The so-called Matbakh (kitchen) al-‘Ajami of Aleppo is located about 150 meters west of the Citadel, on a modern street that connects the Citadel with the Great Mosque. In all likelihood, this was originally an Ayyubid palace that was built in the early 13th century by the notable al-‘Ajami family, making it the only remaining non-royal Ayyubid palace in Syria. Its identification rests on a passage in Ibn Shaddad that describes the Madrasa al-Sharafiyya, which was built by Banu al-‘Ajami, and their nearby palace.(1) About a third of this palace, including its entire southern iwan, was demolished when the street to its south was widened in 1965 and the palace was given a façade in the Mamluk style.
An inconsequential entrance leads to the northeastern corner of a spacious courtyard surrounded by four iwans and covered by a dome on muqarnas pendentives, possibly the largest preserved Ayyubid dome. All four iwans are flanked by narrow arched openings, forming a tripartite façade composition, typical of all Ayyubid palaces. The northern iwan is framed by an elaborate arch with pendant voussoirs and vaulted by an exquisite muqarnas vault that resembles a starry sky. Service rooms accessed by a door behind this iwan may have also belonged to the palace, but they had not been properly explored prior to encroachment.(2)
NOTES: (1) Ibn Shaddad, Al-A’laq al-katira fi dkhikr umara’ al-sham wa’l-jazira, vol. 1, pp. 133 and 136. (2) Yasser Tabbaa, Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo (Penn State Press, 1997); 42 and 91-91.