central courtyard

A place to drink coffee


The Jacir Palace in Bethlehem is an exquisite example of Late Ottoman architecture. Little work is needed to imagine how this space was used at the beginning of the twentieth century. Local and foreign guests of the Jacir family could rest here from the heat of the middle eastern sun. The courtyard is still used today as a place of meeting, drinking coffee, and telling stories.

The surrounding riwaq, or arcade, crouches behind columns of alternating colored stone. The riwaq provides a transition between surrounding rooms and the open courtyard in the center of the palace. Colored stonework continues around a fountain, a stimulating centerpiece.

Balconies to additional rooms are visible on the second floor.

For more on Bethlehem’s Jacir palace see here.


Our next group is gearing up and will be arriving in Israel/Palestine at the start of 2019. We plan to investigate the region Galilee and walk segments of the Jesus Trail. Follow this journey on our website, or better yet, consider joining us on a future trip! A list of planned group excursions may be found here.

Life happened in #4

Life happened in houses that lined the streets of ancient Kerkouane (the site is introduced here). Many of the lower courses of the walls have been preserved to a height of about two feet. Upper courses were composed of mud brick. White and colored stucco faced exterior surfaces. Each unit had a doorway and oftentimes a hall entrance leading to a central courtyard. Around this courtyard were various rooms and other features such as a bath, a well, or the base of a stair. It is assumed that the stairs led to a second floor where additional living space was found.

This is the hall entrance to one house. Note the basin (well?) to the right as one turns from the hall to the courtyard. Note also the bath area immediately to the left (only the curved lip of the tub is visible). A drain for liquid waste runs the length of the hall and back out into the street.

Archaeologists gave this dwelling its own address within the checkerboard city: it is #4 rue de l'apotropaion. Don't you wonder who lived in #4? Was the master of the house the owner or a tenant? How many persons called #4 home? Were they of local origin? Punics? Libyans? Were they fisherman, merchantmen, or agriculturalists? Did they fear/hate the Romans or did that only happen after the First Punic War? So many questions!

Don't miss the sheep grazing in the distance.

For readers interested in learning more about ancient housing layouts like this, see Birgit Tang, Delos, Carthage, Ampurias: The Housing of Three Mediterranean Trading Centers (L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2005).