting parts of the castle while explaining its architecture and history.
Quseir AmraQuseir Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated 75 km East of Amman on highway 40. It is one of the best-preserved monuments in the Black Desert and the second stop of our tour. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colourful mosaics which is very unique for Islamic architecture. Here you will discover an audience hall with a throne alcove, a bath complex consisting of cold, warm and hot rooms and the hydraulic structures which include an elevated water tank, a masonry-lined deep well, and the mechanism for drawing water from the well into the water tank. I will also show you the best spots to take photos. After the tour, you are welcome to take a short coffee/tea break at the local Bedouin tent situated next to the visitor centre.
Qasr Uweinid and a walk in the Black DesertEnjoy a walk in the Black Desert, a truly unique experience, to reach Qasr Uweinid and discover mysterious stone circles on the way. The small military Roman Fort lies on the tip of a law basalt spur overlooking the Wadi Butm which bends around it, providing good natural defence on the north and west sides. Although it is not much left of the building, it's an amazing location with beautiful views of the desert.
Shaumari Wildlife ReserveThis small, 22-square-kilometre reserve is home to some of the rarest species of animals in the Middle East including oryxes, ostriches, onagers and gazelles, which are depicted on many Byzantine mosaics in Jordan. The visitor centre has been set up to provide visitors with information about wildlife, and experience observation of wildlife in the reserve in person. Here you can observe the Arabian Oryx, Houbara bustards, Reem Gazelles and Persian Wild Onagers in fenced enclosures, as well as a variety of wild plants and geographic systems native to the region. An optional 1-hour safari could be organised for 18 JOD/person (minimum of 3 persons) to discover the reserve and see its wildlife up close.
Azraq Wetland ReserveThe Azraq Wetland Reserve is a unique oasis located near the famous Azraq Castle in the heart of the Eastern Desert. The wetland is a location of rich biodiversity, providing a natural habitat for numerous aquatic and terrestrial species, including the Azraq Killifish, the only true endemic vertebrate species of Jordan. Here we will take a 1.5 km (1 mile) Marsh Trail through the reserve, which takes about 30-40 minutes to walk. The trail follows natural paths made by water buffalo, which still roam through the wetlands. The remains of a basalt wall from the Umayyad period could be seen today and incorporated in the trail. Although just a fraction of the original wetlands remain, about 300 species of resident and migratory birds use the wetlands during their winter migration from Europe to Africa. We will feed fish and watch birds from a hiding place during this tour. There is a small museum at the visitor centre, a picnic area and of cause bathrooms.
Qasr AzraqQasr Azraq is often included on day trips from Amman to the Desert Castles, along with Qasr Kharana and Qasr Amra, both east of the capital and reached via Highway 40. The settlement was known in antiquity as Basie and the Romans were the first to make military use of the site, and later an early mosque was built in the middle. Its strategic value came from the nearby oasis, the only water source in a vast desert region. Here you can explore most of the castle, except for some sections closed for visitors. During the Arab Revolt, T.E. Lawrence based his operations here in 1917–18, an experience he wrote about in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The connection to “Lawrence of Arabia” has been one of the castle’s major draws for tourists. I will take you to the room he occupied and tell you his story and the history of the castle.
Qasr Ain Es-Sil and Qasr UsaykhimLocated just 2 km (1.3 miles) from Qasr Azraq, Ain Es-Sil is one of the examples offering a different prospective to Desert Castles. Lying by the pine trees it was never used as a palace but rather as a farming estate with a bathing complex attached. This complex was built by the Umayyads, possibly over the existing fortifications of a Roman building. We will take a short walk around the complex before driving to our last stop of the tour.
One of my favourite places to visit in Eastern Jordan, Qasr Usaykhim seats on the top of the hill just 22 km (14 miles) north of Azraq. We will drive off-road to reach this superbly located fort. It is worth the scramble up the steep slope for the wonderful views. A large stone arch is a desired place for a photo with stunning views of the black desert behind.
Azraq - AmmanWe will drive you all the way back to Amman and drop you off at your hotel, where we picked you up. No doubt after a satisfying and inspiring few hours in the Black Desert and Jordan’s most famed archaeological sites.