While the draw of the archaeological splendour of Petra brings most people to Jordan, there are stunning Jordan castles to explore all over the country. The impressive rock-cut tombs of the Nabateans in Petra are just one of the archaeological marvels to explore while in this small Middle Eastern country. Jordan is home to Umayyad palaces that offer impressive insights into early Islamic art and architecture and were constructed over 1000 years ago. Is also boasts Crusader castles built in the 11th century by the Christians during the Crusades. They show impressive fortifications and are still well preserved today.
In Arabic, castle is translated to “qasr” but it is widely used in Jordan and throughout the Middle East to mean castle, palace, or fortress. You will see many Arabic and English names mixed throughout this article as the more popular site, like the Umayyad Palace in Amman, has an English name while Qusayr ‘Amra (also known as Qesr Amra and Quseir Amra) retains its Arabic name.
Below you will find a list of the Castles in Jordan. Many guided tours will visit one or more of these castles, depending on the itinerary. They can also be visited solo or on a day tour.
Ajloun Castle is a 12th century Muslim castle located in Northwestern Jordan. It was built high above the historic town of Ajloun, by Saladin, a Sunni Muslim Kurd. Today the ruins of Ajloun Castle provide visitors with spectacular views of the Jordan Valley.
Aqaba Castle, Mamluk Castle or Aqaba Fort
Qasr al-Kharanah / Qasr Kharana / Qasr al-Harrana / Kharaneh / Hraneh
Qusayr ‘Amra or Quseir Amra
Jordan Desert Castles
Many of the desert castles found in Jordan were built between 650-750 during the time of the Umayyad Caliphate. This caliphate was defeated in 750 and when the capital was moved from Damascus to Baghdad, some were never finished. While not all of the castles were built during this time, typically the desert castles refer to the castles built during the Umayyad time (rather than the Crusader castles)
While it is not known exactly what all of these castles were for, it was thought that some were seasonal hunting residences for the aristocratic families. There is also recent archaeological evidence that these may have been agricultural estates or military forts. Due to their geographic distribution along trade routes, it is also thought they they may have served as a part of a caravanserai. Their locations could have also controlled the trade routes and controlled the movement of people and goods season by season. They would have been able to collect taxes as people moved along the trade routes or perhaps on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Most desert castles have a similar building style. They have an outside square structure, a hamam (bath house), mosque, water reservoir and agricultural enclosure (for animals or processing materials such as olive oil.
The interiors of the desert castles were lavishly decorated with floor mosaics and wall paintings, some are still visible today.
The majority of these desert castles are found in Jordan, but they also exist in Syria, Israel and the West Bank.
These desert castles are significant because they represent some of the earliest islamic art and architecture.
Jordan’s desert castles
- Qasr Ain es-Sil
- Qusayr Amra –
- Qasr al-Azraq –
- Qasr Bayir
- Qasr Burqu
- Qasr al-Hallabat –
- Qasr Kharana –
- Qasr Mshatta
- Qasr al-Mushash
- Qasr al-Muwaqqar
- Qasr al-Qastal
- Qasr at-Tuba
- Umayyad Palace (Located at Amman Citadel) –
- Umm al-Walid
- Khan al-Walid
Lindsay fell in love with Jordan when she first visited in 2016. She now goes back every year to explore more of this special place. Lindsay is also the owner of Amman Food Tours, a social enterprise that is women-owned and hires local female guides. This project provides meaningful employment for women in Amman.