(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Located some 35km south of Amman, Al Qastal, an Umayyad castle close to the Desert Highway, was known in the early Islamic period and mentioned by poets from the same epoch.
The name of the site translates to "the place where the water splits", said Ahmad Lash from the Department of Antiquities, who is also a director of Al Qastal Mosque Project.
"It was built as a royal palace close to Darb Al Hajj [Pilgrim route]," he noted, adding that some scholars date the site to the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Abd Al Malik Bin Marwan ( 685-705).
However, the site, or at least the mosque and its minaret, were built during the rule of Yazid Bin Abd Al Malik( 720-724), Lash explained.
"Al Qastal is considered one of the most significant early Islamic sites in Jordan for many reasons: fantastic building technique, the very unique decorations and mosaic floors, the water system which contains around 70 water cisterns and two water tanks, including a big dam, but the most significant element of the site is the cylindrical minaret, which is recognised as the earliest minaret built as such still standing today," the Jordanian scholar said.
As is often the case when examining historical sites, establishing the exact date of the mosque's foundation without primary sources remains difficult, he elaborated.
However, if we follow the work of scholars who attribute the site to Abd Al Malik Bin Marwan, "we can say that Al Qastal is the earliest Umayyad monument in Jordan", Lash suggested.
The tombstones found at the cemetery of Al Qastal may provide some clues about the continuation of the site's use into the Abbasid period, he ventured, noting that " it's clear that the site was reused by the locals in [the] Ayyubid and Mamluk periods, as well as in the last two centuries".
Restorations have preserved the cultural and historical significance of the mosque, with a nine-month rehabilitation of the site finished in December of 2017, according to Lash.
In addition, the minaret was restored in 2004 by a well-known Jordanian scholar Ghazi Bisheh, he added.
The project at Al Qastal is near completion, Lash said, noting that renovations provided the mosque with carpets and lights in preparation for the five daily prayers now conducted there with the help of a local imam.