The eastern desert of Jordan is a bleak, forbidding place, filled with basalt, sand, and sky. During Roman times, Septimius Severus and Diocletian built a network of forts here, called the limes arabicus, to protect the eastern border of their new province. While many fell into disrepair, some were later restored by the Umayyads, and added to, to create their own settlements in the desert.
Each building seems to have had its own role, whether as a hunting lodge, caravanserai, or meeting hall, designed to maintain ties with the local Bedouin. A Hungarian Arabist, Alois Musil, "rediscovered" Qasayr Amra and Qasr Tuba in 1898. Although the ruins of several are open to the public, three of them, Qasr Kharana, Qasayr Amra, and Qasr Azraq are special, due to the restoration of the site or because of their history.
The Ummayad Castles are a wonderful reason to visit the eastern desert. Whether used for defense or relaxation, they give a glimpse into a world few were privileged to see. The tall walls of Kharana, the frescoes of Amra, and the historical associations of Azraq make this journey rich and rewarding.