Monday, March 12, 2007

This is the Desert

Today we visited 4 desert castles from the Islamic period. I had studied these in the Islamic art courses I took at UCLA, but never got to see them. Three of them included: Qasr al Khrannh, Qasr al Omra, and Qasr al Khallabat. al-Khrannh was very military in appearance with 4 round towers, a grand hall flanked by 2 half-domes supported by pendentives, and the courtyard in the centre had a pool for collecting water. Afterward we had tea and coffee in a beduoin tent. One of the girls in our group, Heather, was trying on keffiyeh's and the guys in the tent were flirting with her. They kept asking her if she was married and I told them in Arabic that she was single and available - this resulted in a fair bit of hilarity at poor Heather's expense. There were 2 camel saddles in the tent for leaning on while drinking tea. Heather offered to buy one and she was satisfied to bargain them down from 15 to 12 Dinar. I decided to get the other one and bought it for 11. Now, I just have to figure out how to get it home. Qasr al Omra is famous for containing a Roman style bath house decorated with paintings of people and animals, something unusual but not unheard of in Islamic art - except for the nudity. Qasr al Khallabat was the least photogenic as it's undergoing restoration, but there were many Greek inscriptions carved in black basalt blocks that were re-used in the construction and some interesting mosaics.

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