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 short drive to Qasr Al-Mushatta, 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 Al-Mushatta (Winter Palace)Qasr Al-Mushatta (Winter Palace), the largest and most ambitious of the Umayyad palaces in Jordan, and perhaps one of the most beautiful Islamic creations in terms of architectural style and decoration with a combination of Byzantine, Sassanian, and Persian influences. It is believed that the palace was intended to accommodate a large number of people, perhaps the whole Umayyad court. It was also designed for ceremonial grandiose performances as is evident in the incorporation of the throne room and basilica-like hall. Naturalistic acanthus and vine scrolls, as well as animals and figures carved in stone, all demonstrate the high-quality skills of the builders.
Qasr Kharana80 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 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.
Hammam As-SarahHammam As-Sarah is considered one of the important monuments, built during the early Islamic era. It brings out most of the Islamic building features used in that period. The complex was attributed to the caliphate of Al-Walid bin Abed al-Malik (705- 715) in analogy with the bath complex of Qasr Amra. Smaller than the Amra baths the attractive limestone building has been partially restored. Its plan, like Amra, consists of 3 principal elements: The Audience Hall, The Bath Complex, and The Water System. We will discover the complex together and all its elements before going to our last stop of the tour - Qasr Al-Hallabat.
Qasr Al-HallabatQasr Al-Hallabat is perhaps one of the most representative and important sites in the Near East to understand the socio-political and cultural changes that took place in the transitional period from Late Antiquity to Early Middle Ages that gave birth to Islamic culture. It is also one of the largest of the Umayyad Desert Castles. Originally Al-Hallabat was a small Roman fort built to protect the Via Nova Trajana, the Roman road stretching from Bosra to Aqaba established after 106 A.D. It was enlarged and transformed into a fort with four corner towers in the fourth century AD. The main building is 44 meters on a side, with four large rectangular corner towers, originally three stories high, with narrow slit windows. An adjacent rectangular mosque contains inscriptions dated stylistically to the first century of the Islamic era. We will take time to discover this spectacular monument, its rooms with mosaic floors, multiple inscriptions and decorations.
Zarqa - 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 Deset Castles.