Azraq is a unique wetland oasis located in the heart of the semi-arid Jordanian eastern desert, one of several beautiful nature reserves managed by the RSCN. Its attractions include several natural and ancient-built pools, a seasonally flooded marshland, and a large mudflat known as Qa'a Al-Azraq. A wide variety of birds stop at the reserve each year to rest during their arduous migration routes between Asia and Africa. Some stay for the winter or breed within the protected areas of the wetland.
The best time to visit Al-Azraq is late autumn, winter or spring. Winter rains often create pools and marshes over the reserve, which continue to attract many seasonal species of birds. The success of bird-watching visits depends largely on the amount of water that has accumulated in the reserve.
Azraq has an interesting geological history. It was once a vast oasis, its pools filled by a complex network of aquifers fed mainly from the Jebel Druze area of southern Syria – the waters taking up to 50 years en route. Surrounding the oasis is about 60 sq.m. of silt, beneath which is a vast concentration of salt.
The Shawmari Reserve is a breeding centre for some of the most endangered and rare wildlife in the Middle East. In this small reserve there is a large herd of magnificent Arabian Oryx, a species that was once on the verge of extinction. There are also ostriches, onagers and graceful desert gazelles. These animals are all rebuilding their populations in this safe haven, where they are protected from the hunting and habitat destruction that once threatened their existence.
The Shawmari Reserve supports a rich variety of desert plants, mainly because the vegetation inside the reserve is protected from the heavy grazing of sheep and goats outside its perimeters. Shawmari contains a very large number of species of plants, including Atriplex, a natural food source for the Onager and Oryx.