Deseret Castle Around the black basalt desert east of Amman, Desert Castles stand as a testament to the early flourishing Arab-Islamic civilization. These pavilions, apparently isolated, caravan stations, bathrooms isolated, and hunting grounds, were both integrated agricultural or trading complexes, built mostly under the Umayyads (661-750 AD), when the Arab Muslims had succeeded in the transformation of the margins in the settlements and irrigation in the desert.
Besides being considered one of the most spectacular and original monuments of Islamic art in the first place, these complexes also served practical purposes: namely, as residences, caravanserais and baths.
In 661, the capital of the newly founded Arab-Muslim Empire moved from Medina and Kufa in the Hejaz and Iraq, respectively, in Damascus, the seat of the Umayyad dynasty. The years that followed the death of the founder of the dynasty, Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, was spent in overcoming the pretenders to the caliphate.
The last part of the reign of Marwan bin Abdulmalek (685-750), seems to have been exceptionally favorable interlude for the Umayyads. More firmly in the saddle, can detect a sudden release of talent and creativity that came with the construction of the first Islamic monuments in Jerusalem, the majestic dome of the Rock. The architectural program initiated by the Abdulmalek caliph, was continued and expanded by his son, Al-Walid, who built the great mosques of Damascus, Jerusalem and Medina.
In the following decades, the Umayyads dotted the desert of Jordan, with sumptuous palaces decorated with beautiful mosaic floors, frescoes and stucco sculptures. All this suggests that the Umayyads had found a modus vivendi with the Syrian civilization. The fact that many of these buildings were located in the desert of Jordan points to the paramount importance of the area. In fact, the incorporation of the area in the military district (Jund) of Damascus, whose governor was directly responsible for Damascus shows its vitality.
The Umayyad desert castles were initially considered as withdrawals in the desert (Badiyas) for Umayyad princes, who, being nomadic origins grew tired of city life with all its rigors and congested atmosphere. These castles were allowed to return to the desert, where their nomadic instincts could be best expressed, and where they could pursue their hobbies away from the watchful eye of a pious mind.
This theory, however, was challenged by the French scholar Jean Sauvaget. These buildings are located in irrigated agricultural lands and rich, which were often accompanied by several hydraulic structures and, therefore, he said, were centers of agricultural production. This was reflected in the Umayyad policy to expand agricultural land in marginal areas. However, another explanation and, more recently, the rationale behind these buildings is what we might call the architecture 'of diplomacy. "That is, maintaining close contacts with the tribes of the region, who were ardent supporters of the Umayyad.
It is also possible that some of these structures, like Qusayr Amra, Kharaneh and Mshash, served as resting places for high government officials on their way to Hejaz. This restricted and temporary use of these buildings may explain the scarcity of pottery shards from those sites. A combination of factors and coordinates therefore might have been involved in the construction of the Umayyad Desert Castles, and no single element is sufficient to explain them all.
Today, these lonely and evocative structures can be visited in a one-day trip from Amman, as modern paved roads have replaced the ancient desert tracks.
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