Qasr Deir Al Kahf

Castle in Eastern Desert

Built in the 4th century, the ‘Monastery of Caves’ is a purpose-built Roman fort that primarily served as a sentry post. Like its famous neighbour Umm Al Jimal, Deir Al Kahf is also constructed of black basalt, though the scattered ruins here are not nearly as extensive. There is an access road north of Hwy 10, or look for the signs along the back roads east of Umm Al Jimal.

One of the highlights of Qasr Deir is approaching it along the back roads that lead for 30km or so from Umm Al Jimal. Several Druze settlements dot the way with traditional basalt buildings still in use and small farms with active dovecotes staving off the northern reaches of the Eastern Desert.

The change in scenery is quite dramatic from here as the last of the irrigated farms are left behind on the rolling high ground, replaced by occasional Bedouin tents and herds of livestock. By the time you reach Hwy 10, the dust devils take over the plains, and the land extends as far as the eye can see in an uninterrupted flat disc of nothingness.

There’s no reliable public transport to make a day trip from Amman or Irbid via Mafraq feasible. By car, the easiest way to be sure you are on the right road is to return to Hwy 10 and turn north at Salihiyyah. After around 5km, veer right at the intersection with the road from Umm Al Jimal. There are intermittent signposts to Deir Al Kahf or follow your nose east for a further 25km, running parallel to the Syrian border. The fort is behind a police station. An access road leads for 10km south of the ruins to Al Bishriyya on the Eastern Desert Highway.