Qasr al-Kharraneh, located 43 kilometres on the road from Al-’Azraq, is the earliest of the Umayyad palaces built in the eastern Jordanian desert. A very early Kufic inscription found within the palace refers to the local governor of Jund al-Balqa, who was contemporary to Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (r. 685-705 ). The construction and use of Al-Kharraneh was therefore dated to the reign of the Marwanids (685-750 AD), and more specifically linked to Al-Walid I (711 AD). From the outside, the palace appears like a fortified fortress or khan, built for defensive purposes. Nevertheless, it is suggested that it was used as a ‘conference centre’ where caliphs met with the local bedouins or for gatherings between the bedouin tribes themselves to discuss matters and resolve disputes.
The structure is a two-storey rectangular building with high thick walls flanked by rounded towers on each corner. The towers are solid. The palace’s central courtyard is surrounded by vaulted rooms. Rooms on the second storey were living units, each consisting of a main well-lit room used for socializing and a smaller darker room used for sleeping or storage. The palace has some of the most impressive ceilings, such as semi-domes sitting on squinches and cross-vaulted ceilings. To the right and left of the main gate, the rooms were used for storage and as stables. An arched portico originally ran around the central courtyard holding a corridor above and gave shade to those standing underneath.