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Preserving the Past

The Revitalization of Al-Pasha Palace in Gaza City

Courtesy of the
Ministry of Tourism
and Antiquities, Gaza

The two historical buildings of Al-Pasha Palace in the old city of Gaza are a testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage and history of diverse civilizations. This palace is one of the few examples of Islamic architecture left in Gaza, a region known mostly for its dense population and numerous challenges.

Built between 1260 and 1277, during the Mamluk era, Al-Pasha Palace is located in the Adaraj district that abounds with ancient structures. As the only historical palace still standing in the Gaza Strip, it is regarded a significant record of the evolution of Islamic architecture in Palestine. The palace’s design and architectural composition reflect the philosophy and character of Islamic architecture, making it a distinctive and beautiful monument.

The buildings’ entrances and facades are adorned with intricate geometric patterns, and the exteriors are encrusted with sandstone and marble in various shades of white and elegant hues of earth tones. Its main entrance is located on the southern face of the northern building. Each of the two structures has a second floor that is accessible by an exterior staircase.

Erroneously, Al-Pasha Palace has been known by many names over the years, including Al-Redwan Palace and Napoleon’s Castle. The palace was renamed Al-Saraya and converted into a police station during the British occupation of Palestine following the First World War. It became the administration building for Princess Firyal School in 1956, when Egypt ruled the Gaza Strip, and was later renamed Fatimah Al-Zahra School. After Israel’s 1967 occupation of the Gaza Strip, the palace became the administration building for Al-Zahra High School that remains in operation until this day.

In 1998, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities initiated a restoration project for this important historical site. The United Nations Development Programme/Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP) and KfW Development Bank of the German government helped fund the initiative that renovated and rehabilitated Al-Pasha Palace to become the first museum in the Gaza Strip.

From inside the Palace during the rehabilitation, Gaza City 2004 © UNDP/PAPP – Image Bank.

This restoration project not only preserved the palace’s rich history but also generated employment opportunities during its execution and afterward, when the palace hired tourist guides and staff to serve its visitors. In 2021, UNDP/PAPP, with funding from GIZ, the German Agency for International Cooperation, launched a cash-for-work program with the aim of boosting tourism and preserving the cultural heritage of the Gaza Strip. The initiative employed ten tourist guides and engineers to offer visitors of Al-Pasha Palace a glimpse of the region’s rich history. These guides also played a crucial role in promoting the cultural heritage of the Gaza Strip and providing visitors with an in-depth historical tour of the region.

Credit After the rehabilitation of the Palace © UNDP/PAPP – Abed Zaqout.

The restoration and renovation of places such as Al-Pasha Palace enable the people of the Gaza Strip to finally enjoy historical places through daily visits and school trips, giving them access to safe spaces that provide knowledge, history, and recreation.

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