Azraq Wetland Reserve is a unique wetland, located in the heart of the arid Eastern Desert,
which takes its name from the Arabic word for ‘blue’.
A migratory stopover for birds from three continents, Azraq is becoming increasingly popular for bird watching.
From the walkways and hides, visitors get the chance to observe birds close at hand, including local, Jordan Tour
migratory and occasional rare species.
The Azraq area also has a rich cultural history due to its strategic location and water resources. Jordan Tour
It was used as a station for pilgrims and camel trains and Lawrence of Arabia was stationed in Azraq Castle during the
Arab Revolt. The local people are also unusually diverse, coming from three different
ethnic origins, Bedouin, Chechen, and Druze; each of which has distinctive beliefs and traditions.
Bedouins have lived a nomadic lifestyle in the area for generations,
whereas the Chechens are descendants of settlers from the Caucasus and the Druze stem from Arab tribes in Syria and Lebanon.
Many interesting archaeological sites lie within easy reach of Azraq Lodge,
including the famous but misnamed ‘desert castles’: Qasr Amra, Qasr Kharana and Azraq Castle.
Qasr Amra is one of the best-preserved Umayyad bathhouses in the world and a World Heritage Site.
Its interior walls are covered in lively frescos dating back to 700 AD.
There are also many dramatic desert landscapes to discover, including moon-like plains of black basalt and white valleys of chalk.
In 1978, RSCN established Azraq Wetland Reserve to conserve the uniquely precious oasis located in the heart of Jordan’s eastern desert, between a limestone desert in the west and a basalt desert in the east. It has an area of 74 km2. It is distinguished by lush marshland and natural water collections that form glittering pools and streams, giving Azraq its name, which is the Arabic word for “blue”.
In 1977, the Ramsar Convention declared Azraq Oasis and the adjacent mudflat (Qa) as a major station for migratory birds on the African-Eurasian flyway. A variety of birds flock to the reserve each year, stopping for a short rest along their migration routes, staying for the winter, or breeding within the wetland. The Azraq wetland is the only oasis in the Arabian Desert with a self-replenishing system that has allowed it to sustain itself throughout the years. In 2018, the reserve joined the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.
Unfortunately, the wetland suffered an environmental disaster because of abuse and overuse of water from the Azraq Basin. Due to excessive pumping of water from the oasis to large urban areas and the illegal drilling of artesian wells for agricultural purposes, water levels have steadily dropped over the course of 50 years, starting to decrease significantly in 1981 and reaching alarming rates in 1993. These high levels of water extraction resulted in the extreme depletion of this natural oasis, drying up massive areas of invaluable wetland equaling over 25 km2. In 1992 the main springs which were feeding the wetland had dried out and water level reached a depth of 12 meters below ground level. The water body that used to be a thriving ecological hotspot has dwindled alarmingly to cover 0.04 % of the area it used to cover in the past; the effects of which can be clearly seen in declining numbers of birds stopping over in Azraq wetland on their migratory route.
Before water pumping dramatically increased in the 1980s, the oasis provided a sparkling blue jewel in the desert, attracting up to a million migrating birds at one time, as it marks one of the major bird migratory routes. At times, an upwards glance at the Azraq sky would find it teeming with masses of birds, blocking out the light of day. By 1993, the extraction of water was so great that no surface water remained and the oasis’s ecological value was virtually destroyed.
With international support, RSCN began a rescue effort in 1994 and managed to restore a significant portion of the wetland, and aims to increase depleted water levels by 10 percent. So far, this target has not been achieved due to continued water pumping, lack of manpower, and a lack of experience in wetland management. However, thanks to RSCN’s efforts, many birds for which Azraq was once renowned for are coming back, and special boardwalks and bird hides have been constructed to enable visitors to observe and enjoy them.
Azraq Wetland Reserve is a location of rich biodiversity, containing Azraq Killifish Aphanius Sirhan, the only true endemic vertebrate species of Jordan. In addition to two-thirds of the bird species records in Jordan, with 350 species of migratory and resident birds. There are also more than 133 species of plants, and there are more than 163 species of invertebrates, 18 species of mammals, 11 species of reptiles, 15 species of dragonflies, and two types of amphibians.
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best known for its historic churches and centuries-old mosaics.
is one of the most revered holy sites of Jordan.
The Mujib Reserve
is the lowest nature reserve in the world.
Main Hot Springs
This oasis-style resort offers an outdoor pool and a spa.
The Jewel of the Red Sea.
considered one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy.
also known as Rabad Castle, is a 12th-century Muslim castle situated in northwestern Jordan.
or Qays is a town in northern Jordan principally known for its proximity to the ruins of the ancient Gadara.
is a large fortress located in present-day eastern Jordan. It is one of the desert castles.
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