Amra Castle


Not Really a Castle it is an Ancient Oasis and Bath House


Qusayr Amra’s description as a “desert castle” is somewhat of a misdemeanour, for it is fact an ancient service station on the Silk Road between Iraq and Amman. Now holding World Heritage status for it’s architecture and painted murals, which are unique in the Moslem world.


Built as a stop off point on the road between Iraq and Amman, as one of a series of "desert castles" some fortified, but others like this one intended purely for pleasure.


The main room is a reception room, with an alcove set in the wall for a throne. There is also a triple vaulted bathing complex of three rooms, following Roman influence, of a calidarium (hot room heated by a furnace) a tepidarium (warm room) and a frigidarium (cold plunge pool) designed to sweat the clients and then gradually close up the pores.


The water system is quite complicated. Water is drawn from a deep masonry lined well outside and fed by pipes into an elevated water storage tank. The water was then fed both to a fountain in the reception hall, and to a smaller tank where it was heated by a furnace and then piped into the hot room.


All the desert castles were built during the 8th century CE by the Omayyads, but mainly on earlier Nabatean or Roman foundations. The castles stand out in the barren desert landscape, and represent true oasis's in the recognised sense.


The castle, which is one of the best examples of Islamic architecture and art of that period, was built in the early 8th century to be used as a hunting lodge by the Umayyad caliph Walid I and his princes to entertain influential friends away from the restrictions placed on them in Damascus.


Although the desert is now sparsely populated with animals, the nearby nature reserve of Shaumari has Oryx and other animals living there, and the animals depicted in frescos suggest that other animals, now only found further east, were living in the area a millennium ago.


The frescos which cover all the interior walls and ceilings are of various subjects related to pleasure, music and dancing, the arts, hunting, the zodiac and several scenes of nude bathers, nymphs and angels, which perhaps relate to more exotic facilities available for the traveller.


Amra Art

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