Azraq Castle is about 100 kms east of Amman and is in the middle of an oasis. Azraq means 'the blue one' and was on the old trade routes, even Lawrence of Arabia used the castle as his headquarters during his time there. The wetlands area is set up as a nature reserve as well as the Shaumari reserve which is 10 kms south of the town. When you enter the castle observe the huge wooden doors and well worn floor.
Well, that's not quite true!
The Romans were here 'first' ----there was plenty of water (oasis) nearby.
Then, in 1917, Lawrence was here. he called it the blue fort ----the almost black stone from which some of the fort is made probably look blue when wet ----as do Staffordshire blue bricks in UK!
You can see the room in which Lawrence stayed, push open the huge door-stone (basalt?), walk through the tower and into a large courtyard. Notice the indentations on a paving brick as you leave the tower to enter the courtyard ---it is for a gambling game. I've seen this same game at Karak (Jordan) and Krak des Chevalier (Syria).
There is so much to see here!
Enjoy the mosque and the small museum too!
Would I return? If I were in the area...yes.
The castle sits guarding an extremely stragegic point in Jordan. It's close to the borders of Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia, but more importantly for such an arid region, it sits atop the Azraq Oasis, the only permanent source of freshwater in over 12,000 km of parched desert.
The Romans built the first fortress. The Mamelukes turned it into its current state in the 13th century, adding a mosque in the middle of the courtyard. The Ottomans took it over and garrisoned units there in 16th century, before Lawrence of Arabia took it over during the Great Arab Revolt.
Lawrence holed up in a room above the gate for the winter, and Nader offered to let me stay there the night for a small fee, including all the firewood I could burn, and as much food as I could eat.
Nader charges a fee for his services, which is negotiable. He asked for 4JD and I gave him 5, but I'm sure you could negotiate much less if you are really mean spirited. Personally I thought it was worth half an hour of his eloquent and informative time.
When you walk around in Azraq Wetland Reserve you should follow the trails and not enter the tunnels in the reeds. The tunnels are made by water buffalos and they are not always happy to meet an intruder. Well, we didn’t see any water buffalos while we were there and not many birds either, but then we were not there in the right season. Visiting a day in July, when water levels are low and the sun hot you can’t expect to see much, but it is a nice feeling walking around and see the blue and green, knowing it is desert around.
Azraq Wetland Reserve contains a large mudflat, pools and marshlands just in the middle of the Eastern Desert of Jordan. The wetland has suffered big ecological damage as water levels decreased when more and more drinking water was pumped to Amman. Now the wetlands, or at least a part of the original wetland, is being restored.
This is a place where you can see lots of birds when they are migrating between Africa and Europe.
We started our visit at the Visitor Centre where you buy the tickets. At the Visitor Centre there is a nature shop with gifts made locally. From the Visitor Centre it is easy to walk around on the wooden trail.
Qasr Azraq is built in black basalt and was originally constructed by the Romans (about 300 AD). Through the years it was then renovated several times. During the Umayyad period it was used by al-Walid II as a military base and for hunting. In 1917 TE Lawrence and Sherif Hussain bin Ali based themselves at Qasr Azraq for a few months during the Arab revolt against the Turks. Already then it was in ruins, but in an earthquake 1927 it collapsed even more.
As you enter through the main entrance you will have Lawrence’s Room above you. There is a big courtyard where there is a mosque from the Ayyubid Period. Around in the castle are ruins of towers, a prison, a kitchen, a stall etc.
In July 2005 there was no entrance fee to visit the castle.
I visited Azraq as part of a tour (only transport) organised from Farah Hotel in Amman. We were three people in the car sharing the price and I paid 13 JD. The places we visited were Qasr Kharana, Qusayr Amra, Qasr al-Azraq and the Wetland Reserve, Hammam Sarah and Qasr al-Hallabat.
We had lunch in Azraq and the driver told us about a restaurant were tours could have lunch (and it was cheaper if we came from Farah Hotel, 3,5 JD), but we preferred to have a falafel at a caf?. They were very tasty and was 250 fils. We asked if it was possible to visit the Wetland Reserve (it was not in the original plan) and the driver was happy because then he could go to the mosque after letting us off at the Visitor Centre.
In some books it is known as the "Blue Castle" because of the dark blue colors and flashes that come from the basaltic stone. It was use as a defense fortress against foreign invassions. There have been different castles or fortress during different periods, in fact, recent excavations have shown roman inscriptions from the third century. The monolitic door at the entrace, really heavy, is one of the most interesting features of the castle. And also, the fact that Lawrence of Arabia set up here is headquarters during the revolution against the turks.
On the north-east side of the castle there is a well that untill 20 years ago had got the water. On the north-west side of the castle there are the prison. Here you can see the original roof of the castle made with flat black stone.
When you arrive to this castle the first thing that you can notice is its black colour. The castle is built with black basalto and it has got three floors. The main entrance is a unique stone of basalto.
T.E.Lawrence said in his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom that this door was closing with such a rumble and a blow which were the west wall of the castle quiver.
Many Greeek and latin inscription said that this castle was dedicated to Roman emperors Diocleziano and Massimiano. It was built between the 286 and 305 AD and it was called Dasianiss. This fortrees was very important because it was built along one of the main streets that go to Syria. But very important was also the water of the oasis of Al-Azraq.
In the 1236 the castle was restored by Iss ad.Din Abdul Mansur Aybak, king of Salkhad (Syria).
In the winter 1917 T.E. Lawrence and Sherif Hussein located in the castle their generale quarter, during the Arab revolution again Turkish. The earthquake of the 1927 crashed some buildings.
In the towar along the northern wall there is a big basalt door, one of the three bog door built by Romans 2000 years ago!!!
In the Northern area of the castle there were the residential buildings. Here you can recognize (but it is not easy!!) the kitchen, the dining room and the stores.
In the middle of the courtyard of the castle there is the mosque. It was built in the 13th century over the ruins of a Byzantine Church.
Upper the tower of the main entrance there is the room of T.E.Lawrence. In front of the entrance there is a small altar built by Roman in the third century AD.