Qura al Karasi: The Throne Villages of Palestine

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the central highlands of Palestine (today the West Bank) were divided into twenty-four administrative domains (sheikdoms). These sheikdoms were ruled by sheiks who belonged to rich or “noble” families. It is where these sheiks and their families resided that we find “the throne villages,” or Qura al Karasi. The sizes of sheikdoms varied, with some encompassing more than forty villages such as the Jamma’in Sheikdom in the Nablus district, and others like the Bani Harith Sheikdom near Ramallah, which governed eleven villages.

 

The sheikh, who was endowed with both political and social status, was the tax collector on behalf of the Ottoman central government. As a result, sheiks gained tremendous power and wealth, which was reflected in their lifestyles and the architecture of their respective palaces and villages. They boasted close relations with, and often allied themselves to urban notables. Hence, the architectural style of their palaces is unique, for in spite of the fact that they were located in rural areas, the palatial architecture reflected urban style, particularly in scale, spatial organization, and ornamentation.

 

The restoration of throne villages across Palestine is among the 50 Villages Rehabilitation Program that RIWAQ has been focusing on since 2007. The majority of throne castles/palaces still stand today and RIWAQ has renovated many of them. These are not only sites of Palestinian history and heritage but offer beautiful space that can be repurposed for contemporary needs. Most of the structures have large courtyards and indoor spaces that can easily house workshops, conferences, music events, and other cultural and community activities. 

Abdel Hadi Palace
'Arrabah
Al Jarrar Castle
Sanur
Al Mas’ood Palace
Burqa
Al Kayed Palace
Sabastiya
Abdel Hadi Palace
'Arrabah

A collection of palaces built in the early 1800’s, these historical sites were renovated either fully or preventively between 2003-2006 and funded by the United Nations Development Programme  through the Tashgeel program.

 

Location: 13 km southwest of Jenin

 

Capacity: outdoor spaces have capacity for more than 200 people and renovated rooms have capacity for 40-50 people

Al Jarrar Castle
Sanur

Constructed in the 1700’s, this castle underwent preventive conservation from 2008 to 2009. The renovations were funded by the Representative Office of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ramallah.

 

Location: 27 km south of Jenin

 

Capacity: large interior courtyard has capacity for more than 200 people

Al Mas’ood Palace
Burqa

Fares Mas’ood built this palace in 1863; structural additions were made through the end of the 19th century. The third floor has a rare painted wooden ceiling which is not found in other throne palaces.

 

Location: 17 km northeast of Nablus

 

Capacity: indoor rooms have capacity for 30-50 people

Al Kayed Palace
Sabastiya

This palace was built in 1858, and in 2007 and 2011 was renovated for the benefit of the Union Women Committees for Social Work. Renovations were funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperative Agency (SIDA).

 

Location: 12 km northwest of Nablus

 

Capacity: indoor room and courtyard has capacity for 50-70 people

Al Jayyousi Palace
Kur
Al Qasem Palace
Beit Wazan
Khalil Palace
Jamma’in
Deir Istiya Palaces
Deir Istiya
Al Jayyousi Palace
Kur

Built in the mid-1700s, these historic palaces (four prominent ones) were renovated either fully or preventively between 2003-2006 and funded by the United Nations Development Programme through the Tashgeel program.

 

Location: 19km southeast of Tulkarm

 

Capacity: outdoor spaces have capacity for more than 200 people; renovated rooms have capacity for 40-50 people

Al Qasem Palace
Beit Wazan

This palace was built in 1820 and renovated in 2003 for the benefit of an-Najah University to house its Urban and Regional Development Center. Renovations were supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperative Agency (SIDA).

 

Location: 5km northwest of Nablus

 

Capacity: inner courtyard has capacity for more than 100 people

Khalil Palace
Jamma’in

This palace was built in 1831 and renovated in 2008 for Jamma’in Municipality. The site hosts women and youth societies and programing from Jamma’in and is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperative Agency (SIDA).

 

Location: 15km southwest of Nablus

 

Capacity: large courtyard has capacity for more than 200 people, and the room has capacity for 25-35 people

Deir Istiya Palaces
Deir Istiya

A collection of palaces built in the early 1800s; these historical sites were renovated either fully or preventively between 2003 -2005 and funded by the United Nations Development Programme through the Tashgeel program.

 

Location: 7km northwest of Salfeet

 

Capacity: outdoor spaces fit for more than 200 people

Sheikh Saleh Castle
Deir Ghassana
Suhweil Palace
‘Abwein
Al Samhan Castle
Ras Karkar
Al Khawaja Palace
Ni’lin
Sheikh Saleh Castle
Deir Ghassana

This castle was built in two phases: the first phase comprised the ground floor and part of the first floor in 1602; and the second phase included additional rooms, mainly on the first floor in 1862. In 2011, preventive conservation works were carried for the building along with the rehabilitation of the inner courtyard and front plaza (saha). This project was funded by Representative Office of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ramallah.

 

Location: 27 kilometers northwest of Ramallah

 

Capacity: inner courtyard has capacity for more than 60 people and indoor rooms have capacity for 20-30 people

Suhweil Palace
‘Abwein

This palace was built in 1780, and in 2006, with funding from the Representative Office of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ramallah was the site of preventive conservation.

 

Location: 30km north of Ramallah

 

Capacity: large interior courtyard has capacity for more than 200 people

Al Samhan Castle
Ras Karkar

The construction of this castle was finalized in 1799. Between 2007 and 2009 the castle was renovated in three phases and funded by the Representative Office of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ramallah.

 

Location: 27km west of Ramallah

 

Capacity: large interior courtyard with capacity for more than 200 people; indoor rooms have capacity for approximately 50 people

Al Khawaja Palace
Ni’lin

This palace was built in 1831 and renovated in 2008 and 2013 for the Ni’lin Society for Development and Social Work. The project was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperative Agency (SIDA).

 

Location: 22 km west of Ramallah

 

Capacity: large courtyard has capacity for more than 200 people, room has capacity for 50 people

Al Khatib Castle
Beit Iksa
Abu Ghosh Palaces
Abu Ghosh
Al Khatib Castle
Beit Iksa

This castle was built in the 1800’s by Abdul Kader Al Khatib. In 2011, preventive conservation works were carried out for the palace along with the front plaza (saha). The project was funded by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development.

 

Location: 6 km northwest of Jerusalem

 

Capacity: The castle (about 1550 m2) has an inner courtyard with capacity for more than 100 people and indoor rooms with capacity for 20-30 people

Abu Ghosh Palaces
Abu Ghosh

A collection of palaces built in the 1800’s, the Sheikh Abd ar Rahman Palace was renovated by a family member to become a clinic.

 

Location: 13 km west of Jerusalem

  

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50 Historic Centers
Throne Villages
Historic Center Rehabilitation
Historic Building Conservation