The Duke's Diwan - Atlas Obscura

The Duke's Diwan

One man's labor of love, Amman's oldest home has become a time capsule with its doors permanently open to artists and guests. 


The oldest residence in the city, located just a stones-throw from the bustling souks of downtown, the Duke’s Diwan has an open door policy of accepting all curious willing to climb the steep staircase leading to its storied rooms. 

Built in 1924 by Abdul Rahman Madi, the space at 12 King Faisal Street serves as one of the finest reminders available of the architectural heritage of Old Amman. 

The building served as the Central Post Office for the Emirate Trans-Jordanian government until the late 1940’s. For a brief period it was home to an annex of the Ministry of Finance, but for 50 years, starting in 1948, the five airy rooms at 12 King Faisal Street were known as the Haifa Hotel. Then in 2001, with Amman in the midst of a period of rapid growth and redevelopment, the space caught the attention of Mamdouh Bisharat who recognized the space’s unique character at a time when historic casualties in the name of progress continue to be the norm.

Known locally as the “Duke of Mukheiheh,” it was Bisharat’s private investment and championing of the home’s preservation that has made it the destination it is today. In the words of the man himself, “We cannot enjoy modernity, if we neglect our past and heritage”. 

Named “Duke” in honor of its benefactor, and “Diwan” in reference to the Arabic word for the room of the house always open to guests, the modern Duke’s Diwan has become a meeting place for creators and visionaries from near and far to convene in moments of artistic celebration and contemplation.

Informal concerts and events take place in the five adjoining rooms and airy balcony, where easels are erected to signal the diwan’s greater purpose. Throughout the residence, much of the original decor from the 1920’s has been restored, including a vintage radio, the original freestanding stove, and period specific chairs. The walls are decorated with framed memorabilia of Haifa Hotel’s glory days when Amman was among the world’s most ancient newly-modern cities.

Linger for any amount of time, and the friendly caretaker will invite you to join him for a cup of tea where he will tell you stories, and in spite of what should be insurmountable language barriers, you will somehow understand… because the Duke’s Diwan has the air of magic about it. 

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September 23, 2015

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