Qasr Amra earned itself UNESCO World Heritage site status in 1985 because of its famous frescoes, and it’s one of Jordan’s most renowned desert castles. Built near a wadi of pistachio trees during the reign of Walid I in around AD 711, restorations by a group of Spanish archaeologists in the 1970s unveiled floor-to-ceiling frescoes that caused the powers that be at UNESCO to describe the castle as a “masterpiece of human creative genius.”
Built from limestone and basalt, from the outside Qasr Amra doesn’t look particularly special. And then you enter. Greeted by frescoes of cherubs and hunters, nude women bathing, and all kinds of scenes of wine drinking, the racy images are a world away from typical Islamic art. Look up at the ceiling of Qasr Amra’s main dome to see an accurate painting of the zodiac, still remarkably well preserved after 12,000 years.
Fifty-three miles from Amman and 16 miles from Azraq on the north side of Hwy 40m, you can visit Qsar Amra by car or hire a taxi from Azraq. There’s an onsite visitor center where you can collect your ticket, which costs JD 2 and which is valid also for the desert castles Qsar al-Azraq and Qsar Kharana. Qsar Amra is open 8am-6pm from May to September, and from 8am-4pm October to April.