Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Jordan Desert Castles - Qasr al-Mushatta

While not exactly on the Desert Castle "loop" (the site is located approximately 30km south of Amman - just beside the Airport), Qasr al-Mushatta is was perhaps one of the most beautiful in terms of architectural style and decoration. This was one of the largest Umayyad palaces constructed in Jordan and as you can see from the plan - rather symmetrical. Construction on the palace began around 743 CE by Walid II. Even though the palace was never completed, it was impressive nevertheless. There are a total of 25 semi-circular towers built into the Palace enclosure. Much of the surrounding facade was built of fired bricks that have a definate "orange" colour to them - making the whole structure stand out against the desert landscape.

Looking at these pictures you can get a sense of what travellers (people like Gertrude Bell) saw at the site back in the 18th 19th C. when visiting the site. Unfortunately if you visit the site today you won't see the beautiful carvings as most of the more ornate and preserved ones were sent to Berlin at the turn of the century - a gift from the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid to Kaiser Wilhelm. While I have actually never been to Mushatta, I have had the opportunity to see the carvings in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The Germans should be commended in how they have presented these remains in a Museum setting - you can certainly appreceiate their beauty, however - your sense of scale is distorted since they have been taken out of their original context. I don't want to engage in the debate regarding the exporting of antiquities and their return to countries of origin - many of you have varied opinions on this subject and its a rather sensitive one. The Mushatta carvings are but one example of this phenomenon - others (like the Eligin Marbles) are equally complex and sensitive situations. Nuff said!

Since this is a site I have never been to I hope I get a chance to see it in a few weeks.

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