Discover the hidden nature and castles in the desert east of Amman and support the restoration of some precious nature while you’re at it. See some spicy early Muslim frescoes and the makeshift winter accommodation of T.E. Lawrence.
Go blue and green in the desert
Early Muslims built a range of forts to protect east to west trade routes. Just a 1.5 hour drive east from Amman, you will find the town of Azraq. Azraq means blue, after the endless wetlands that covered an area as large as Lebanon until not that long ago. Lots of illegal wells and overdemand from the Amman region drained the water, affecting millions of migratory birds. But there’s new hope these days, so bring your binoculars!
In2Jordan offers a unique trip, off the trodden paths to discover these hidden desert nature and castles.
Drive from Amman to Azraq and visit Qasr Azraq (2 hours total)
The town houses Qasr Azraq, a dark stoned, square fortress that was built and rebuilt between the 4th and 13th centuries. There’s a picturesque museum, untouched by modern demands. The modest ancient mosque is unique. Most inspiring is the room above the entrance. Here, Lawrence of Arabia and his buddies spent a cold winter before they conquered Aqaba in 1917.
Visit desert nature (2-4 hours total)
Recently, the Royal Jordanian Society for the Conservation Nature restored a small portion of the wetlands. At the entrance is a small, but impressive exhibition about the loss of the wetlands. You can stroll through the wetland nature over ancient water works. During migratory seasons (spring and fall), birds flock to this site once again.
There’s more nature at Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, just outside the town. The reserve is home to endangered Arabian Oryx, as well as desert gazelles, striped hyenas, jackals, wolves, foxes and wide array of wild animals. You can do a 3 to 4 hours safari Jeep tour here.
Drive from Azraq to Amman and visit Qusayr Amra (2 hours total)
There are more desert castles between Azraq and Amman, one particular beauty being Qusayr Amra. This is actually a former hunting lodge, including a very early hamam -or bathhouse. Unusual for Muslim art, the walls are covered with frescoes, including depictions of women that some considered pretty spicy.
Because of the uniqueness of the interior frescoes, Qusayr Amra was granted status as a UNESCO world heritage site