Qasr Al-Mshatta – The Winter Retreat of a Short Reigning Caliph

Qasr Al-Mshatta is located roughly 30 kilometers to the south of Amman, the capital of Jordan. The name in English translates as Winter Palace, and it is believed to have been commissioned by Caliph Al-Walid II during his reign in the 8th century. You won’t find this site featured in our mainstream Egypt and Jordan tours, but if you have some spare time in Amman, then it is certainly worth a visit.

Decorated facade of the Palace of Mshatta (Jordan) at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

Decorated facade of the Palace of Mshatta (Jordan) at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Today, only the ruins remain, and its most beautiful surviving section, part of the southern façade, is now on display in a museum in Berlin, Germany.

Qasr Al-Mshatta is one of the lesser-visited Amman tourist attractions, which is somewhat puzzling because is only one of a whole string of attractions in the area which are collectively referred to as the Desert Castles.

Qasr Al-Mshatta – A Brief History

Construction of the Qasr Al-Mshatta palace is believed to have begun in 733 during the short reign of Caliph Al-Walid II. The palace was never actually completed because work on the complex came to an end when the caliph was killed at the site by angry workers.

Later, towards the end of the 8th century, a major earthquake struck the area, completely destroying most of the columns and watchtowers.

If work on the palace never stopped when the caliph was killed, then the destruction caused by the quake would definitely have been what ended the project. Regardless of when exactly worked stopped, the palace remained uncompleted and abandoned ever since.

Even though this site is not included in most Egypt and Jordan tours, we can easily add it to any one of our itineraries if it is a site which you would like to visit during your stay in Jordan.

Qasr Al-Mshatta Palace Today

The beautiful ancient Roman arch ruins at Qasr Al-Mshatta Umayyad Palace in Jordan

The beautiful ancient Roman arch ruins at Qasr Al-Mshatta Umayyad Palace in Jordan.

The Qasr Al-Mshatta Palace is Jordan’s largest Umayyad palace even though only a relatively small percentage of the original complex still remains. Remarkably, the ruins still radiate the building’s original beauty.

Once abandoned, Qasr Al-Mshatta was all but forgotten until it was rediscovered by chance in the 19th century by some European scholars.

Years later, it was again rediscovered, this time by some German engineers who were involved in the construction of some railways.

The Germans then became completely enchanted with the Qasr Al-Mshatta ruins, and in 1903 the ruling Ottoman sultan gave sections of the palace’s most beautiful façade to Germany as a token of friendship.

Today, the ruins of Qasr Al-Mshatta continue to attract archeologist and researchers from around the world, along with many curious travelers who want to see more than only the most famous Jordan tourist attractions in and around Amman.

Venturing off the main tourist trail to visit this site can be very rewarding because there are a whole string of ruins which one can explore. These have now been labeled as Jordan’s Desert Castles.

Visiting Qasr Al-Mshatta

Anyone who is considering booking  one of our Egypt and Jordan tours should know that Qasr Al-Mshatta is unlikely to feature in the itinerary unless specifically requested.

This site is essentially off the main tourist trail, but for those who have already seen most of Amman’s top tourist attractions, this site can be a very rewarding one to visit.

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Last Updated on July 11, 2020