This admirable architectural ensemble was built and occupied by the Hammoud family as early as 1730 A.D./1143 H. It could have served as a model for the Al-Azem Palace in Damascus. Assad Pacha Al-Azem built it under the Ottoman Empire. Dar Hammoud is more modest than Al-Azem’s palace in Damascus; however, the ground plans are the same, and there are many similarities in terms of the interior as well as exterior designs. Towards the middle of the XVIII century, the Turkish governor of Saida requisitioned the Hammoud palace and installed his headquarters in it from 1730 to 1734. Subsequently, it was turned into a school dependent on the Maqassed Association and took the name of “Madrassat Aicha”. After this institution was transferred to modern premises, the building was neglected and abandoned. A small modest door facing “Shareh el Jedid” gives onto the Madrassat. Stairs lead to an inner courtyard on the first floor. At its center, an ornamental pool could have existed surrounded by many rooms; an “Iwan”, a prayer room with a mihrab, and a hammam to the extreme west of the building. The Iwan, to the east, is made of three rooms. Their walls are entirely decorated with geometrical designs made of starred polygons or twelve-pointed stars surrounding a central pool made of polychrome marble. One can distinguish rare floral themes representing the tulip, dear to Ottoman decoration. There are two epigraphic cartouches inside the rooms. The first cartouche, over the entrance, bears the following inscription:
A mansion, an abode for pride and generosity.
Built upon the abundant glory and graceful amiability.
A vast yard for incomes, a hall of literacy
A divan of donation, reverence, adorned with courtesy
Where merriment, grandiose and elegance prevail
Like father and grandfather’s bounty, of good avail
Was inscribed and dated in history for its protection
By the sons of Ali Hammoud who endow affection.
1730 A.D./1143 H.
The second one is framed on both sides of the divan main hall, over the finely executed alcoves. One can read: You have granted opulent gifts, oh God bestowing
Forgive past sins that vanished like seas overflowing
Allah, by your grace I’ve lived years long
Help me God so that in eternal life I’ll belong
All the designs are inlaid beforehand into the stone, then filled with a material that looks like stanniferous and coloured enamelled ceramic. The voussoirs of the discharging arches have stalactites or honey-comb friezes (muqarnas, muzanbar) with lines of arches surmounted with one or two other rows of miniaturized niches. Many windows initially covered with wooden musharabiehs (openwork latticework) light the Iwan. The musharabiehs would have diffused, a softened light suitable for meditation. The voussoirs of the discharging arches are sculpted. They comprise lines of arches surmounted with one or two rows of miniaturized niches.
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