On the eastern side of the Ajlun mountains, Amman is a hilly city through which a small river, Wadi ‘Amman, once ran. Settlements have existed on the plateau since at least 3000 BCE. The Islamic history of the city begins when the city was taken by the forces of the general Yazīd ibn Abī Sufyān in 635, but it declined in importance, and by 1300 had nearly disappeared.
The Ottoman resettled the site with Circassian refugees from Russia in 1878, but I wasn’t until becoming the capital of Jordan after World War II that the city really began to grow.
Positioned at the northern section of the upper level of the Jabal al-Qal'a in Amman, Jordan, it is speculated that this Umayyad Qasr served as the regional administrative center from 720 to 750 AD. The complex incorporates an audience hall, four vaulted assembly rooms, and a colonnaded road. Outside of its walls to the southeast, yet still an extension of the site stands a palace bath, mosque, and cistern. It complex was probably built during the reign of Umayyad Caliph Hisham, between 724 and 743.
The palace compound is approached from a large piazza to the south and accessed through an impressive gateway complete with stone benches that flank the entrance, which leads into a grand reception hall. Constructed of two varying sizes of limestone, the builders used sizeable masonry from structures previously extant on the site to assemble the lower section of the hall with slender and longer cut stones layered over them. The reception hall is formally organized as a cross with a central courtyard-like area, off of which are four equidistant rooms. Pointed, barrel-vaulted corner chambers flank the southern room of the cross and might have been used as waiting areas to enter the complex. The central area is 10 meters square; it is uncertain as to whether it remained covered or open. The entrances to each of the rooms from the central area are all arched, the north and south being barrel-vaulted and the east and west having semi-domes.
These interior sections of the audience hall were richly adorned with stuccoes and other paintings depicting geometric patterns and leaf motifs of Sasanian influence. Structurally, two layers of stone measuring one meter high and two meters long form the walls, over which stands a ledge and then another band of masonry both of the same elevation. The band of stone supports a blind arcade that extends the course of all the rooms and consists of a total of 106 niches. Above this runs a dog-tooth relief with a ledge over it that extends into the west, north, and east rooms, and to the east and west walls of the southern room.
Upon leaving the reception hall through an exit in its northern room, one enters a courtyard across from which runs the colonnaded street. The street itself extended thirteen columns long and it is probable that a wood constructed roof had covered its arcade. The street and the courtyard are flanked to the west and east by six suites (three on each side) of residential rooms, each organized around three sides of a central courtyard. The suites to the west are still under excavation. While the rooms vary slightly in their dimensions, their general layout remains consistent.
Following the street to its conclusion one reaches the residential quarters of the Umayyad palace complex. Known as the Umayyad Residential Palace, it consists today of three buildings organized around a courtyard. Of the three, two are located to the east and were probably organized similarly to the suites of rooms mentioned earlier although little remains to discern their exact layouts. The third main structure encompasses a large barrel-vaulted hall that leads to the north into another small cross-shaped room with doors leading out of its four arched alcoves. It is speculated that this space acted as a throne room for the Umayyad governor. Behind this diwan, a terrace extends to the northern most part of the upper platform of the citadel. The main entrance to the hall is to the south and overlooks the courtyard with an iwan. To the south of the hall on either side of the hall, two rooms connect to back to the courtyard and the hall itself. To the west of these quarters extends an area largely unexcavated.
Creswell, K. A. C. A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, 169-173. Rev. ed. Allan, James W. Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1989.
Rollin, Sue and Streetly, Jane. Jordan Blue Guide, 51-57. London: A & C Black, 1998.