Qasr Al-Kharana is one of Jordan’s best-preserved and most frequently visited Desert Castles. It is located just 60 kilometers to the east of Amman, near to the Jordanian – Saudi Arabian border. It is believed to have been constructed at some point during the first half of the 8th century AD by an Umayyad caliph.
The site is just off the main highway which links Amman and Azraq, which in turn makes it easy for tourists to visit.
Despite its vast popularity, and despite all the research which has been done, very little is actually known about the site.
Its sense of mystery and its superb level of preservation make it an ideal candidate for any list of must-see places in Jordan, particularly for people who want to go off the beaten track.
Qasr Al-Kharana – The Unsolved Mystery
While Qasr Al-Kharana is regularly referred to as being one of Jordan’s Desert Castles, it has never been used as a castle. The term “Desert Castles” actually refers to s whole string of buildings and ruins which can be found in the desert.
Qasr Al-Kharana was also never used as a fortress.
To begin with, the slits which are visible in the walls don’t bear any resemblance to arrow slits, not to mention the fact that they are not at the correct height to have served as arrow slits.
Additionally, the corner towers of castles and fortresses were designed to accommodate soldiers. They typical contained stairs with one or two floors, whereas the corner towers at Qasr Al-Kharana are solid.
Rather than being defensive structures, they were only incorporated for strength purposes.
Some historians and scholars have suggested that Qasr Al-Kharana might have served as a Khan (caravanserai) for traders passing through the area.
However, this is also highly unlikely for a number of reasons. One of the main functions of a caravanserai was to provide a resting place for traders and water for their herds of camels. At Qasr Al-Kharana, no evidence of any sort of water storage facilities has ever been found.
Furthermore, there was never any known trade route passing through this area, or even anywhere close to it. In fact, there is absolutely nothing for miles and miles in any direction from Qasr Al-Kharana. It was and still is a remote outpost.
Apart from this beautifully preserved complex, there is well and truly nothing else near to the site, not even any plants or shrubs.
Perhaps one day Qasr Al-Kharana will reveal its secrets.
A Brief History and Overview
A graffito found in one of the building’s upper rooms indicates that the building was constructed in the early 8th century AD during the rule of an Umayyad caliph called Walid I.
The building is one of the oldest examples of Islamic architecture in the region, with clear Byzantine and Roman influence. In some ways, the design and layout is quite similar to the sort of homes which were popular in Syria at the time.
The building is in the shape of a square, with each side measuring 35 meters.
It has a total of 60 rooms distributed over two levels. All the rooms are located around a central courtyard that has a smallish rain pond or pool in the center.
The slits in the upper walls were most likely included so as to allow some light and fresh air into the rooms. Being narrow slits, they would also have provided those inside the rooms with adequate privacy.
Visiting Qasr Al-Kharana
All in all, Qasr Al-Kharana is a lovely place to visit if you need some time away from Jordan’s cities.
Despite being somewhat off the beaten track, its close proximity to Amman and its high level of preservation have resulted in it becoming a very popular tourist attraction. Apart from a visitor center and the building itself, there is nothing else in the vicinity, other than a single Bedouin trader selling souvenirs.
This site is not featured in many Jordan tour packages, but if you are contemplating booking one of our tours, we can add this to your preferred tour itinerary if it isn’t already included.
It can also be added to any of our longer and more immersive Egypt and Jordan combination tours.
All our tour packages are fully customizable, and can be tailored to meet the exact needs of our clients. After all, it is your vacation, and we really want to help you have the vacation of a lifetime.