The Desert Castles
Departure at 8:30 AM
Round trip Transportation
The Desert Castles, Um Al Jimal and Um Qais (Gadara).
Departure from your hotel, heading eastwards from Amman to visit Qasr Kharaneh. Jordan’s Desert Castles were built during the time of the Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphate from the end of the 600s CE till the 750s with four main aims, to encourage agriculture in these semi-desert regions, to maintain good relations with the desert tribes, to be resting places for high government officials en route from Damascus to Medina and Mekkah in the Hejaz and as entertainment and hunting retreats where the Caliph, his family and friends could enjoy recreational activities away from the prying eyes of city dwellers.
65 kilometres east of Amman, Qasr Kharaneh, of all the Umayyad monuments in Jordan’s eastern desert, is one of the best-preserved. It has 61 rooms arranged into 2 levels surrounded by porticos leading to the central courtyard. The rooms are self-contained units known as bayts, each with a central hall flanked on 2 sides by a pair of rooms opening onto the central hall. Large groups of travellers and officials, each with his own private quarters, could thus congregate and hold meetings in the courtyard.
The Qusayr Amra (qusayr means small palace or castle) lies 20 kilometres east from Qasr Kharaneh. It is renowned for its frescoes and has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It is the surviving remnant of a large complex that included a nearby castle, of which only some foundtion stones remain. Its frescoes are remarkable. They depict hunting of wild animals, scenes of feasting, kings on thrones, a female dancer as well as many other scenes. Also on the domed ceiling of the caldarium or hot room of the palace’s bath complex, there is the earliest known image of the night sky to be painted on a domed surface. It shows the zodiac with 35 identifiable constellations.
From Qusayr Amra, we travel to Umm el Jimal, an exceptionally well preserved Nabatean, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic village built of black basalt stone. It was still inhabited till the 1970s. The preserved buildings, some two and even three stories high, all constructed using the local basalt, much of which has fallen into ruins, make Umm el Jimal a remarkable place worthy of exploration and discovery. Your guide will explain so many details about this fascinating settlement.
From Umm el Jimal, we travel to Umm Qais, known in ancient and biblical times as Gadara. Its outstanding location in the north western border region of Jordan has excellent views over the Sea of Galilee and the Lebanese mountains as well as across the River Yarmouk to Syria. We will take lunch in the excellent restaurant overlooking the archaeological site. Gadara, due to the hot springs nearby at Himmah, was a very popular holiday spa during the time of the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Many writers and philosophers gathered there. Constructed using the local basalt, its streets, temples and theatres show that it was an elegant town, one of the League of the Decapolis. Its citizens prided themselves on their sophistication and cosmopolitan visitors. Its basalt West Theatre is the best preserved of Gadara’s three theatres.
From Gadara, we return to your Amman hotel. L.
As per itinerary –
B: Breakfast, P: Picnic Lunch, L: Lunch, D: Dinner, N: No meals.