Desert Castles

Quseir amra

Quseir Amra

Designated in 1985 the fortress and palace/residence was built sometime between 723 and 743 for Walid ibn Yazid before his short reign as Caliph. The reception hall and hamman have exceptionally colourful frescos showing an artistic blend of the Byzantine and Islamic cultures with a bit of classical pagan influences thrown in.

Qusair Amra is one of the best preserved Umayyad period castles in Syria and Jordan.

Located an hour’s drive from Amman there is a visitor centre on site with licenced guides. It is also easy to visit two other desert castles in the area on the same day.

Karak castle

Karak Castle

One of largest crusader castles in the Levant, Karak Castle is located on the Kings Highway about two hours from Amman. Built by the Franks in the 12th century it is an excellent example of a spur castle, perfect for defensive and it was besieged many times before falling to Sa’d Al-Din in 1188 after several weeks only due to no hope of reinforcements and lack of arms.

The Castle then became the administrative centre for the Ayyubid Dynasty in 1263 only to be besieged again by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt in 1840 who destroyed much of the fortifications taking it. In 1893 the castle came under the control of the Ottomans who used its strategic location to control the area.

Although not one of best preserved castles in Jordan, Karak is well worth a visit and is an easy stopover on your way south. There is an onsite Archaeological Museum providing information on the surrounding area and the Crusader and Muslim history of the castle. The city of Karak is located on the Kings Highway approximately two hours drive from Amman.

ajloun castle

Ajloun Castle

A great example of Islamic military architecture, Ajlun Castle was first built in 1183 to prevent the expansion of the crusaders. Under the Mamluk governors the castle was expanded and served as the administrative centre safeguarding the trade and pilgrims routes from Damascus.

Damaged by earthquakes in 1837 and 1927 the castle was restored by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.

Located in the northwest of Jordan, forty minutes drive from Jerash and 50 kilometres from Amman.

qasr hallabat castle

Qasr al-Hallabat

Located in the eastern desert, Qasr al-Hallabat is a Umayyad Desert Castle originally built as a Roman Fort in the 2nd to 3rd century AD to protect the eastern front of the Roman Empire.

At the end of the 8th century the fort was demolished to build a grand desert complex for the Umayyad Caliph Hisham but by 749 AD the site was destroyed. Restoration took place by 2002 and 2013.

Qasr Azraq

Qasr Azraq

A black basalt fort originally built by the Romans in the 3rd century AD it has a strategic position in the middle of an Oasis and has been in continual use due to this. The Ayyubids improved the buildings in 1237 for defense against the crusaders and was later used by T E Lawrence during the Arab Revolt.

Located approximately 100 kms east of Amman on the outskirts of the town of Azraq.

Shawbak Castle

Qal’at ash-Shawbak

Also known as Shobak or Montreal Castle, this is a Crusader castle built in 1115 by Baldwin I of Jerusalem. It was besieged by Saladin in 1187 for two years until starvation forced the defenders to surrender. In 1261 the castle fell to the Mamluks and came under the control of Egypt.

Today the castle is mainly in ruins and has yet to be fully excavated.

Located close to the town of Shobak approximately 190 kms from Amman on the road to Petra.

Qasr Kharana

Qasr Kharana

Thought to have been built before 710 AD this castle is very well preserved and one of the best examples of Islamic architecture in the region although its use is uncertain. Not a true military castle, it is thought to have served as an administrative centre for local tribes and the Umayyad rulers. Although damaged by earthquakes it was restored in the 1970s and well worth visiting.

Located just off a major highway 60 kilometres east of Amman. There is a visitor centre on site.

Qasr Mshatta

Qasr Mshatta

Located 30 km south of Amman, this castle is famous for its elaborately decorated main south facade which unfortunately can be only seen in Germany.

It is thought Caliph Al-Walid II commissioned the palace during his short reign but that it was never finished. The site was restored in 2013.

Aqaba fortress

Aqaba Fortress

Built by the crusaders in the 12th century the fortress was later destroyed by Saladin in 1187. The Mamluks rebuilt in the early 16th century and it was then taken over by the Ottomans to use as a pilgrimage stopover.

In 1916 the fortress fell to an victorious Arab camel charge during the Arab Revolt. There is a small museum on site.