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Published: April 12th 2012
Took the car on a much longer trip out to see the ‘Desert Castles’. Due to my lack of map reading ability and the poor signage our intention of driving to the North of Amman and starting our circuit East from there didn’t happen as we ended up after a number of U turns and a helpful police escort on the southern road to the East. Once we were safely on the main highway in that direction we had a good day! Drove towards the Saudi/ Syrian/ Iraqi borders in theNorth East and stopped at the ex-oasis town of Al Azraq. Not a pretty place, once a caravan stopover and now a big truck stop on dusty crossroads. Spent a while at the Wetland Reserve there and joined the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. The wetlands are a sad story of a once flourishing green oasis turned into a dry and arid area, now only at 10% of its original size and all the water pumped in. The spring that was once abundant has been pumped dry by big local towns. We stood in one spot where it said used to be up to your necks in water and now the water table is 12m underground! This has all happened really rapidly, since the late 70s when it was still a proper wetland.
From there we drove a short distance to Al Azraq castle. TE Lawrence had spent some time there and written about it in his book, ” The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The castle is quite large and well preserved. All made of stone, including the roof beams and the doors. Lawrence’s room was over the entrance and is preserved in good condition.
Driving back towards Amman the next castle is Qasr Amra. Not a castle at all but a bath house with another few rooms. But it has interesting paintings covering the walls, recognized as important early Islamic art.
The last castle, Qasr Kharana, looks like a medieval castle from the outside but inside is more like a caravanserai, although it wasn’t on any trade route. What look like arrow slits from the outside are clearly not that once inside, just light and air holes.
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