Located about an hour east of Amman, Qasr Azraq is a desert fortress created by the Romans back in 300 AD, although the structure in its current form was built in 1237 by the Mamelukes. The exact location of Qasr Azraq (meaning Blue Fortress) in the center of the Azraq Oasis was chosen strategically; this area is the only water source for over 7,000 miles. One of the fortress’ striking features is its color – the local basalt gives it an atypical black hue, which is where it’s believed the fortress gets its name, as it can appear blueish at certain times. Flanking an expansive courtyard and mosque are long walls with inspiring towers, and the site’s huge door is a sight on its own; the structure is made completely of heavy stone (hinges included) and can be a challenge to open. The whole thing weighs three tons.
While the design is impressive, most visitors head to Qasr Azraq to learn about Thomas Edward Lawrence (also known as Lawrence of Arabia) and Sherif Hussain bin Ali, who stayed in the fortress during the winter of 1917 when the Arab Revolt against the Turks went on. Lawrence wrote about staying at Qasr Azrqa in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and more can be learned from the movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Visitors to the fortress can see the room he stayed in here.
There are no set visiting hours for Qasr Azraq, as Nader, the caretaker, is there to escort visitors inside as they arrive. The site doesn’t have much signage, so it’s worthwhile to hire Nader (a blood relative of someone who fought alongside Lawrence of Arabia) as a guide, which can be done for a small negotiable fee. There is also a restaurant at the site serving lunch and dinner.