Known as Khirbet al-Mafjar in Arabic, this recently restored palace has exquisite stonework and a spectacular mosaic floor. Hisham was a scion of the Umayyad dynasty, which built the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Although the palace was severely damaged by the great earthquake of 749 AD while still under construction, the surviving mosaics and stone and plaster reliefs are evidence of its splendor. A small gatehouse leads into a wide courtyard dominated by a star-shape stone window that once graced an upper floor. Several sections of the fine geometric mosaics have been left exposed; others are covered by sand. The most impressive part of the complex is the reception room, off the plaza. Its intricate mosaic floor, depicting a lion hunting gazelles, is one of the most beautiful in the country. The balustrade of an ornamental pool reflects the artistic influences of both East and West. Fragments of ornate stucco reliefs are still visible on some of the walls.
To get here go north from the traffic circle that constitutes downtown Jericho, follow Hisham's Palace Road for 4 km (2½ miles), turn right at the sign to Hisham's Palace after the Police Intelligence Building, and then take an immediate left down a 1-km (½-mile) access road.
Hisham's Palace Rd., Jericho, Israel