Nada al Shu’aibi Courtyard House
Deir Ghassana, Palestine
Women for Development, Nada al Shu’aibi Courtyard House
Umm Talal is more attached to the fig tree than I am. Cutting it down must have been necessary at a particular moment that I do not recognize because I was there and she was here. It is that simple. Perhaps if it was I who had carried on living here I would have knocked down or built, or planted or cut down trees with my own hands. Who knows? They lived their time here and I lived my time there. Can the two times be patched together?”
Murid Barghouti, I saw Ramallah, 2000, 85
Since 1991, RIWAQ has recognized the challenging complexities of preserving the Palestinian collective memory through projects that document and restore architectural heritage sites across the West Bank and Gaza. Harnessing the energy and skills of students, architects, archaeologists, and historians, RIWAQ embarked on the Registry of Historic Buildings, a thirteen year project (1994-2007) resulting in the publication of three volumes that include detailed histories, maps, and photos of approximately 420 villages in sixteen districts across the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza.
Utilizing data provided in this Registry of Historic Buildings, RIWAQ have concluded that by protecting 50 villages, they could succeed in protecting nearly 50% of the historic buildings in Palestine, which encompasses 50,230 historic buildings. Consequently, they have shifted its priorities and resources from the conservation of single historic buildings to a universal approach that engages entire communities.
One of RIWAQ’s latest projects is located in Deir Ghassana, twenty-five kilometers northwest of Ramallah, comprise the municipal area of Bani Zaid al Gharbiyya, the home of approximately 8,000 inhabitants. The name of the village is derived from the Ghasasina Arab tribes who resided in Palestine during and before the Byzantium era. The village is known for its numerous archaeological ruins and historic shrines and mausoleums, such as al Khawwas.
Being one of the twenty-four feudal villages of the Ottoman era in Palestine, Deir Ghassana is characterized by numerous fabulous palaces, namely of the Barghouti family, the sheiks of the Bani Zaid district.
Deir Ghassana is home to well-known modern political leaders, writers, and activists in Palestine. It has a very active civil society and quite a number of institutions, including a kindergarten, a clinic, and a women’s association, all of which are located in the village’s historic center.
In the Shu’aibi neighborhood, RIWAQ worked with the local women’s association and neighboring families to transfer the abandoned historic building of Nada al Shu’aibi into workspace for the association. The building was adapted to house a new kitchen, herb garden, space for training women (in the areas of illiteracy, computer skills, embroidery, and sewing) and visitors’ space.
Pavements and patterns, planting, benches, and pergolas were designed to make the spaces more user-friendly and accessible. The Nada al Shu’aibi courtyard adaptation into a women’s facility also tested green initiatives such as water recycling and the reuse of grey water. The kitchen was designed to allow for grey water to be refined by special plants and gravel and to water the garden. The houses surrounding the building were also refurbished from outside and their entrances were upgraded.
Through this work, we believe RIWAQ has succeeded in responding to the vital question of what it takes to rehabilitate an entire town, physically, socially, culturally, and economically.