The small but impressive Qasr Al Abad, west of Amman, is one of the very few examples of pre-Roman construction in Jordan. Mystery surrounds the palace, and even its precise age isn’t known, though most scholars believe that Hyrcanus of the powerful Jewish Tobiad family built it sometime between 187 and 175 BC as a villa or fortified palace. Although never completed, much of the palace has been reconstructed, and remains an impressive site.
The palace was built from some of the biggest blocks of any ancient structure in the Middle East – the largest is 7m by 3m. The blocks were, however, only 20cm or so thick, making the whole edifice quite flimsy, and susceptible to the earthquake that flattened it in AD 362. Today, the setting and the animal carvings on the exterior walls are the highlights. Look for the carved panther fountain on the ground floor, the eroded eagles on the corners and the lioness with cubs on the upper storey of the back side. The gatekeeper will open the interior, as well as a small museum (which includes drawings of what the complex once looked like) for a tip of JD2. If he’s not around, ask for the miftah (key) at the small shop near the gate.
Qasr Al Abad is best visited by private transport. It's on the outskirts of Iraq Al Amir village, about 10km west of Wadi As Seer, which is served by minibus from Amman's Muhajireen Bus Station. There are only occasional minibuses between Iraq Al Amir and Wadi As Seer.