Preserving Hisham’s Palace cultural heritage site in Jericho
Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world. Hisham’s Palace, located just three kilometers north, is regarded as the most important monument from the early Islamic period of Palestinian history. With the help of USAID funding, ANERA rehabilitated the ancient site and developed it for tourism.
The palace is named after Hisham Bin Abdil Malik, an Islamic Caliph from the Omayyad dynasty who ruled over 1,300 years ago. It was destroyed in 747 by an earthquake. Historians believe the Caliph and his friends used the palace as a rest house during hunting seasons. Others believe it was meant to be the Caliph’s winter home in the warm weather of the Jordan Valley.
“I have been working here for years; I never saw the site in such good shape. Today, I see the palace as a bride shining in her white dress.”
Mr. Khamis, a former English teacher, works as a ticketing officer at Hisham’s Palace. He says that prior to the USAID project, the site looked gloomy and neglected. The intervention of USAID revitalized the site and made it more attractive to visitors.
“I used to see visitors coming here and staying for less than 10 minutes and then leaving. Today, they stop and visit the site with happiness and curiosity to learn more about it.”
A museum was created as part of the 2008 rehabilitation project to preserve ancient pieces found at the site. They are on display in special glass cases. The project also improved services provided to the visitors including restrooms, better parking facilities, and access to the site for people with special needs.
ANERA rehabilitated the half-kilometer access road and 15 meter long architectural bridge that was designed after the Nuw’meh Bridge destroyed more than 100 years ago. The replicated bridge gives visitors an idea of the past. The project also added signs on the road leading to the Palace to provide better directions to Jericho visitors.
Abu-Arafat worked at Hisham’s Palace 25 years ago. Returning to the site to see the renovations, he could not contain his delight. “I am very happy to see the drastic changes. Now visitors can learn about this distinctive palace from the information posted on the signs that exist in various locations of the Palace.”
ANERA coordinated the restoration work with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Municipality of Jericho. “I expect that the project will increase the number of the visitors to the site, and that will have a positive impact on the economy of the city,” said the Mayor of Jericho.
The project also provided some 1,500 work days in a region where jobs are very scarce.