Quseir ‘Amra is the most well-known of Jordan’s eastern desert castles. A UNESCO world heritage site, it is noteworthy for its stunning frescos and is often included in tours of Jordan.
Originally constructed in the early 8th century under the Umayyad caliphate, Quseir ‘Amra was both a fortress and luxury retreat. For the city-dwelling princes of the caliphate, this was a place to get in touch with their desert routes, without straying too far from the arterial ancient trade routes connecting Syria and Arabia. Whilst the garrison no longer remains, the abandoned bathhouse was rediscovered in 1898 by Austro-Hungarian explorer Alois Musil. Sadly, however, despite dedicating the time to learning thirty-five dialects of Arabic, his cultural respect did not extend to the site itself. The Painting of the Six Kings was severely damaged in his attempt at removing it.
Popularised in the west by the drawings of artist Alphons Mielich, the frescos were restored by a Spanish team in the late 1970s. This preceded the designation of Quseir ‘Amra as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 thanks to its significance as one of the best-preserved examples of early Islamic art in existence.
What remains of the palace today is a collection of chambers adorned with the aforementioned murals. Likely to have been commissioned by Caliph al-Walid I, al-Walid II or Yazid III, the most notable of these is the Painting of the Six Kings. Although damaged, the fresco portrays the rulers of Byzantium, Hispania, Sasania, Ethiopia alongside two others. Whilst unclear, the remaining leaders have often been speculated to be a Turkic leader, the emperor of China, or an Indian ruler. Alongside the Kings is a painting of a woman with the inscription “Nikh” (Nike (Victory)) above her. This has been interpreted to have been intended to suggest the Ummayad Caliph’s victory over his rivals.
Painted onto the hemispherical ceiling of the caldarium (hot bath) is another significant fresco. Depicting the zodiac, it is the oldest such portrayal on anything but a flat surface. What is otherwise a remarkably accurate illustration does however have one flaw. The stars are ordered counterclockwise, indicating the mural was copied from an image on a flat surface.
The frescos of the six kings and the zodiac are two of the most well-known paintings in Qaseir ‘Amra, but there remain many more for tourists to discover. To get the most out of your time, we highly recommend taking a guided tour. At Jordan Select Tours we have over twenty years of experience creating custom tours of Jordan that exceed expectations. We are a leading Jordan Tour operator and work within a sustainable framework. We can’t wait to meet you soon.
Ticket Window Opening Hours:
Winter: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Summer: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Site Closing Hours:
Winter: 5:00 PM
Summer: 6:00 PM
Not accessible for the disabled.