In their remote and lavishly decorated desert retreats, princes, caliphs, governors and noblemen indulged in hunting, falconry, racing horses and camels, bathing and eating, and poetry recitals. Most of those palaces were built in the seventh or eighth century.
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The Desert Castles
Discover Jordan’s rich history on this half-day tour to the Umayyad Desert. Visit these desert ‘castles’ that were once used as caravan stations, trade centers, outposts, and resort pavilions. Admire the beautiful Islamic art, mosaics, frescoes, and carvings that can be found inside and were inspired by Persian and Greco-Roman traditions. Spend about 45 minutes at each destination before heading back to Amman. We start our tour with a visit to Qasr Amra. After visiting the castle we will cycle through the Jordanian Eastern Badia until reaching Qasr Al-Kharanah.
Scattered throughout the black basalt desert, east of Amman, the Desert Castles stand as a testament to the flourishing beginnings of Islamic-Arab civilization. These seemingly isolated pavilions, caravan stations, secluded baths, and hunting lodges, were at one time integrated agricultural or trading complexes, built mostly under the Umayyads (661-750 AD), when Muslim Arabs had succeeded in transforming the fringes of the desert into well-watered settlements.
The wealthy Umayyad Caliphs, who used to come to Jordan for leisure and on hunting trips, built some beautiful Castle-like palaces, at the heart of the eastern Jordanian desert. In their remote and lavishly decorated desert retreats, princes, caliphs, governors, and noblemen indulged in hunting, falconry, racing horses and camels, bathing and eating, and poetry recitals. Most of those palaces were built in the seventh or eighth century.
Those places are known now as “Desert Castles“. Most famous is Qasr Amra, one of the best-preserved castles, which 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 mosaic. Others include Qaser Mushatta, Qasr Al-Kharanah, Qasr At-Tuba, and Qasr Al-Hallabat.
Aside from being widely considered as the most spectacular and original monuments of early Islamic art, these complex “Desert Castles“ also served practical purposes: namely, as residences, caravanserais, and baths.
These are some of Jordan’s most atmospheric ancient buildings – most notably Qasr Al-Kharanah and Qasr Amra, which lie near each other on a fast road between Amman and the oasis town of Azraq (itself worth a stop for its nature reserve, eco-friendly lodge, and links to Lawrence of Arabia). A different road to Azraq, from the city of Zarqa, passes by the well-restored fortress of Qasr Hallabat, making it easy to follow a loop in either direction from Amman.
Harder-to-reach sites include the ruined Qasr Mushatta, near Amman’s airport, and Qasr Tuba marooned in the roadless desert south of Kharana.
Azraq Wetlands Reserve
Azraq Wetlands is one of the nature reserves in Jordan and managed by the Royal Society for Nature Conversation (RSCN). The Wetlands Reserve has a long history of serving as a stopover for migrating birds and actually hosted diverse wildlife in the past including lions. For many years water has been pumped to the cities mainly, Amman and in the early 90ies, the water ground level had decreased alarmingly. Since then Jordanian authorities and the RSCN have rehabilitated the area and conserve it. During recent years it was promoted as a touristic attraction with its proximity to the Desert Castles, Azraq Castle, the Azraq lodge, and another nearby reserve, the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve. The Azraq Wetlands offer an easy to intermediate cycling terrain and are a great spot for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts.
- Starting point Qaser Amra the best-known of the desert castles located on the north side of Jordan's Highway 40, roughly 85 kilometers (53 mi) from Amman and 21 kilometers (13 mi) southwest of Al-Azraq
- Finish Point at The Azraq Wetland Reserve which is a nature reserve located near the town of Azraq in the eastern desert of Jordan.
It’s an intermediate bike route, mostly flat. The route will start from Qaser Amra the best-known of the desert castles located in present-day eastern Jordan. It was built early in the 8th century, sometime between 723 and 743, by Walid Ibn Yazid, the future Umayyad caliph Walid II, whose dominance of the region was rising at the time. It is considered one of the most important examples of early Islamic art and architecture. The discovery of an inscription during work in 2012 has allowed for more accurate dating of the structure. And passing through the flat basalt desert all the way to the breathtaking Azraq wetlands which were created some 250,000 years ago as a result of being fed by aquifers that corresponded with geological changes.
- Meet & Assist at Amman Airport.
- Individual transfer from/to Amman Airport.
- Watter Bottle
- Meals (as indicated)
- local English-speaking guide
- Cycling guide / mechanic for cycling days who cycles with the group.
- Support cycling truck for cycling days.
- Bike (Scott Aspect 740 27,5″ or Sub cross 30) and helmet hire on cycling days.
- Snack breaks on cycling days
- Accommodation as per itinerary, sharing in a twin room with another member of the group of the same gender. (A supplement applies for a single room, available on request).
- Airport drop off
- Tips for service providers (drivers, guides, camping/ hotel staff, etc.).
- International flights
- Domestic flights
- Travel insurance.
- Alcohol drinks.
- Visa fees
- Any airfare.
- Any optional services.
- Anything not mentioned in the inclusions.
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