Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Mshatta Archaeological Site, Jordan
Not on view
Qasr al-Mshatta The unfinished palace at Mshatta near Amman, Jordan is the largest of the Umayyad palaces. Resembling a fortress with its twenty-five semicircular towers and monumental entrance gate, it had a grand audience hall on the same axis as the entrance. The gatehouse complex near the entrance included a mosque. The exterior walls flanking the entrance gate were covered with elaborately carved decoration in the Byzantine tradition. The building may have been ordered by the Umayyad caliph al-Walid II (r. 743–44) to welcome those returning from the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca and then left unfinished at his death. At lower left, vines extend in intricate curling patterns from a vase. The leaf patterns foretell the "arabesque" design that becomes popular in later Islamic art. The stone is from the eastern side of the entrance wall in front of the mosque. Perhaps out of respect for the mosque, no animals are included in the decoration in this section of the exterior wall.