Name of Monument:

Dhab’a Fortress


Dhab’a, Jordan

Date of Monument:

Hegira, early 10th century / AD 16th century

Period / Dynasty:



Suleyman the Magnificent (AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66).


A station on the pilgrimage route to Mecca along the Desert Highway, the complex comprises a square fortress (25 m x 25 m) and two water cisterns. The fortress was built on top of an earlier building, the remains of which are still visible under the northern and eastern walls. A re-used lintel incorporated into the new construction might indicate that the earlier building belonged to the early Islamic period.
The fortress was built of different shaped limestone blocks. The external walls were provided with simple slit windows 4 m above the ground and with battlements (crenellations). The corners of the fortress were articulated with square towers. The largest of them, the southwestern tower, measures 4 m x 4 m. Three of the towers were provided with projecting rain spouts that drained the rainwater and replenished the well, located at the centre of the courtyard. The west wall is reinforced by a 5-m high buttress.
The gate complex occupies the centre of the eastern wall. It consists of a shallow porch, the vestibule and a square passageway (iwan) with two stone benches. All seven rooms on the ground floor are barrel-vaulted except the passageway, and the iwan on the opposite, western side of the courtyard. These rooms were organised around a central courtyard measuring 9 m x 9 m. A staircase attached to the wall of the northern room leads to the first floor. At this level, although some of the walls are still visible at the southern side, and besides the corner towers, no complete rooms can be identified. The tower at the northeastern corner has a small staircase that gives access to the second floor of this tower.
The first floor is provided with seven rain spouts that drain the rainwater to the bottle-shaped well in the courtyard. This well has a 0.7-m circular hole and an octagonal well-head measuring 2 m in diameter.

View Short Description

Dhab’a, some 50 km south of Amman, was a station on the pilgrimage route to Mecca. The complex comprises a fortress and two cisterns. The fortress was built in the early AH 10th / AD 16th century on top of an earlier building, probably from the early Islamic period. The external walls were provided with slit windows 4 m above the ground and with battlements. Three of the corner towers had projecting rain spouts that drained the rainwater and replenished the well located at the centre of the courtyard, while the first floor was provided with seven rain spouts for the same purpose.

How Monument was dated:

Dhab'a was dated to the early 10th / 16th century on the basis of historical documents and stylistic analysis. The fortress shares common architectural features with al-Qatrana and Ma'an in, for instance, the projecting rain spouts, the arrow slits, the corbelled roofs and the general layout of the ground floor. Ma'an was dated to the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent by an inscription at the entrance.

Selected bibliography:

Burckhardt, J. L., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, London, 1882, p.657.
Doughty, C. M., Travels in Arabian Deserts, London, 1926, p.52.
Edib, M., Manasik al-Hajj, Istanbul, 1779.
Jaussen, A., Savignac, R. P., Mission Archéologique en Arabie, Paris, 1909, pp.31–2.
Musil, A., The Northern Hegaz, New York, 1926.
Peterson, A., Early Ottoman Forts on the Hajj Route in Jordan, unpublished MA thesis, University of Oxford, 1986, pp.24–32.
Peterson, A., “Early Ottoman Forts on Darb al-Hajj”, Levant, 21, 1989, pp.97–117.

Citation of this web page:

Mohammad Najjar "Dhab’a Fortress" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020.;ISL;jo;Mon01;35;en

Prepared by: Mohammad NajjarMohammad Najjar

Mohammad Najjar is an archaeologist and has been Director of Excavations and Surveys at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan since 1988. He studied archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 1982 as Curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. He was the Technical Director of Cultural Resources Management (sites development) at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities between 1994 and 1997. He is the author of numerous publications on the archaeology of Jordan.

Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: JO 35


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