Heading back towards Amman on Highway 40, Qusayr Amra is about 28 kilometers from Azraq. This is the best preserved of the desert castles, and probably the most charming, Built during the reign of the Caliph Walid I (705-715 CE) as a luxurious bathhouse.
The building may have been part of a larger complex that served to host traveling caravans, which was in existence before the Umayyads arrived on the scene. The building consists of three long halls with vaulted ceilings. It's plain exterior belies the beauty within, where the ceilings and walls covered with colorful frescoes. Directly opposite the main doorway is a fresco of the caliph sitting on his throne.
On the south wall other frescoes depict six other rulers of the day. Of these, four been identified: Roderick the Visigoth, the Sassanian ruler Krisa, the Negus of Abyssinia, and the Byzantine emperor.
The two others thought to be the leaders of China and the Turks. These frescoes either imply the present Umayyad caliph was their equal, or it could simply be a pictorial list of the enemies of Islam.
Many other frescoes in the main audience chamber offer unlikely portrayals of humans and animals. This is interesting in itself because after the arrival of Islam, any illustration of living beings was prohibited.
The audience chamber, used for feasting, meetings and cultural events, leads through an antechamber into the baths. The caldarium, or steam room, capped with a domed ceiling where a fresco lays out a map of the heavens, with the constellations of the northern hemisphere and the signs of the Zodiac. The two bathrooms have fine mosaic floors.
The paintings include themes such as hunting, dancing, and musicians, bathing scenes, cupids, and personifications of history, philosophy and poetry.
These unique paintings prompted UNESCO to include Qusayr Amra in it's World Heritage list.
The plan of the building consists of 3 main elements:
- A rectangular audience-hall with a throne alcove in the middle of the south side.
- A bath complex which comprises 3 rooms corresponding to the frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium that is the cold, warm and hot rooms respectively.
The hydraulic structures which include an elevated water-tank, a masonry-lined deep well, and the apparatus for drawing water from the well into the water-tank. Two feeder-pipes drained water from the elevated tank to the shallow pool or fountain in the audience-hall into a plastered tank, which stood above the furnace.
Please note that Qusayr Amra was not residential, nor was it intended to be occupied over an extended period of time.
Desert Castles: Qasr al-Hallaba | Azraq Oasis | Azraq Fort | Qusayr Amra| Qasr Kharaneh | Qasr al-Mushatta | Al-Qastal | Qasr Tuba | Al-Muwaqqar | Hammam Al-Sarah