Qusayr Amra

Located at the edge of Wadi Al-Butum this desert oasis, is approximately 85 kilometers east of Amman. Qusayr Amra (712-715 AD) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. It is considered one of the most important and rare examples of early Islamic bath art (fresco painting) and architecture.

The paintings Amra is significantly reflect a key period when early Islamic art was in its formative stage. The images present a transition from the Byzantine Culture into an Islamic one, yet definitely influenced by Sassanian art and iconography. The richly painted frescoes that decorate each of the rooms depict a variety of themes including hunting scenes, athletic activities, mythological images, and astronomical representations. Approximately 350m2 of mural paintings cover most of the interior surfaces. They depict court scenes, leisure activities, the Caliph sitting on his throne surrounded by kings of his time (e.g. Byzantine Emperor Ceasar, King of Spain Roderic, Sassanian emperor Chosroe), hunting scenes with dogs, bathing scenes, dancing women, constellations and zodiac signs that are depicted on the interior of the caldarium dome. 

Architecturally, Qusayr ‘Amra’s most impressive characteristic is its vaulting system, specifically in the use of pointed transverse arches. The northern block, two stories high, features a triple-vaulted ceiling over the main entrance on the east facade. The limestone palace/bath is small in scale, and consists of two main components: an audience hall and a bath. Near the palace there is an artificial water well that serves the needs of the bath. The main entrance consists of a rectangular vaulted audience hall in which stands an alcove with two little windowless rooms to either side, admitting light strictly from their entryways. The three rooms that make up the bath (apodyterium, tepidarium, and caldarium) are situated to the east of the hall’s main entrance. One room is tunnel-vaulted, another is cross-vaulted, and the third is topped by a dome.

Qusayr Amra is in poor condition, with graffiti damaging some frescos. However, restoration projects are underway. Recent restoration work on the north wall of the western isle revealed yet more information related to these paintings. A management plan has also been prepared for the site.