Qusayr Amra Tours
Two days after finding Qasr at-Tuba, Alois Musil saw Qusayr (little palace) Amra, a harmonious stone building in Wadi Butm, named after the wild pistachios (butm) growing here. Inside are vivid frescos, some still in fair condition despite centuries of neglect, bedouin fires and graffiti.
The date is unclear – after 711 and maybe as late as Caliph al-Walid II. Perhaps originally part of a larger complex, what we see today are an audience hall of three parallel barrel- vaults, with an alcove and two small rooms off it; and a bath house of three rooms, including a domed calidarium with under-floor hypocaust heating. Outside is a well-house and a structure for raising water.
The frescos are exceptional, not only for their joyous naturalism, but for their very existence. The first edict against human images was by Caliph Yazid 11(720-24) when these frescos, with their free depictions of human life, may already have been painted – hunting scenes; personifications of History, Philosophy and Poetry; musicians; dancers; women and children bathing in varying states of déshabille and six contemporary rulers paying homage: the Byzantine and Sassanian Emperors, the Visigoth King of Spain, the Negus of Abyssinia, and possibly the King of India and the Emperor of China. Most remarkable is the fresco in the little dome of the calidarium the earliest known representation of the night sky in the round.