Qasr al Hallabat
|Time zone||UTC + 2|
Qasr al Hallabat is a town in the Zarqa Governorate of north-western Jordan, north-east of the capital of Amman. The town is named after the Umayyad desert castle located there. To the east of the castle stands the associated bath house of Hammam as-Sarah.
During the Umayyad dynasty, nobles and wealthy families erected small castles in semi-arid regions to serve as their country estates or hunting lodges. For the Ummayad aristocracy, hunting was a favoured pastime and these desert castles became important places of relaxation and entertainment. In Arabic, these desert castles are known as qusur (pl.)/qasr (sing.). They were often built close to a water source or adjacent such as a natural oasis, and frequently sited along important trading routes, such as the ancient trade routes connecting Damascus with Medina and Kufa. Qasr Burqu' is one of the earliest examples of a desert castle.
The construction of a qasr typically followed a standard template; the main castle was a rectangular stone structure with an elaborate entrance and other buildings in the complex would include a hammam (bath house), a mosque and walled enclosures for animals. The complex also included a water reservoir or dam.  The interior rooms of the main castle were ornately decorated with floor-mosaics, frescoes or wall paintings featuring designs that exhibit both eastern and western influences. Most of the desert palaces were abandoned after the Umayyads fell from power in 750, leaving many projects incompleted and others were left to erode.
The ruins of these desert castles can be found across the Middle East. While the majority of qasr are situated in modern day Jordan, several qsar are located in Syria, the West Bank and Israel, either in cities (Jerusalem, Ramla), in relatively green areas (Al-Sinnabra, Khirbat al-Minya), or indeed in the desert (Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi and Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi, Jabal Sais, Hisham's Palace). 
The complex of Qasr al-Hallabat is located in Jordan's eastern desert. Originally a Roman fortress constructed under Emperor Caracalla to protect its inhabitants from Bedouin tribes, this site dates to the second and third century AD, although there is trace evidence of Nabatean presence at the site. It was one fort of many on the Roman highway, Via Nova Traiana, a route that connected Damascus to Aila (modern-day Aqaba) by way of Petra and Philadelphia (modern-day Amman). However, by the eighth century, the Umayyad caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik ordered the Roman structures to be demolished in order to redevelop this military site and its neighboring territory to become one of the grandest of all Umayyad desert complexes.
Guided by the extant plan, he incorporated a mosque (found 15 meters from the southeast of the main structure), a complicated water system including five cisterns and a considerably large water reservoir, and a bathhouse. Furthermore, situated to the west of the palace remains an enclosed structure probably used for agricultural purposes such as cultivating olive trees and/or grapevines. While only a one-layered stone footprint of the agricultural structure is still standing, three wall sections of the mosque, including the mihrab in the southern wall, remain intact. The main palace is constructed of black basalt and limestone and has a square floor plan with towers at each corner. Grand in stature, the principal structures were further enhanced with decorative mosaics depicting an assortment of animals, detailed frescoes and highly crafted stucco carvings. The site remains to be completely restored.
Approximately 1400 meters east of the palace stand the remains of the mosque at Qusayr al-Hallabat.[dubious ] Small in scale, it measures 10.70 by 11.80 meters and is constructed of layered limestone. Inside, two arching riwaqs divide the mosque into three sections. A rounded molding extends the perimeter of the space at the height of 2.10 meters. Similar to Qusayr 'Amra and Hammam as-Sarah, three tunnel vaults support the roof of the structure. Encircling the mosque from the north, west, and east stood a 3.30-meter wide portico.
The nearby modern town of Qasr Al-Hallabat is a municipality consisting of four villages. The area is inhabited by the Bani Sakhr tribe, especially the Al-Othman family.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Qasr Al-Hallabat.|
- Archnet entry for Qasr al Hallabat and Qasr as Sarah
- A history of the excavation of Qasr al Hallabat
- Maplandia world gazetteer
- Petersen, A, Dictionary of Islamic Architecture, Routledge, 2002, p. 239; Meyers, E.M. (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, Volume 5, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 241
- Khouri, R.G., The Desert Castles: A Brief Guide to the Antiquities, Al Kutba, 1988. pp 4-5
- Ettinghausen, R., Grabar, O. and Jenkins, M., Islamic Art and Architecture p 650, Online:
- Petersen, A., Dictionary of Islamic Architecture, Routledge, 2002, p. 296 ISBN 978-0-203-20387-3
- Teller, M., Jordan,Rough Guides, 2002 p. 200