The Azem Palace, located south of the Umayyad mosque near Suq al-Buzuriyya, was built in 1750 by the Ottoman governor of Damascus As'ad Pasha al-Azem. The architecture of the palace embodies the culmination of Damascene domestic typology at its most extravagant state.
The palace has two main wings: the haramlik and the salamlik. The family wing, or haramlik, is a private space that is connected to the kitchen and servant quarters. It includes the baths, which are a replica of the public baths in the city but on a smaller scale. The public area reserved for the outside guests, called the salamlik, contains the formal halls, reception areas and exclusive courtyards for entertainment.
Simultaneously decadent and serene, this duality is achieved through the juxtaposition of the elaborate and opulent interior decoration and the starkly minimalist exterior facades of the wings articulated in traditional Damascene ablaq designs of alternating stripes of black and white stone. Other building materials, for example marble mosaics, carved stone openings with muqarnas corners, elaborate wooden paneling on the walls and the bedroom's painted wooden panel ceilings that display natural scenes, accentuate the overall impression of sensuousness.
The central courtyards feature fountains and are lined with trees and overhanging vines. The structure of the interior courtyard facade is punctuated by iwans that face columned porticos. This creates textured, spatial walls that are in contrast to the flat exterior walls. This visual play between private and public space differentiation through the use of architectural elements is a direct comment on the balance between the private and public functions the palace serves.
Rihawi, Abdul-Qader. Damascus : Its History Development and Artistic Heritage, 176-180, Damascus: Dar al-Bashar, 1977.