Quseir Amra (1985)
Back to index
||Built in the early 8th century, this exceptionally well-preserved desert
castle was both a fortress with a garrison and a residence of the Umayyad
The most outstanding features of this small pleasure palace are the reception hall and the hammam, both richly decorated with figurative murals that reflect the secular art of the time.
Umayyad, also Omayyad, is the first great Arab Muslim dynasty of caliphs (religious and secular leaders) founded by Muawiyah I in 661 and lasting until 750. Uthman ibn Affan, a member of the prominent Umayyad family of Mecca, had been elected to the caliphate in 644 to succeed Umar I, but his weakness and nepotism resulted in rebellion and he was murdered in 656. Uthman was succeeded by Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad and chief of the legitimist party, which believed that only a member of Muhammad’s family could rightfully hold the caliphate.
However, Muawiyah I, governor of Syria and first Umayyad caliph, revolted against Ali and, supported by Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, gained the advantage. Hailed as caliph at Jerusalem in 660, Muawiyah I was in complete control soon after the assassination of Ali the following year. Under Muawiyah I the capital was changed from Medina to Damascus. Muawiyah I developed an administrative system modeled after the Byzantine Empire and before his death in 680 had secured the throne for his son, thus putting the state on a dynastic basis. Conquest was begun again with an offensive on all fronts. Under Muawiyah I and his Umayyad successors, Muslim control of the Mediterranean region was completed. The Arabs, led by a fierce North African Berber army commanded by Tariq, crossed from North Africa and eventually conquered Spain; in the east they met no effective opposition until they had passed the borders of India. They were stopped in the west by the Franks under Charles Martel and by the Byzantine Empire, which repulsed an attack on Constantinople early in the 8th century.
Under the Umayyad dynasty, political and social ascendancy remained in the hands of a few Arab families from Mecca and Medina. This caused the Muslim population, which had grown enormously as the empire expanded, to become increasingly discontented, especially since the Umayyads had found it necessary to increase their income from taxation. Lands were now taxed without regard to religion, and Muslims were exempt only from personal taxes.
Opposition centered in Persia where there was continued opposition to Syrian domination and where the legitimists allied themselves with the Abbasids, who claimed descent from Abbas, the uncle of the prophet Muhammad.
The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750, killed the caliph, Marwan II, and gained the caliphate for themselves. Members of the Umayyad family were located and slain, except for Abd-ar-Rahman I, who escaped to Córdoba, Spain, in 756 to rule as an independent emir (see Spain, Historic Center of Córdoba - on this site).
The Abbasids moved the capital of the empire eastward to a new city, Baghdad, which they founded on the Tigris River.
Sources and links:
Microsoft Encarta 2002.
Other World Heritage Sites in Jordan (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Jordan for further information about the individual properties.
Back to index
Revised 21 jul 2006