Azraq Oasis

The Oasis of Azraq,80km east of Amman,lies in a vast shallow basin where the black basalt desert meet the head of the Wadi Sirhan,which stretches south-east into Saudia Arabia.Millions of years ago it was covered by sea;a mere one million ago there was a vast lake here:then fertile plains brimming with animals and birds.Today it is desert, with an oasis of swamps and pools and palm trees at its heart.

Until recently Azraq was astonishingly rich in migrant birds of every kind,on their way between Europe and Africa- now both swamps and birds have diminished dramatically and water is being pumped in vast quantities to supply Amman. The Jordanian Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature has created the Azraq Wetlands Reserve and is working to redeem the situation;it also established the nearby Shaumari Wildlife Reserve in 1967,the first in Jordan,whose greatest success so far has been the reintroduction of the Arabian Oryx into its natural habitat.

Azraq's abundant water attracted the Romans who,possibly under Septimius Severus(AD 193-211), established here the eastern military outpost of their Province of Arabia.In the basalt castle an inscription was found dedicating it to the Emperor Diocletian and Maximian,probably around AD 300.Roman doorways-like those of the main entrance-still turn on pivots made in one piece with the door itself,which fit into sockets cut into the threshold and lintel.Azraq continued as a military outpost under the Byzantines.

The Umayyad Caliphs of the seventh to eighth centuries,enthusiatic hunters as they were,used the fortress for their expeditions in pursuit of the thronging wildlife in and around the maeshes.It must have been neglected after the Abbasid removal to Baghdad,for in the early thirteenth century the Ayyubid governor,Azz al-Din Aybak,rebuilt it- again for military purposes-recording his work in an Arabic inscription above the main doorway.The Ottomans also established a garrison here after their conquest in 1516.
 Map page
 Home page