Duke’s Diwan: Amman’s time machine

Duke's Diwan
The Duke’s Diwan in downtown Amman. (Photos: commons.wikimedia.org)
AMMAN — The Duke’s Diwan, one of the oldest preserved buildings in Amman, has always been a tourist destination, in its capacity as a documentation of the beauty of an extraordinary era in Amman’s history.اضافة اعلان

The original building, constructed in 1924 by Abdul Rahman Madi, served as Amman’s first post office. It was later used as the Ministry of Finance’s main office. In 1948 it was converted into the Haifa Hotel, which ran for five decades until it was purchased by Mamdouh Bisharat, the Duke of Mukheiheh.

Located in the heart of Amman, in the old commercial area near the Arab Bank, this historic townhouse welcomes its visitors from across the globe without requesting an entrance fee.

The experience of visiting the diwan (a term which describes the section in the Arabic house that is always open for guests) mimics experiencing a time machine that brings you back to the past. With every bit of detail, one cannot but be nostalgic and start romanticizing the place and appreciate the time it reflects.

The plan of the house consists of five rooms with a central court; a plan style known as “The Three Bay House,” which was very popular in the Levant at that time. The central court works as a distributing hall that connects the building together.

The diwan is located on the first floor of the building in King Faisal Street, accessed by a humble door with 28 yellow stairs leading into the central court. A high ceiling and black and white tiles give the instantaneous feeling of going back in time.

The black and white tiles, the floral prints on the armchairs on the sofa, the ancient showcase in dark wood displaying porcelain and silver works of past meetings face each visitor of the diwan. When you step into the adjacent room, a round table in the center invites you to sit and enjoy the place, all surrounded by turquoise walls and huge blue windows that allow the light to flirt with the soul of the space.

The balcony adds a dramatic experience that completes the space’s interior, overseeing the urban fabric on the hills of old Amman. The balcony is directly above one of the most vibrant shops downtown: Habiba Knafeh. The sight of the continuous movements of passersby juxtaposed with the stone texture on the mountains gives a clear understanding of the city and its people.

In 2001, Bisharat rented the house and decided to transform it into a diwan and open it to the general public to serve as a cultural center that showcases Amman’s modern and urban heritage. 

The diwan houses a library with a significant number of rare books in different languages. It hosts various theater shows, art exhibitions, poetry nights, and other cultural activities and has served as a home for poets, painters, sculptors, and other artists from different backgrounds.

The Bisharat family home, which was built by his father in 1932 overlooking the Roman Theater in downtown Amman, has also become a sanctuary for art, full of portraits and sculptures by renowned artists and antique artifacts he salvaged from obscurity. The project is an attempt to preserve artwork as a witness to that beautiful era and celebrate Amman’s heritage.

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