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 centres, resort pavilions and outposts that helped distant rulers forge ties with local Bedouins. Several of these preserved compounds, all of which are clustered to the east and south of Amman, can be visited on one – or two-day loops from the city.
Quseir Amra, one of the best preserved monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its interior walls and ceilings are covered with lively frescoes, and two of the rooms are paved with colorful mosaics.
Qasr Al-Mushatta, Qasr A-Kharrana, Qasr A-Tuba and Qasr Al-Hallabat have been restored and are all in excellent condition. The black basalt fort at Azraq, in continuous use since Late Roman times, was the headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab Revolt.
The eastern most of the major northern cities, Umm Al-Jimal is located at the edge of the eastern basalt desert plain, along a secondary road that was close to the junction of several ancient trade routes that linked central Jordan with Syria and Iraq. Among the most interesting structures to visit are the tall barracks with their little chapel, several large churches, numerous open and roofed water cisterns, the outlines of a Roman fort, and the remains of several town gates.
Iraq Al-Amir is within the municipality of Amman in the Jordan Valley. Located about 15km southwest of the town of Wadi Al-Seer, it has a population of about 6,000 people. Located on the hills, the area has many springs and is famous for its olive trees, in addition to other forest trees. About 0.5km south of the town is the historical site of Al-Iraq. It was built by a Persian prince in the 3rd century BC. There are many caves in the hills that date back to the Copper Age.
Some precious artifacts, pottery, glass and weapons dating back to the Bronze Age and the Nabataen and Roman periods, as well as inscriptions, gold Islamic coins and the silver Ptolemaic hoard recently discovered at Iraq Al-Amir are displayed at the Exhibition of Arab Heritage and Recent Discoveries, which