Thursday, May 8, 2008

Jordan Desert Castles - Qasr al-Hallabat

The picture to the left was taken by Francesca Radcliffe who has done a lot of aerial photography in Jordan alongside David Kennedy. I know that most of you won't know who these people are - but since I am using their photo, I figure I should at least give them credit for the work they have done.

Ok, so back to Qasr al-Hallabat. I chose to lead off with this picture because it gives you a good idea of the scale and shape of this castle. As you can see, there have been significant reconstruction efforts on the go (the crane to the left of the structure is a dead give away. I don't know when this picture was taken, but it must be fairly recent as my own recollections of Hallabat back in 2000 was that the restoration hadn't really begun. Checking with Radcliffe's website ( it seems as if this picture dates to October 2006, so that confirms my theory.

Just like many of the other "castles" in the area - this site has a fairly long history dating back to the Nabatean period. The shape of the "castle" (with four very pronounced corner towers) is attributable to the Romans. Again, another fort along the eastern fronteir of the Roman Empire. It was originally constructed in the 2nd C. AD. during the reign of Caracalla (if you get a chance - visit his bath complex in Rome - pretty impressive) to guard the Via Nova Traiana - the road that connected Damascus and Aqaba.

After the so-called "fall" of the Roman Empire, it seems that the fort was refurbished by the Byzantines in the 5th/6th C. and functioned as a monestary - eventually abandoning it around 614. Once again - along comes the Umayyad Caliphs who essentially "pimp" the place up to function as another one of their "pleasure palaces". They added frescoes (only the plaster backing of these remains in fragments on the walls), mosaics, friezes, etc. The "bling" may be gone, but you can still get a sense of just how impressive the Umayyad Caliphs could be in terms of interior decorating. In fact, it gives me an idea for a new TV show on HGTV - "Interior Decorating, Ancient World Style"....think it would fly?


Unknown said...

I would watch that show for sure. They could surprise homeowners with a home-makeover.. with an ancient twist! Think of the possibilities..

Off topic: I think you would be an amazing person to travel with. You are like a walking encyclopedia of interesting facts about all sorts of things.

Andrew J. Graham said...

Well - if you know anybody in television, let me know! As for travel - if you can get beyond my snoring.... ;)


(2008) Please do not use any of the images on this site without my permission first.


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