The Umayyad Palace Complex in the Amman Citadel
Located at the northern section of the upper level of Jabal al-Qal’a in Amman, the Palace Complex was built over the remains of Roman construction, rundown and exploited by the Umayyads for various purposes. The complex was probably built during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham, between 724 and 743 AD and was used as an administrative centre and governor’s residence. The Umayyad Palace is actually just the big house of one of the Governors’ of the Territory of Jordan during the Umayyad Dynasty and was also used by subsequent occupiers like the Fatimids, Mamluks, ..etc.
The palace differs in plan and architecture from the rest of the desert palaces in Jordan. It is composed of three main areas; an open space for gathering people with a large water cistern (17.5m in diameter and 5m deep) with a column in the centre to measure the water level, and supplied water to the baths, latrines and other areas of the settlement. The second part contains a well preserved and decorated audience hall (24x26m), built on the foundation of a Byzantine church, which gave the structure its cruciform plan and served as the entrance hall to the Umayyad Palace Complex. Stucco ornaments decorating the hall also reflect Persian influences; narrow columns and arches bearing saw-tooth patterns (which was also found at Kharraneh palace) and vegetal embellishments arranged geometrically or circumscribing a tree-trunk (e.g. rosettes, palmettes). The third part consists of nine independent buildings which represent the central part of the palace and lie mostly in ruins, but whose foundations are clearly visible.
The audience hall is the most significant part of the whole palace edifice. It is one of the most famous archaeological buildings not only at Amman citadel but in all of Jordan. It was built by Abdel-Malik Ibn Marwan to be used as a reception hall where he could meet his expeditions and army leaders. In 1998 the hall was roofed by a modern wooden dome to allow the structure to be used more easily for modern cultural events. A mosque was located just outside the complex, and the non-religious section was accessed through the palace entrance hall where visitors were received.
The palace and mosque have different orientations as the mosque had to face the direction of Mecca, while the palace’s orientation was controlled by the existing foundations on which it was built.
In 749 AD a strong earthquake destroyed many of those buildings. Around a year later, the Abbasids overthrew the Umayyad rule and renovated and divided the residential units into smaller rooms using cruder walls than the previous ones.