Qasr al-Abd

Qasr al-Abd is a rare example of Hellenistic architecture located in Iraq al-Amir in the Jordan Valley, 17 kilometres west of Amman. The building was erected in the 2nd century BC by Hyrcanus, son of the tax collector Joseph of Jerusalem from the influential Tobiads Jewish family. Qasr al-Abd (Castle of the Slave) is thought to have been the centre of a vast estate belonging to the Tobiads, as described by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the 1st century AD (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Ch. 4):

Hyrcanus… seated himself beyond Jordan, and …erected a strong castle, and built it entirely of white stone to the very roof, and had animals of a prodigious magnitude engraved upon it. He also drew round it a great and deep canal of water. He also made caves of many furlongs in length, by hollowing a rock that was over against him; and then he made large rooms in it [the rock], some for feasting, and some for sleeping and living in. He introduced also a vast quantity of waters which ran along it, and which were very delightful and ornamental in the court. But still he made the entrances at the mouth of the caves so narrow, that no more than one person could enter by them at once…Moreover, he built courts of greater magnitude than ordinary, which he adorned with vastly large gardens. And when he had brought the place to this state, he named it Tyros.

Restitution of the Palace. F. Larché.

The Qasr al-Abd structure (measuring about 40 metres by 20 metres and 13 metres high) was built in the Hellenistic style of the late 2nd century BC, similar to the palaces at Alexandria. It had two floors with two portals and was adorned with life-size lion reliefs on the entablatures, eagles at the corners of the upper level, and wide-mouthed felines on each lateral wall.

Qasr al-Abd was severely damaged by several earthquakes that hit the region. A French team largely restored and reconstructed it between 1976 and 1986.

Archaeologist and architect Stephen Rosenberg recently proposed that Qasr al-Abd functioned as the family mausoleum of the Tobiads, modelled after the mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (read here).

Coordinates: 31°54’46.1″N 35°45’06.5″E


View of Qasr al-Abd from the southwest.
Upper corner with remains of a lions’ frieze and half-columns of the upper floor.
Northern entrance.
Relief of a Lioness with a cub.
Interior view.
View from the northwest.
Western Leopard fountain.
Eastern Leopard fountain.
The upper level of the southern façade with Corinthian columns.
View of Qasr al-Abd from the southwest.


Wadi Rum Nabataean temple

In the Jordanian Wadi Rum, immediately west of the modern village of Wadi Ramm at the foot of the impressive cliffs of Jabal Rum, are the remains of a Nabataean temple. The temple was built during the reign of Nabataean King Aretas IV between 9 BC and AD 40 on the site of an earlier Thamudic temple. It was dedicated to the goddess Allat (al-Lāt), the pre-Islamic Arabian goddess who was equated with the Greek goddess Athena. Discovered in 1931, its plan is similar to other Nabataean temples, like the Winged Lions temple at Petra.

Excavations brought to light a rectangular podium, surrounded on three sides by columns originally painted in red, blue, and yellow and side rooms. Behind the temple are the remains of a large complex of 20 rooms, probably built during the latest phase of the temple. Latin inscriptions from the 3rd century AD show that the temple was still used by the Romans long after their annexation. As well as being a cultic centre, the temple is thought to have also functioned as a civic and administrative centre.

At Lawrence’s Spring, three kilometres away, are Nabataean inscriptions inscribed on the rock face.

Coordinates: 29°34’40.3″N 35°24’52.5″E


General view of the Nabataean temple.
The rectangular podium and shrine of the temple were accessed through a narrow stairway with seven steps.
The central shrine.
The temple’s podium.
Rear view of the podium’s temple
Nabataean column with inscriptions.
A side room.
Rear view of the temple.
In 1962 a complex of 20 rooms was cleared behind the temple. This complex was dated to the late 1st century AD.
There are earlier structures below the complex of 20 rooms, tentatively dated to the late 1st century BC.
Unfortunately, in 1995 an earthquake caused severe damage to the temple and other structures.
Nabataean inscriptions near Lawrence’s Spring.
Wadi Rum.