Similarities in Umayyad Desert Palaces


Sparkling on the desert mist, they ascend like the distant illusion to mock, ethereal buildings, challenging someone to look at them again. Is that actually a four square palace, towered and equipped, rising from the desert? Why is a brick building in the midst of the desert? And why does it have decorated baths? The buildings are not illusion. The castles and the baths together referred to as Umayyad desert palaces are real. Their construction took place at around the eighth century and the Muslims specifically the Umayyad rulers were responsible for the architecture and designs. Additionally, the palaces served as places where the princes and the noble men conducted their retreats.

However, a recent research has revised the way the historians understand these palaces thus invigorating appreciation of Umayyad arts and skills that enabled the architectures to exploit the desert water sources. On the contrary, another research revealed that Umayyad palaces were not absolutely Umayyad and they did not subsist in the desert environment and were never true palaces at all. There are approximately twelve Umayyad sites today, most are reachable from Amman. The Umayyad sites with widespread residue are the baths of Qasr Amra (Jordan) that are filled with frescos, the fragmentary brick palace found at Mshatta, the Khirbat al-Mafjar (Palestine) palace, fortress like Qasr al-Hayr East and West (Syria) palace and widespread agricultural activities at Anjar ( Lebanon). All these sites are remote but exiting to visit. Although the Umayyad desert palaces have some differences, they also have similarities in terms of the plan, the layout, the location, the architectural elements, the decorations and the people’s lifestyle.

The Plans of the Umayyad desert palaces

The Umayyad desert palaces conformed to distinct types and they had central features that enclosed approximately seventy meters. Additionally, each Umayyad unit had multiple Roman feet fortified with bastions arranged at intervals with entrance gateway that was projecting at the center of one of the sides (Allen, p. 23). This entrance led into a hall that opened into a courtyard that had arcades. Furthermore, the arcades were on double tiers and other tiers surrounded the arcades. Besides, behind the arcades, there were diminutive, dark rooms that were for storing food and raw materials for artwork (Talgam, p. 125). Additionally, in the palaces with two storeys, ground floors served as the habitats of rulers together with their families. Moreover, the out spills found in Umayyad palaces explain the enunciation on courtyards (gardens. Finally, detailed similarities of the ummayad desert palaces in term of the plans are as discussed bellow.

Qasr al-Hayr east and west was a complex palace that contained underground water, dams, gardens, lakes, mills and residence. The people at the palace referred to the dam as Kharbaqa and it was approximately sixteen kilometers on the southwest of that palace (Lapidus, p. 60). Moreover, the dam’s waters streamed through a canal that was underground into both the palace and other facilities that were on the site. On the other hand, the garden was a rectangular field measuring one thousand meters by four hundred meters and it had the canal remains together with traces of custodian habitats. Furthermore, the location of the Khan was around ten kilometers northwest of the habitat of the palace. Additionally, the shape of the Khan was a square of sides measuring approximately fifty five meters long (Talgam, p. 158). Furthermore, the walls were made of mud bricks while the floor was composed of masonry base. Moreover, the Hamman was on the west and had two sections that were fridigarium that had four rooms and calidarium that had three chambers and was over the furnace. The palace had an exterior frontage that was entirely decorative (Lambton, p. 287). The frontage was square with sides of around seventy meters long and had limestone arranged up to a height of approximately two meters followed by unfired bricks. Moreover, three of the exterior corners had towers that were circular while the corner at the northwest had square tower. Besides, there were two semi circular towers between the corners while the eastern wall had two towers closely spaced so that the main entrance had a border (Lambton, p. 234). Finally, the entrance of the palace had a corridor leading to a portico that surrounded a central courtyard. Additionally, the palace had two storeys that were identical in the layout. Furthermore, the staircases of the storeys composed of functional sections that included the hall, the lavatory and other rooms. Moreover, each entrance of the palace had arched windows above them that had pierced stucco to facilitate lighting of the palace (Toueir, p. 693).

Khirbat al-Mafjar was a desert palace suggestive of Umayyad edifices erected in the great Syrian territory with left over of the civic architectures of that time. It contained a residence, a bath and a mosque (Lambton, p. 175). It had an outer wall with punctuated towers that were circular located at standard intervals that encircled the building. Additionally, the palace together with the bath ware supplied by a spring that was approximately eight kilometers away. Moreover, on the south of the palace wall, an entrance projected towards the courtyard that was paved with the mosaics. Furthermore, at the center of the courtyard was a building that was in form of a square fountain and it had square pavilion on the two levels (Lapidus, p. 52). Additionally, a domed shaped building with octagonal epistyle surrounded the courtyard. Besides, the doom shaped building was similar to the Byzantine architecture. Moreover, the courtyard had an entrance that was broad on the south leading through the vestibule endowed with stones to the desert palace which was a square edifice arranged around the colonnaded courtyard surrounded by a pair of storey (Toueir 674). On the opposite side of the entrance, a reception hall paved way to the summer room that occupied both the east and the west wings. Furthermore, a mosque containing the remnants of square minaret was on the south while the north contained stables. Although the entire building had sculptures and paintings, the entrance was elaborate and it had decorations of bands, flora and designs of the animals (Talgam, p. 163). Additionally, the architectures constructed the mosque in a similar manner as the mosque of the Mshatta and Qasr Amra. On the other hand, the baths of the palace were on the west and organized according to a Roman model. This organization was similar to the palace of Qasr al-Hayr East and West.

Anjar palace was never completed and excavations revealed a city that was fortified and surrounded by flanked walls of about forty towers with inscriptions of the Romans and Islam still in situ. Moreover, the walls were rectangles with the sides measuring four hundred meters by three fifty meters (Toueir, p. 432). Besides, the walls were two meters thick and constructed from mud with the exterior faces of bigger blocks and interior faces of smaller blocks. Moreover, the interior had three stairways leading to the wall top where the guards whose function was to protect the town resided. Additionally, the palace had a north and a west axis that flanked with porticos. Furthermore, both the north and the west axis superimposed on the sewer and divided the palace into four quadrants (Lambton, p. 200). As a result, buildings at the palace were on strict plan as follows: The main palace and the mosque were in the south east of the quadrant, the remaining palace and the baths in the northeast and west quadrant while streets were on the south west of the quadrant.

Qasr Amra was not interesting because it had only the remains of bath houses and limestone structures with no carvings that were found on other Umayyad deserts palaces like the Qasr al-Hayr East and West and the Mshatta (Lambton, p. 975). Nevertheless, the paintings decorated the baths. For instance, the baths had pictures of people hunting, fighting or gathering fruits and flowers. Moreover, the walls and the ceilings had paintings of charming birds and animals.

Mshatta consisted of a square enclosure of four semi circular towers. Besides, bathhouses together with stone carvings of plants and animals were outside the enclosure. On the other hand, the interior of the Mshatta palace had three compartments that included the entrance, the courtyard and the audience hall (Ruggles, p. 1539). Furthermore, the area on the inside of the entrance had foundations that marked the room positions in a symmetrically central axis. For instance, the courtyard opened towards a pond that was rectangular and consisted of three iwans. The central iwan led to the audience hall while the iwans at the sides led to the housing units (Lambton 647). Besides, the architectures used brick domes in the construction of the spectators’ hall, the vaults and the palace layout. Nevertheless, Byzantine elements were also in the room and the motifs of stonework were prevalent in most parts of the building. This was similar to Khirbat al-Mafjar palace whose building plan was adapted from the Byzantine architectures.

The layout

The baths and the entrance gates, which most palaces had, required close examination because through them people were able to find some principle life features of the Umayyad court. Therefore, the type of the bath presented the most complicated problem and as a result, the classification of the baths was based on their location at the Umayyad site (Ruggles, p. 349). For instance, the ones at Anjar and Qasr al-Hayr west and east were tremendously large but plain. Consequently, they did not qualify for royal functions exercises because they did not have the required decorations. On the other hand, Khirbat al-Mafjar and Anjar had smaller and underground baths that were not good enough for royal festivals. Moreover, Qasr Amra had two baths, which had varieties of use like bathing, hunting, banqueting and holding ceremonial functions (Lambton, p. 65). Additionally, the bath at Khirbat al-Mafjar and Mshatta were multipurpose although their construction was with consummately greater care. For instance, they had lavish sittings, extensive latrines, entrances that were both public and private and mosaic floors. On the other hand, the floors at Anjar, Qasr Amra and Khirbat al-Mafjar were also mosaic but those palaces were not multifunctional (Lambton, p. 78).

Additionally, the layouts of the baths were in such a way that they determined their functions. To begin with, the baths at Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr east functioned as places for formal meetings because they were spacious and as a result, al-Wald I gave consultations there. On the contrary, the baths at Mshatta, Qasr Amra and Khirbat al-Mafjar were associated with al-Wald II who also gave consultations there (Lambton, p. 134). Additionally, both the baths at Mshatta and Qasr al-Hayr East and West were outside the palaces. Nevertheless, the monarch opted to stay in Qasr al-Hayr East and West and was the patron of the building. On the other hand, the patrons of Mshatta and Qasr al-Hayr East and West were the ones who proposed the location of the baths outside the palaces. This was because they thought it was imperative to emphasize the chamber of their audiences through processional tracts that were formal and incorporates empty spaces rather than jeopardizing the effectiveness of the entire layout via stuffing other utilities into the empty space (Ruggles, p. 1642).

Although Mshatta bath and Anjar bath began losing their importance, the baths found at Qasr Amra and Khirbat al-Mafjar remained places for royal ceremonies and functions. On the other hand, the official axial progression lied beneath the layout of baths at Khirbat al-Mafjar and Mshatta and processions that were formal linked them (Ruggles, p. 745). Additionally, the baths at Qasr Amra and Anjar also represented formal carryings because official al-wad II activities took place there (Ruggle, p.s 700).

The Umayyad desert palaces entrances presented problems with palatial architecture because their degrees of the elaboration varied significantly. For instance, the gateways of the later palaces were more elaborate than the earlier palaces (Lambton, p. 76). Additionally, the gates of the Khirbat al-Mafjar, Qasr Amra and Qasr al-Hayr East and West were elaborate while for the other desert palaces like Anjar and Mshatta were not (Ruggles, p. 800). Besides, the sitting was also a contributing factor to the controversy because the residences that were official in the palaces of Anjar and Qasr al-Hayr East were conspicuously modest than palaces in the open countries. On the other hand, Khirbat al-Mafjar had more than three gates but the ones on the bath were mainly elaborate because of the ceremonies that usually took place in that establishment.

Additionally, the type of decorations at the Umayyad desert palaces gates presented a problem because they were strangely non-classical in the view of the architectural decorations of the Umayyad. For example, the triumphal arch of the Romans influenced these palaces because of their iconographic selection (Toueir, p. 562). On the contrary, themes of religion, military display and victory were absent. Furthermore, It was easier to isolate foreign motifs in the Umayyad palaces but difficult to determine if the threads ran through the assorted iconography (Ruggles 234). Additionally, the Umayyad gateways intended to glorify the caliphs who erected them and for that reason, their constructions were under the traditional art of Byzantium and the Sasanian Persia. Finally, the desert palaces of Qasr al-Hayr and Qasr Amra had their gates ape most of their decorations from the Romans. On the other hand, the Umayyad desert palaces of Mshatta, Anjar and Khirbat al-Mafjar had decorations on their gates that had some influence from the Byzantium and Sasanian Persia.

Although the Umayyad palaces gateways had the same features, typical gateways that had all the characteristics of Umayyad palaces gateways were found at Qasr al-Hayr West and Khirbat al-Mafjar. These gates had ornaments that were crammed with monumental ensembles and extravagantly sham fortifications that were build on the Ludwig II of the Bavaria (Lambton, p. 384). Additionally, they had integrated various visual images that were thematically unrelated. For instance, the caliphs that were above the door were images that were straightforward yet the façades had figurative figures like a goddess bearing doves on one hand. However, the closed baths entrances at Qasr Amra and Mshatta appeared as if they were cautiously organized and they resembled the triumphal arch when one looked at them from a distance. On the contrary, that appearance varnished on a nearer inspection because the area had dense plant ornaments (Ruggles, p. 1563).

The Umayyad palaces had numerous arrangements for receiving visitors and caring for them. For instance, Mshatta and Khirbat al-Mafjar had entrances vestibules particularly designed for people waiting to go inside the palaces. On the other hand, Anjar and Qasr Amra had halls with curtains opposite the entrances where visitors waited. Moreover, the servants opened or closed the curtains periodically and behind the curtains were caliphs sitting (Walledid, p. 28). These layouts suggested that Khirbat al-Mafjar, Qasr al-Hayr East and West, Anjar and Qasr Amra had special rooms where the caliph on the throne were in deep niche that were opposite the palaces entrance. Additionally, Khirbat al-Mafjar and Mshatta had rooms that were reserved for princes and their entrances had curtains (Walledid, p. 27). Besides, the visitors’ room of Qasr Amra was tiny because the palace did not have enough space.

The Architectural elements

After the 750 revolution against Umayyads, most of the Umayyad monuments that survived were in Qasr al-Hayr East and West and Khirbat al-Mafjar where the dynasty drove its support. Because the Arabs ruled from Qasr al-Hayr East and West and Khirbat al-Mafjar, the Umayyad people adopted their methods of building and even took some Roman buildings without modifications (Aldershot, p. 27). Furthermore, the people of the Umayyad desert palaces obtained most of their decorations and architectural designs from people who conquered them. Even though many buildings like the mosques and the cities existed during the Umayyad era, the desert palaces were very distinct in term of their constructions and decorations (Walledid, p. 30). Despite the fact that the Umayyad architectures aped their design from the territories that had conquered them, the culture of the Islam received the outward appearance. Additionally, at that specific time, people adopted both the Islam and the Arabic language (Aldershot, p. 36). For instance, an authoritative symbol of the empire was the expansion of coinage of Islam. Additionally, building projects like the Jerusalem dome and mosque demonstrated the artistic and the political ambitions of the Umayyad. Besides, the Umayyad desert palaces stood on the sites where churches and temples of other religions stood before and they had widespread mosaic decorations and monuments with Quran sayings (Aldershot, p. 28). Additionally, the palaces like Anjar and Mshatta had very rich ornaments both in the inside and on the outside. Besides, either the palaces had sculptures or mural with princes that showed rulers lived luxurious life in the Umayyad desert palaces.

Additionally, the size of the desert palaces varied from small and well-decorated baths of Qasr Amra and Anjar to the fortified palaces of Qasr al-Hayr East and West and Mshatta. Furthermore, the outside of the Umayyad desert palaces resembled fortresses. For example, the entrances of Qasr al-Hayr and Khirbat al-Mafjar had two towers that were semi circular and machicolated. Moreover, in some palaces, decorative friezes softened the impact of fortification (Lambton, p. 250). Such palaces included Anjar, Qasr al-Hayr East and West, Mshatta and Khirbat al-Mafjar. Furthermore, most of the palaces had bathhouses, mosques and living accommodation that were set according to the size of the palace. Finally, each palace had visitors’ area that was used to house visitors as well as tribal unit.

The building techniques used in construction of the Umayyad desert palaces were diverse and it involved workers of different nationalities. For instance, there was a combination of elements from east and west that resulted into mistaken Islamic buildings (Walledid, p. 24). For example, this amalgamation of the fundamentals from east and west was at Mshatta and Anjar where the walls were from the stones that were cut in the Syrian tradition. Besides, the construction of the vaults was according to the fashion of the Mesopotamia while the carvings had mixtures of motifs were from the Byzantine and the Coptic. Additionally, the desert palaces of Khirbat al-Mafjar and Mshatta had carvings, stucco decorations, sculptures and fresco paintings (Toueir, p. 45). Besides, the constructions of their residential places were under the influence of the Sassanid. On the other hand, the palaces of Qasr al-Hayr East and West and Qasr Amra used the cut stone building technique of the Syrian that emphasized on the use of the dome (Aldershot, p. 30).For instance, the walls on the inside part of the palaces had mosaics made from stones.

Architectures used a variety of building materials to construct the Umayyad desert palaces and they included stones, bricks and wood. For instance, workers used stones to construct Qasr al-Hayr East and West and Mshatta palaces. Besides, the stones were good for the roofing of larger areas while barrel vaulting roofed a few areas (Hillenbrand, p. 14). On the other hand, timber from the Lebanon forest roofed some of the palaces like the Anjar and Qasr Amra. Besides, the architecture constructed the roofs shallowly, pitched or doomed. Additionally, timber was for furnishing, beaming, centering and scaffolding. Although the use of bricks was minimal, the arcs found at Qasr al-Hayr East and Mshatta were made of bricks. On the other hand, backed bricks constructed vaults, pillars and lower parts of the walls while mud bricks constructed upper part of the walls of some of the palaces like Khirbat al-Mafjar, Qasr al-Hayr East and West, Anjar and Qasr Amra (Toueir, p. 567).

Decorations of the Umayyad desert palaces

Apart from the architecture, the ummayad desert palaces had very few remains of art that had close relation to the Byzantine, the Sasanian art and the Antique (Toueir, p. 475). Besides, the artwork composed of metaphorical elements like the plants and the animals that made up most of the patterns of decorations. For instance, the Umayyad desert palaces had decorations like paintings, mosaics, carvings and sculptures. Although the Byzantine artisans made the mosaic, they chose designs that indicated Islamic influence (Lambton, p. 321). For instance, Islamic mosaics were on dome of the rocks and they had tesserae made of polychrome and gold that represented the royal jewel of the Byzantine and Tasmanian. Despite the ban of figural representation, some desert palaces as Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr East and West had animal representations (Allen, p. 26). For instance, figures of animals were both at the frontage and at the entrances. Additionally, apart from mosaics that were on many of the Umayyad desert palaces, frescos decorations dominated on the walls. On the contrary, Qasr al-Hayr and Anjar had the frescoes on parts of the floor. Additionally, Qasr Amra and Mshatta had unsurpassed works of art of people hunting wild animals, women without parts of their clothes and famous leaders on their thrones (Ettinghausen, p. 99).

On the other hand, sculptures were at several desert palaces and most conspicuously the Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr East and West. Although the artisans used the traditions from both east and west, stuccos dominated most of their carvings while the architectures used stones in a limited way (Fakhry, p. 233). Because stucco was not free standing, the artisans integrated the sculptures into some of the structural features of the building like the entrance. Furthermore, almost all the Umayyad desert palaces had some woodcarvings at one part of the palace or another. The carvings were in such a way that they maintained the trend of the Byzantine architectures (Gibb, p. 22). Besides, the architectures carved the wood in octagonal shapes and decorated them with moldings designs of the Byzantine tradition. For instance, the ceilings of Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr East and West had wooden panels that the architectures carved and decorated with Greek inscriptions. On the other hand, Anjar, Qasr Amra and Mshatta had wooden carvings at the entrance and they had inscriptions of animals, people and plants (Walledid, p. 23). Finally, the wooden panels had decorations of plants interlaced with motifs. For instance, the palaces of Mshatta and Qasr al-Hayr had plants decorations that were of different geometrical shapes in their wooden panels.

The layouts of the decorations at the entrances of the Khirbat al-Mafjar were the same as those at Qasr al-Hayr East and West and they were as follows, stucco decorations begun a few meters just above the ground levels while the paintings followed. On the other hand, at Qasr al-Hayr East and West, it began at facet of the bathhouse while at Khirbat al-Mafjar it began at the arch near spring point (Walledid, p. 25). Additionally, the decorations were continuous and frequented patterns that changed but their density did not block the organized layout. On the other hand, the decorations of the Mshatta and Anjar were slightly different because they were in a horizontal manner and began slightly above the ground while decoration of both the Qasr al-Hayr and Khirbat al-Mafjar were in a vertical manner (Fakhry, p. 231). Moreover, the facade of the Mshatta was similar to the decorations at the Anjar and Qasr Amra. On the contrary, the stones at the entrance of the Mshatta were of the same materials as those of Qasr al-Hayr and Khirbat al-Mafjar and they covered the entrance completely (Lewisnd, p. 374). Finally, the archeology use of the rosette shaped medallion was common in the entrances of all the palaces giving them similar impressions.

The Umayyad desert palaces had decorations of architectural spaces that vaults and domes covered them (Gibb, p. 23). For example, the stucco decorations started at approximately fifty centimeter above the ground surface up to where the vaults had springing points. Additionally, the figurative depictions were at the higher parts and they were to generate a conspicuous manifestation (Walledid, p. 35). Besides, figures were at the decorated niches like the porches of bathhouses while animals stood at the acanthus cornices. Finally, all the figures were at upper parts of the palaces within the frames of the architectures or outside them like in the spaces between niche heads. For example, the Umayyad desert palaces of Mshatta and Khirbat al-Mafjar had most of their figures at the upper part of the palace while the other palaces had decorations in the spaces between niches (Gibb, p. 21).

Most of the palaces had window grills that had decorations to enhance the appearance of the palace. For example, the stucco grills were all embracing on the Qasr al-Hayr and Mshatta (Hillenbrand, p. 7). On the other hand, the unfinished works of the Khirbat al-Mafjar suggested the use of the stucco works. Additionally, the grills at Anjar and Qasr Amra were for arched aperture while at Qasr al-Hayr the arched screens had some few rectangular openings (Michellen, p. 68). However, all the palaces had window grills with geometric shapes composed of thin strips that crossed each other. Although the patterns of the grills were not identical, the linear strips were conspicuous. Moreover, the architectures incorporated some flowers and leaves in to the window grills giving the windows distinct patterns (Allen, p. 12).

The palaces had decorations of systematic shapes and patterns although they did not follow a particular formula. For instance, the decorations at Mshatta had shapes of plants only while at Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr, the shapes appeared along the vine and the acanthus scrolls (Ettinghausen, p. 100). Additionally, the plants decorations were in such a way that they filled the garnished area without interfering with the frames patterns via cutting. In order to achieve blunt patterns, the artisans composed the decorations in two main ways, which included placing carpets next to each other and interlacing the strips (Michellen, p. 70). Although different artists decorated the desert palaces of the Umayyad, all the palaces had common style, movement and the sculptural approach. Besides, the decoration exposed a coexistence of two different styles (Gibb, p. 24). One of the styles had a sculptural and naturalistic approach while the other had a portrayal that was flat and stylized. For instance, at Anjar and Qasr Amra both styles were next to each other while at Mshatta, Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr the style were homogeneous and naturalistic in approach (Kassem, p. 31).

The locations of the Umayyad desert palaces

The Umayyad desert palaces stretched from the East of the Amman and rolled to Iraq and the Saudi Arabia. These palaces were on sand and basalt landscape hence giving a proof that people were able to survive under harsh conditions. Although discovery of the axes in Umayyad desert showed that Paleotholics inhabited that region approximately a million year ago, the remarkable remains of the human habitation were the indicators of the palaces built by the Umayyad caliphs (Michellen, p. 43). At present, the possibility of seeing the residue of the medieval Islamic spell in Jordan exists. For instance, the remains of the desert palaces like the towers, forts and bath are visible at the Jordan and at the central hill and most of these remains were part of the chains that stretched from Khirbat al-Mafjar and Qasr al-Hayr (Fakhry, p. 220).

Although various theories explaining that the purpose of Umayyad desert palaces exists, the lack of the defensive architectural blueprint suggests that the palaces were for recreational purposes. Additionally, the Arab rulers took these palaces because of the fruits, the vegetables and the animals that surrounded them (Lewisnd, p. 385). Finally, most of the Umayyad palaces stretch from Amman through Azraq and people can visit them.

To begin with, the desert palace of Qasr Amra was located approximately twenty eight kilometers from the Azraq and it was the most excellently preserved desert palace that the architectures erected during the supremacy of the Walid I and it used to host travelling caravans before the Umayyads arrived (Ettinghausen, p. 105). Additionally, the palace had three long halls with the vaulted ceilings while its exterior belly had walls covered with frescoes. Opposite the entrance door was the seating place of the caliphs while the audience chamber led through the anterior chambers to the baths. In terms of the building, Qasr Amra was on the northern side of the highway 40 of the Jordan approximately eighty five kilometers from the Aman and twenty-one kilometers on the south west of the Al-Azraq (Gibb, p. 20). Furthermore, Qasr Amra is currently on a barbed wire fenced area with a parking lot at southeast corner. Besides, the palace is on the west side of this area below the small rise. Finally, the remains of the stones that the architectures used to construct the palaces revealed that the desert palace was part of the complex that was approximately twenty five hectares where the garrisons resided before proceeding with their journey (Allen, p. 20). On the other hand, there existed a well approximately forty meters from the palace and traces of animals are a proof of the wells existence.

On the other hand, Mshatta was located south of the Amman and it offered an outstanding illustration of the distinguishing Umayyad structural design. It was a quadrangle palace with convoluted decorations and the vaulted ceilings. Additionally, it had brick walls that stretched one hundred and forty four meters in all the directions and twenty-three towers that were round surrounded those walls (Lewisnd, p. 363). Furthermore, the Mshatta was not on the desert palace loop and anyone who wanted to get there had to take the desert high way that was on the south of the Queen Alia Airport. Moreover, the Mshatta palace was at the far end of the runway on the north and as a result, people had to drive round perimeter of the airport and turn to the right of the Alia Gateway in order to get there (Hillenbrand, p. 19)

Additionally, Anjar was located approximately sixteen kilometers on the west of Qasr Amra and about fifty five kilometers on the East of the Amman (Kassem, p. 38). The location of the Anjar palace was by assortment of the radio polyps that were tall and found on each of the sides of the road and it remained a mystery to the archeologists and the historians. Moreover, Anjar palace was defensive in nature because it had high walls and four towers. Finally, the Greek inscription at the main entrance of the palace suggested that the palace was located on the Roman site or the Byzantine building.

Moreover, Khirbat al-Mafraj is one of the Umayyad desert palaces located approximately five kilometers from the Jericho in west bank. It was on the north of Jericho and modeled into a bathhouse that had mosaic and stucco (Lambton, p. 198). Additionally, the complex composed of the palace that created way into an enclosure of approximately sixty hectares that had animals, mosaic and plants decorations. Moreover, Khirbat al-Mafraj was around thirty kilometers on the east of the desert of Zarqa (Fakhry, p. 235). Finally, the Romans used the Khirbat al-Mafraj to defend the raiding tribes.

Lastly, Qasr al-Hayr East and West was approximately thirteen kilometers on the north of the junction of Azraq that was on the high way of Iraq (Ettinghausen, p. 98). Besides, it was on the midst of the Syrian Desert where fauna flourished well. Additionally it was about twelve kilometers from Al-Sukhnan and approximately one hundred kilometers from the Birshi Mountains near the Palmyran Mountain (Gibb, p. 26).

Lifestyle at the palaces

The way of life of people at the Umayyad desert palaces was almost similar because these palaces served as settlements, residential and meeting place. As a result, there existed rules and regulations that governed the way people behaved and socialized with each other (Hillenbrand, p. 30). Although the Quran prohibited drunkenness, most of the palace rulers used to drink. For instance, majority of the caliphs of the Umayyad desert palaces of Anjar and Qasr al-Hayr East and West used to drink excessively. Additionally, the rulers of Persia who were the models of the Umayyad palaces used to drink every second on the third day while the Kings of Hira drank once a day and once a night (Kassem, p. 45). On the contrary, drinking of wine was a usual occurrence and as a result, people used to take wine during the court festivals like dancing, music and poetry (Hillenbrand, p. 35).

To emphasize on the idea that drinking was acceptable, some of the palaces had decorations that suggested that drinking was rational. For example, the statues of semi naked girls at Khirbat al-Mafraj and Anjar had glasses of wine on their hands (Allen, p. 33). Additionally, parts of the walls of Qasr Amra had engulfment of vine scrolls with grapes bunches and trophies. Finally, the frontage of all the Umayyad desert palaces had decorations of vine and wine. Therefore, the above decorations signify that people were obsessed with the idea of drinking. For instance, the vine decoration at the frontage of the palace signified celebration and it depicted the importance of wine during courtyard celebrations (Fakhry, p. 209). On the other hand, the naked women with wine trophies on their hands represented Dionysian theme, which stated that drinking was healthy. Finally, the people at the Umayyad palaces recited poems that emphasized on the importance of drinking.

Hunting and gathering were the key activities that took place at the Umayyad Deseret palaces. For instance, the princes at Qasr Amra and Khirbat al-Mafraj used the Saluki dogs to haunt gazelles and antelopes (Hillenbrand 1). On the other hand, the people at Qasr al-Hayr East and West and Mshatta palaces used a complicated technique to haunt wild animals. For example, in their haunting technique, they arranged beaters in a circle that was contracting and drove all the animals in the center where the hunters killed them (Kassem, p. 34). On the other hand, gathering was a common activity at the Umayyad desert palaces because the palaces had wild trees with edible fruits surrounding them (Lambton, p. 34). Additionally, the palaces had gardens supplied with water from the springs and wells. As a result, the people of the Umayyad desert palaces used to either go to the forest and gather wild fruits or collect the fruits and vegetables from the gardens (Hillenbrand, p. 28).

Worship was a common activity in the Umayyad desert palaces and for that reason; each palaces had a mosque where people gathered to worship (Gibb, p. 12). For instance, Khirbat al-Mafraj had two mosques while the other palaces had one. Besides, different activities took place in the mosque and they included, worshiping, praying and holding debates about theology (Allen, p. 5). On the other hand, the mosques were respected places and for that reason, the architectures constructed them with great care (Hillenbrand, p. 356). This respect was because the people believed that their creator dwelled in the mosque and since He was the giver of life He deserve respect. As a result, the mosques had decorations that were adapted from the culture of the islams. For instance, the mosques had assortment decorations and monuments that had sayings from the Qouran (Ruggles, p. 58). Addditionally, the paintings on the walls were adapted fom the arabic culture that also had an influence on the Islamic religion.


In conclusion, the Umayyad desert palaces had so many similarities in terms of the plan, the layout, the location, the architectural elements, the decorations and the people’s life style. To begin with, the palaces had multiple rooms, the entrances, water points and gardens. Additionally, they had baths and entrance gates that were located at strategic places. Furthermore, the location of the palaces facilitated easy access. On the other hand, the architectural designs were from the people who conquered them while the decorations had influence from the Islamic culture. For instance, the palaces were square with towers around them and they had courtyard with two storey. Finally, the people living at the palaces had a luxurious life characterized by drinking, hunting, gathering and worshiping.

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