The palace of the Ziri is widely regarded to have been modeled after the palace of the Fatimid caliph Al-Qa'im in his seat at Mahdiya, albeit at a more modest scale, as was befitting the status of each of the two patrons.
The palace is rectangular in plan, and measures 72 meters long by 42 meters wide, with several towers of varying heights along its periphery. The palace is entered through a single gate located along the central axis. The entrance chamber includes a vestibule that diverges into two portals leading into the courtyard. The palace is subdivided into three spatially distinct zones along its longitudinal axis. The central zone contains the main courtyard, with the entrance complex to the south, and a long hall leading into what is presumed to be an audience hall to the north. This audience hall and the entrance complex are the only significant protrusions from the rectangular plan, and clearly define a strong symmetrical axis for the palace.
Two identical tracts are found on either side of the entrance area, consisting of two smaller courtyards with a number of rectangular rooms around them, in an arrangement roughly analogous to a Maghribi 'bait,' or self-contained house. Each of the tracts is separated from the central zone by a row of three long and narrow chambers that are accessible only from the courtyard.
The palace of the Ziri is remarkably devoid of any significant embellishment. The courtyard is free of columns, and its walls are unadorned. However, some finely carved stone blocks are still visible on its exterior. By virtue of its complete plan and its comparatively conservative decorative scheme, the palace of the Ziri is distinct in its context.
Ettinghausen, Richard, Oleg Grabar, and Sheila Bloom. 1987. The Art and Architecture of Islam 650-1250. New York: Penguin Books, 170.
Hillenbrand, Robert. 1994. Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 438.