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.