Name of Monument:



Mafraq, Jordan

Date of Monument:

Hegira, first quarter of the 2nd century / AD first half of the 8th century

Period / Dynasty:



Sa’id ibn Khalid ibn Amr ibn ‘Uthman ibn Affan (r. AH 125–135 / AD 744–56).


The site of Fudayn is located within the present-day town of Mafraq, 72 km to the northeast of Amman. The two main buildings are located within an enormous oblong enclosure lying east–west and measuring approximately 120 m x 40–50 m. The enclosure, defined by substantial walls built of megalithic blocks of limestone, is dated to the early 10th century BC when the Aramean kingdom of Damascus dominated the region. The later occupation of the site belongs to two phases: Byzantine and Umayyad. Fudayn, which in Aramaic means a building with high walls, or a fortified building, is attested by that name as a Monophysite monastery early in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justin II (r. AD 565–78).
In the Umayyad period Fudayn came to be owned by a descendant of the third orthodox Caliph, Sa'id ibn Khalid ibn Amr ibn ‘Uthman ibn Affan. One of Sa`id's daughters was married to the Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik (r. AH 105–25 / AD 724–43), while another, Sa`da, was married to al-Walid ibn Yazid (al-Walid II, r. AH 125–6 / AD 743–4), who soon divorced her in order to marry her sister, Salma, with whom al-Walid fell in love during his frequent visits to his father-in-law's at Fudayn. In the early AH 3rd / AD 9th century an Umayyad descendant, Sa`id ibn Khalid al-Fudayni, revolted against the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma`mun (r. AH 197–218 / AD 813–33). A small force under the leadership of Yahya ibn Salih was dispatched against him and eventually the fortress of Fudayn was destroyed. The rebel, 'al-Fudayni' escaped to Hisban where he took refuge.
The oblong enclosure comprises two main buildings separated by a courtyard. The western building, largely unexcavated, has a rectangular plan (70 m x 45 m) with a central courtyard surrounded by oblong and nearly square rooms. The northeastern corner is taken up by a basilical chapel with a mosaic pavement. On the east side, to the south of the chapel and running parallel to it, is a long corridor at the far end of which is a door. It was in this corridor that a cache of bronze objects and steatite vessels as well as carved ivory plaques and pyxides were discovered in the course of excavations in 1987. The second building, some 30 m to the east, is nearly square in plan measuring 40 m on each side. It consists of a central courtyard surrounded by groups of rectangular and square rooms. The main entrance is in the middle of the eastern wall, it leads into a vestibule which opens onto the courtyard. The southwestern corner of the building is occupied by a mosque (20 m x 10 m). The areas flanking the mihrab have a revetment of carved stucco with geometrical and floral decorations which may well date from the early Abbasid period (second half of the AH 2nd / AD 8th century). In the northeastern quadrant is a bath complex, the walls of which extend beyond the perimeter walls of the residential building.
The Umayyad palace at Fudayn is remarkable for the collection of luxury household objects unearthed in 1987 in the long corridor leading to the palace. These include a bronze incense burner and incense pourer, two bronze moulds representing a ram and an elephant, a bronze weight engraved with a cross and two Greek letters, as well as 10 steatite containers and a steatite lid for a lamp incised with arcades and hanging lamps. Ivory objects found include pyxides and an ivory dagger with incised decoration, showing on one side a lamp hanging from an arch and a palm tree and, on the other, a she-camel with her young. Most remarkable is a bronze and iron brazier that is decorated with six panels depicting erotic scenes, which take place beneath arches and gable-shaped niches. Above the curve of the arches, which surmount the columns, are pomegranates placed next to each other.
These scenes may have Dionysiac associations and bring to mind the amorous encounters between satyrs and maenads. The brazier is supported by four eagles with outstretched wings standing on rollers, while at the top corners stand statuettes of nude female figures wearing bracelets, anklets and necklaces; their outstretched hands hold a troche, a vase or bottle, and birds. The arcade motif found on the brazier and on some steatite objects, is also found at Qusayr Amra in the throne alcove of the audience hall. This motif is also found on religious reliquaries, ossuaries and sarcophagi in widely diffused geographical regions. This wide diffusion of the arcade motif might be explained by its acceptance as a symbol of the architecture of Paradise.

View Short Description

Fudayn is in modern Mafraq. The name means ‘fortified building’ in Aramaic and its Byzantine–Umayyad buildings are within a 10th-century BC megalithic enclosure. In the Umayyad period Fudayn was owned by Sa’id ibn Khalid ibn Amr ibn ‘Uthman ibn Affan, whose three daughters were married to Umayyad caliphs. In the early AH 3rd / AD 9th century an Umayyad descendant, Sa`id ibn Khalid al-Fudayni, revolted against Abbasid Caliph al-Ma`mun. He was defeated and Fudayn was destroyed. The site includes a mosque with carved stucco and an Umayyad palace notable for a collection of luxury bronze and ivory objects.

How Monument was dated:

Based on archaeological investigations the site was dated to the early 10th century BC when the Aramean Kingdom of Damascus dominated the region. The later occupation of the site belongs to two phases: Byzantine and Umayyad.

Selected bibliography:

البلاذري، أنساب الأشراف، ح5 ، تحقيق S.D. Goitein، (القدس،1936)، 108–107 .
عبد القادر بدران (تحقيق)، تهذيب تاريخ دمشق الكبير (بيروت، 1979) ح6: 127.
Grabar, O., “A Small Episode of Early Abbasid Times and Some Consequences”, Eretz Israel, 11, 1964, pp.44–7.
Humbert, J.-B., “El-Fedein-Mafraq”, in contribution française à l'archéologie jordanienne, Amman, 1989, pp.125–31.
Humbert, J.-B., “El-Fedein-Mafraq” Liber Annuus, 36, 1986, pp.354–8.

Citation of this web page:

Ghazi Bisheh "Fudayn" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024.;ISL;jo;Mon01;6;en

Prepared by: Ghazi BishehGhazi Bisheh

Ghazi Bisheh is an archaeologist and former Director General of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. He studied archaeology at the University of Jordan, and history of Islamic art and architecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan for most of the period between 1980 and 1999, and was its Director General twice (1988–91 and 1995–9). He was also an associate professor of archaeology at Yarmouk University during the early 1990s. He is the author of numerous publications, including The Umayyads: The Rise of Islamic Art (Brussels: Museum With No Frontiers, 2000), of which he is a co-author. He has carried out excavation work both inside and outside Jordan in sites such as Qasr al-Hallabat, Madaba, Carthage and Bahrain. He is a member of the German Archaeological Institute and is the Deputy Director of the International Council of Museums for the Arab countries.

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 06


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