Hegira, early 10th century / AD 16th century
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mohammad Najjar "Dhab’a Fortress" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;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 Gomez
MWNF Working Number: JO 35