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Al-Pasha Palace in Gaza

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 25.02.2006:

This Week in Palestine

July 2005

Mohamed El-Sharif

At the entrance of Gaza’s old city and at the edge of Al-Daraj neighbourhood, the walls of Al-Pasha Palace are still standing, representing the history and culture of our people which has been around for hundreds of years. The building can be traced to the late sixteenth century. While it was believed that the building was constructed during the Mamluk period, sections of the building could have been built during the Ottoman Empire. The Islamic ornaments on the Palace’s walls give a less secular value to the building, while the lion symbols next to the main doors represent power and authority.

The historic building witnessed many changes. Many think that Al-Pasha Palace was the seat of the Gaza governorate during the Turkish rule. In 1877, Napoleon Bonaparte spent three nights in the building during his invasion on the city of Acre, hence the name Napoleon’s Castle. It became a dobia (police station) during the British mandate. And when the Egyptians took control, the building became part of Al-Zahra’ girls’ high school. In 1994, after the advent of the Palestinian Authority to the area, the building came under the management of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Since then, the dream of restoring this building became a reality.

The project of restoring Al-Pasha Palace to its original splendour also helped create employment opportunities for hundreds of workers. The project was funded by the government of Germany through the German Development Bank, the KfW, and was executed by the UNDP/PAPP in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The renovation process took place in two phases. The first phase budget was US$50,000 while in the second phase it amounted to 40,000 Euros.

Cultural activities planned at Al-Pasha Palace aim at animating the place with exhibitions, lectures and other cultural happenings that serve the community. For this purpose the UNDP contributed US$40,000 to fund internal design works, including the installation of lighting and sound systems and other essential equipment. The French Cultural Centre contributed US$24,900 to cover the costs of organizing several exhibitions at the Palace.

On June 8, 2005, Mr. Miguel Berger, the head of the German Representative Office to the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Ziad Al-Bandak, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Mr. Timothy Rothermel, Special Representative of the United Nations Development Programme and Mr. Regis Koetschet, the Consul General of France inaugurated the restored Palace. The ceremony also included the opening of “Al-Quds Al-Sharif,” a photo exhibition of the Dome of the Rock from 1890 to 1925. The collection was loaned courtesy of the Ecole Biblique, the French biblical and archaeological school in Jerusalem. This is the first of a series of exhibitions to be organized at the Palace.

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