Just outside of Jericho lies most of the most important early Islamic archaeological sites of the Umayyad dynasty, Hisham’s Palace. Dating back to the 8th century; Hisham’s Palace spans 60 hectares and has been a location of archaeological study since the late 1800s. Hisham’s palace has largely been a mystery due to the lack of textual sources to reference anything that might have once happened here.
Slowly, archaeologists and historians have uncovered pieces of the story to better understand the people, events; and innovations that took place here over 1300 years ago. Hisham’s Palace is one of the “desert castles,” a collection of monuments from the Umayyad dynasty scattered across Syria, Jordan; Israel, and the West Bank. Can you imagine what it would be like to find a lost city with little idea of what had happened there? Come explore it today!
More About Hisham’s Palace
One of the fascinating aspects of Hisham’s Palace is its unique layout. The geometric pattern of the building was created to imbue a sense of harmony while drawing attention to the stunning décor of colorful mosaics. The use of an architecturally elaborate vaulting system allowed the structure to have beautiful domes and barrel vaults.
With these designs, we can see the luxurious standard that the Umayyads were used to enjoying. What makes Hisham’s palace particularly unique is its irregularities. For example, the axis of the porch and entrance were not parallel, and the porch was far from the east side; which are striking similarities to early Muslim architecture. The first projecting porch was thought to have been at the Great Mosque of Mahdia; from 916CE; but now evidence at Hisham’s Palace suggests that it may have come even earlier.
Hisham’s palace is split into three distinct areas; the palace, the bath complex; and the agricultural annex. The palace contains a variety of large and small rooms that all point towards the central courtyard. The bath hall, not the palace; was the most lavish building in the complex. The mosaics were, and still are, particularly stunning. The most famous mosaic often referred to as the “tree of life” features a large pomegranate tree in the center with gazelles grazing underneath and a lion attacking one of the gazelles.
The last section was the agricultural area that saw many different phases through its use. As you walk the grounds of this once great palace; you can almost imagine what it would have been like to live; work, and play here. You can walk in the footsteps of those who passed long ago and relive their memory as though it just happened yesterday.