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Qasr Amra

Zarqa Governate
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Qasr Amra

Jordan's eastern desert, where the country juts towards Saud Arabia, is little visited but holds some unexpected treasures. More than a thousand years ago when the region wasn't so dry, the Umayyad rulers (the first of the Arab empires) built Jordan's so-called 'desert castles' as part of their trading network. Of these Qasr Amra is the finest.

It's not really a castle, rather a combination of caravanserai and exclusive hunting lodge where Umayyad rulers escaped to when the strains of city living in Damascus got too much.

World Heritage-listed Qasr Amra was built in the 8th century by the Umayyad caliph Walid I, whose reign also saw the construction Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock and Damascus' Umayyad Mosque. Qasr Amra is far more intimate, and surprisingly so. The walls of its reception hall and bath house are covered with exuberant and surprisingly bawdy frescoes. The content depicted, which include bathing nudes, hunting scenes and royal portraits, will change your perception of art in the early days of Islam.