Generally speaking, various factors determined how castles were constructed, such as: the spiritual and religious elements that influenced people; climate and environmental norms to ensure sustainability and to facilitate dealing with harsh climatic conditions (warm, cold, wet, dry); the political factor regarding defense against invaders; the geology, which defined the materials of construction; the financial factor linked with the location, etc. At the same time, a castle could reflect the degree of wealth of the area at the time of construction and operation; the social ties linking the degree of wealth and the people in power; and finally the geographical importance, whether strategic, e.g. located on commercial routes, or close to water springs and water sources in general.

The location of Qatraneh was specifically selected for the construction of a Roman castle for a number of the fore mentioned reasons. The Qatraneh site is located literally in the wilderness (semi-desert area) and its settlers traditionally depended on rainwater collection and seasonal springs as the main source of water. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, they diverted water from the nearby wadi via a major gravity conduit that carried the water to the main site in order to fill specially constructed pools and cisterns and to store water in underground reservoirs. The water was used by the wider community living in and around the castle, as well as by visitors and caravans.

During the Ottoman time, infrastructural development also had an explicit religious orientation that affected castles such as Qatraneh which protected a pilgrimage route. Most schools, hospitals, baths, wells, orphanages and, of course, mosques, were built with a particular religious function in mind as well. But the most significant infrastructural development of the Ottoman period was the Hijaz Railway from Damascus to al-Madina al-Munawarra in 1908, designed originally to transport pilgrims to Mecca al-Mukarramah. The railway passes by the Al-Qatraneh castle. It was also extensively used for transporting Ottoman armies and supplies to the Arabian Peninsula.

                    Image courtesy of Hydria Virtual Museum
Old photo of the Railway at the Qatraneh site.

Hydria Virtual Museum

The ongoing survey and excavations at Qatraneh have uncovered a settlement inhabited between the 1st and the 16th century AD. In the settlement we find a plastered pool and water systems that were almost certainly used in daily life, plus other structures that probably catered to religious pilgrims. 

The survey has documented an ancient sacred pilgrimage route that linked Mecca, Jordan and Qatraneh. Several ancient Roman and Byzantine period pools, churches and other structures have been identified between the village and the eastern parts (Qçur Basheir), and are being excavated. Some of them are still partly used today.

The Jordanian Department of Antiquities and NGOs are systematically surveying and excavating some 20 sites throughout Jordan, covering several square kilometers east of the Jordan river along both banks of the wadis.

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