‘Imara al-‘Amira (Flourishing Edifice)
‘Imara al-‘Amira is located in the middle of Aqabat al-Takiyya Street, which runs between the Suq Khan al-Zait and Bab al-Nazir Street, leading to the western side of the Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem
Built in around hegira 964 / AD 1557
None of the names of those who designed and implemented the building can be clearly identified but they are likely to have included local architects and others from the city of Aleppo in Syria.
Khassaki Sultan (also known as Haseki Hürrem Sultan, d. AH 965 / AD 1558), wife of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–73 / AD 1520–66); she was known in European literature by the name of Roxelana.
The 'Imara al-'Amira contains four architectural components: a large kitchen, with its subsidiary additions which includes two ovens, a bakery and a fountain; a large caravanserai and a mosque as well as a ribat, composed of 55 rooms, for Sufis and the poor. This large building has two entrances, the northern entrance on Aqabat Takiyya Street and the southern entrance on Aqabat al-Saraya Street. The northern entrance has a transition zone, known as a derka, which leads into an open courtyard. In the northern section of the complex are the remains of an adjoining entrance and the kitchen, storage areas and a fountain, in addition to a two-storey building. The southern entrance leads into a corridor with walls that are rich in decorative stonework, which finally leads into the open courtyard surrounded by arcades that form the caravanserai (khan) of the 'Imara al-'Amira. To the east of the caravanserai with itsopen courtyard, there is a building that was constructed in the AH 13th / AD 19th century, known as Adaliyya. Perhaps it was built on the site of the ribat that vanished over the course of time. The Adaliyya building faces a hall of which little remains but for four cross vaults it may, however, have been part of the mosque of the 'Imara al-'Amira. To the east of the hall there is a dome-covered shrine that is believed to be the final resting place of Sa'ad al-Din al-Rasafi, author of the work, al-Manhal al-Safi wa al-Mashrab al-Wafi [The Pure Spring and the Inundated Fountain].
The multiplicity of elements that make up the complex indicate that it served several purposes: as a place for religious worship; for charitable purposes, as may be noted by the kitchen which was and still is used for the preparation of food for the poor and the needy and for trade and economic purposes, represented by the caravanserai that accommodated merchants and consummated mercantile trading.
This grandiose social complex was also known as 'Khassaki Sultan' after its patron, the wife of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. The complex was built as a result of incorporating a number of buildings and other additions. It includes a large kitchen, two ovens, two bakeries, a sabil (public fountain), a large khan (inn), a mosque and a Sufi ribat. It has two entrances and a number of open plazas. The complex provided food daily to the needy as well as to visitors, regardless of their identity or religion, as did the zawiya and the arbita (Sufi hospice and teaching establishment). Over 1000 meals were offered daily.
The building is dated by waqf documents associated with it, among which is record number 270 in the Shari'a Court of Jerusalem (Folio No. 18–49). This document is further supported by the archives of the Palestinian Museum (Rockefeller Museum). Through these documents it is possible to deduce that the construction of the 'Imara al-'Amira began in 959 / 1552 and was completed in around 964/ 1557.
Myers, D., “Al-Imara al-Amira: The Charitable Foundation of Khassaki Sultan (959/1552)”, in S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (eds), Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (Part I), London, 2000.
Natsheh, Y., “My Memories of Khassaki Sultan or the 'Flourishing Edifice'”, Jerusalem Quarterly File No. 7, winter 1999, pp.29–35.
Pierce, L., The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. London, 1992.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, pp.105–7.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "‘Imara al-‘Amira (Flourishing Edifice)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;9;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 Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 09
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Ottomans | Table Culture Women | Muslim Women as Patrons Pilgrimage | The Quest for Baraka – Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Palestine
Related MWNF Tour Related MWNF Travel Book
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)