Qasr al-Mushatta information
Of the five major desert castles, the ‘winter palace’ of Qasral-Mushatta is the most time-consuming to reach, and thus usually not part of most organised tours. But this is not to say that recently-reconstructed Mushatta is located in the middle of nowhere – on the contrary, it’s the closest of the desert castles to Amman. In fact, the ruins may be the last thing you see in the country as they’re located right next to Queen Alia International Airport.
If you ignore the occasional sound of jumbo jets soaring over head, the extensive ruins hint at the vast potential of the caliph’s grand vision. Many pieces have disappeared over the years, ending up in museums around the world. The elaborate carving on the facade was shipped off to Berlin (it’s now in the Pergamon Museum) after the palace was ‘given’ to Kaiser Wilhelm in 1903 by Sultan Abd al-Hamid of Turkey. Mushatta was also partially destroyed by earthquakes, and most of the columns and watchtowers have long since collapsed. However, the huge exterior wall and carved facades still hint at the original grandeur and beauty of the site.
Right of the entrance are the ruins of a mosque, with its obviously rebuilt mihrab (niche in mosque, indicating direction of Mecca). The northern sections have the remains of a vaulted audience hall and residences. Segmented pillars lie scattered around like broken vertebrae. One unusual feature of the site is that the vaults were made from burnt bricks (an uncommon material in buildings of this style) rather than black basalt. And of course, be sure not to miss the ancient toilets (complete with drains), which are located at the back of the hall.