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Jordan: the Desert Castles

May 3, 2010
[To see more photos of this trip click on the photos under MY PHOTOS.  This will bring you to Flickr where hundreds of pictures are stored.  Click on my Photostream and it will bring up Sets of photos by category.]
 
Our trip to Jordan was the first leg of an adventure that would later take us to Israel and Egypt.  We were more than happy to leave the February snow of Iowa and explore the ancient sites of Jordan.  The 30 hour trip went smoothly and Sunday evening we arrived in Amman.  We met our guide at the airport and had a wonderful visit as we headed to the hotel.  
 
So far, so good.  Everything seemed perfect… then WOW, did we wake up quickly!  A Humvee with a .50 caliber machine gun greeted us at the entrance of our hotel and soldiers were everywhere.  The hotel had x-ray machines and more security than an airport.  What could be happening!!??  Later we found out… Jakaya Kikwete, the President of Tanzania, was staying at the hotel. 
Qasr Karaneh

Qasr Karaneh

 

The next day it was time to hit the road and explore Jordan.  We headed east through the great empty desert and eventually passed within 15 miles of Saudi Arabia.  Our first stop was Qasr Karaneh, an imposing Umayyad structure built like a small fort.  A very courteous guide took us through this 61-room stone caravanserai from the 500’s AD.   Qasr Karaneh with its beautiful architecture and inner courtyard was a comfortable residence for officials who came to escape city life and caravan travellers who needed a safe haven.    

Qasr Amra

Qasr Amra

 

Inside Qasr Amra

Inside Qasr Amra

 

Next, we continued to drive through the desolate countryside to go to nearby Qasr Amra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The complex was probably built by the Umayyad Caliph Walid I between 711-715 AD and was apparently used as a “pleasure palace” or as a hunting lodge – basically, an early Arab “man-cave”.  The buildings had a bath complex and a large central triple-domed room.  The central room was covered in frescos depicting hunting scenes and even naked women!  Unfortunately, the frescos have been damaged over the years but it is easy to imagine how beautiful this must have been in centuries past.   

Qasr Al-Azarq

Qasr Al-Azarq

 

Our trek across the oceans of sand continued and Qasr Al-Azarq, our next stop, was inside the oasis town of Azarq.  This basalt castle was first a Roman fortress from the 3rd century AD.  It was later used by Arab rulers, the Ottoman Turks and finally by T. E. Lawrence of Arabia.  In World War I the fortress was headquarters for staging the Arab revolt against the Turks.  The castle’s 3-ton hinged stone door dates back to the Roman period!   

After hiking all over the desert, we headed back to Amman.  It had been a beautiful sunny day with temperatures climbing to 60 degrees.  That night the temperatures cooled significantly which is typical for the desert.  Late February is a pleasant time to visit Jordan.  We were told this was the beginning of their tourist season… and no one does summer vacations in the Arabian desert when temperatures reach 120+ degrees!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sharyn Witlin Vetter permalink
    May 4, 2010 4:32 am

    Wow! Looking forward to more details and more pictures.

    • May 4, 2010 6:54 am

      Thanks for your comments. More is on the way. Also, check out the pictures by going to My Photos…

  2. May 25, 2010 7:53 pm

    I would have totally flipped out if I had arrived and encountered that at my hotel- that or tried to convince someone to give me a ride in the Humvee (my dream car is a four door soft top H1 lol). Awesome pictures, and from how it sounds, you couldn’t have picked a better season to go and visit, great temperatures!

    ~Emily

    • May 26, 2010 11:27 am

      Thanks for your comment. With all the soldiers, a few things really struck me. Everyone was very polite and there was helpful. There was no feeling like you were in a heavy-handed assertive security force zone. We actually felt welcome while we were there!

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