Khan of Amir Yunis al-Nawruzi
Located in the heart of Khan Yunis City, and forming its nucleus, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, Palestine*
Hegira 789 / AD 1387
Amir Yunis Ibn ‘Abdallah al-Nawruzi, the dawadar of Mamluk sultan, al-Zahir Barquq (ruled twice AH 784–91 / AD 1382–9; AH 792–801 / AD 1390–9).
A khan (caravanserai), or hostelry for merchants and travellers, which was the object of human incursions as well as the adversities of time, leading eventually to the destruction of several of its architectural features. Almost nothing remains of the building today but for a section of its west façade, the remains of the minaret and dome of the mosque and some of the lodging rooms.
This khan had a rectangular ground plan measuring 50 m x 75 m, and an open courtyard around which there was a two-storey structure. On the first storey were the service amenities, administration and reception; it was also used to store goods and to stable the mounts of merchants and travellers, as would have been the case in most of the Mamluk khans. The second storey consisted of a large number of small rooms designated as traveller's quarters. The remains of a mosque with a square, dome-covered hall still stands today. Three inscriptions remain on the building that give the date of construction, the name of the builder and the blazon of Amir Yunis, formed from a chalice and an inkwell and indicating the positions he held as both cup-bearer and secretary.
The khan enjoyed a strategic geographic location with fertile soil and an abundance of water. In fact the khan was erected on a route that was a long way from any other inhabited areas or cities. Its architectural fabric was thus distinguished by many features that are specific to military architecture: its walls for instance resembled those of a castle, and it had an imposingly large portal with gates. The building was also provided with defences: towers, embrasures (long openings for lookouts and arrow loops) and, above the entrance, gaps in the floor to pour boiling oil on top of the enemy. Likewise, the outer walls were very thick. For this reason the khan is known sometimes as a qala'a (fortress or citadel) by the locals.
The khan served a number of purposes: as a secure trading station for caravans; a centre for commercial exchange in the region; as well as a postal station for the Mamluk army on the route between Cairo and Damascus. When trade activity waned at the end of the Mamluk period, the Turks used it as a military barracks in order to protect the land route that passed through the region.
Not much remains of this khan (inn) except a portion of its principle façade and the remains of its mosque. It is a rectangular two-storeyed building surrounded by an open square. The ground floor contains service rooms, stables and storage areas. The upper story has residential rooms and a mosque which is crowned by a dome and a minaret. The Mamluk identity of the building is clearly delineated through its façade which is decorated with ablaq stonework, muqarnas, inscription bands and blazons. The khan marked the beginning of a human settlement which developed into the city which bears the name ‘Khan Yunis’.
The building was dated by means of the three inscriptions it bears, which include the date of construction.
Abu Khalaf, M., “Khan Yunis and the Khans in Palestine”, Levant, No. 15, 1983, pp.178–86.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, pp.228–9.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Khan of Amir Yunis al-Nawruzi" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;17;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation 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: PA 17
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