Azraq (الأزرق) is a historic wetland in the Jordanian Eastern Desert.
Azraq means "blue" in Arabic and referred to the shimmering lake that stood at the centre of extensive wetlands, which turned Azraq into an important stop for trade caravans coming across the desert. Now the wetlands are mostly drained but the remnants provide a fascinating look at oasis life and Azraq makes for a good base for visiting the Desert Castles.
If coming from Aqaba, Highway 5, which turns off the main highway near Ma'an and goes through the flat inland desert, is an alternative. It is a good road mostly used by trucks with a 100 km/h speed limit, not much traffic, and few if any police check points – it takes 4 hr from Aqaba to Azraq, which should be faster than the main highway. There is one town, Al Jafr, and two roadhouses, but it might be safer to fill up beforehand and take some snacks with you.
The wetlands are close to the main Azraq t-junction, but Azraq Castle is 5 km north and the other Desert Castles are further away. You will need a taxi, car, or tour to visit them.
- 1 Azraq Wetlands (in the eastern part of Azraq, look for the side road just south of the t-junction). Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) facility that shows you how they are working to preserve the wetlands. You can follow the short, but expensive, Marsh Trail through the main wetlands section to get a glimpse of what they would have been like, complete with ruins of ancient dams. 7 JD.
- 2 Qasr Al-Azraq (Azraq Castle) (on the main road 5 km north of the t-junction). A ruined castle used by Lawrence of Arabia. A large courtyard, lots of black rock from the desert, and a few places to explore. 1 JD.
If you don't want the lavish meals at Azraq Lodge, there are restaurants close to the t-junction with English signs. Hopefully they can all do decent Jordanian food. Azraq Palace Hotel is said to be the best of them.
- 1 Azraq Lodge (just off the road heading into Azraq, close to the t-junction - look for the sign). Run by the RSCN, this is a converted concrete hospital. Functional rooms looking over Azraq, but expensive. Staff can arrange tours, guides and education sessions. Lavish meals can be ordered (in advance) along with lunch packs. From 70 JD.
The other Desert Castles can be reached from Azraq, particularly Qasr Ussaykhim, 20 km to the east.