Qasr Amra

A harmonious little stone-built complex in Wadi Butm,named after the Butm,or terebinth trees,which grow here. Inside the walls are covered with vivid frescoes,parts of which-considering their neglect for so many centuries, the smoke from bedouins fires,and human graffiti-are still in passably good condition.

It is thought that this little group of buildings may be all what's left of a larger complex,which probably included a fortress and living quarters.Today there is an audience hall of three parallel barrel-vaults,with an alcove and two small rooms off it;and a bath house of three rooms,including a calidarium covered with a dome,and with under-floor hypocaust heating.It is thought to be built by the Caliph Walid I around 711.

The frescoes are of exceptional interest,not only for their cheerful naturalism,but for their very existance.The first inconoclast edict was by Caliph Yazid II(720-24),ordering all human pictures to be destroyed.Happily these frescoes escaped.Back then the paintings showed hunting scenes,goddesses of Poetry,Philosophy and History; musicians,dancers,and women and children bathers,in varying states without any clothes on;and four figures of the enemies of Islam conquered by Walid I-the Byzantine Emperor,the Sassanian Emperor,the Visigoth King of Spain and the Negus of Abyssinia.

The most remarkable fresco is that in the little dome of the calidarium,for it's a very early representation of the night sky in the round instead of on a flat surface.The Great Bear,the Little Bear,Andromeda,Cassiopeia and Orion are still distinguishable-but the artist seems to have been copying from a drawing which he has transposed in mirror-image,reversing the relationships of all the constellations.
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