Throne village

Throne villages (Arabic: قرى الكراسي Arabic transliteration: qura al-karasi; singular qaryat al-kursi) were villages in the central mountain areas of Palestine (today making up the modern-day West Bank) that served as seats of political and military power for the local leaders (sheikhs) of rural subdistricts (nahiya, pl. nawahi) primarily during the latter half of Ottoman rule.[1]

Political and social functionsEdit

There were roughly two dozen throne villages within the subdistricts that made up the central mountain areas of Palestine.[2][3] For the most part, they were relatively distant from the main urban centers of the region (Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron), which had their own separate administrators. Many were strategically located along trade routes or served as centers of olive oil production.[2]

In the rural highlands, neighboring villages were grouped together into administrative subdistricts or virtual sheikhdoms, in which one or more throne villages, which were typically larger in population and landholdings, served as the socio-political and economic centers for the lesser villages. The throne village was the administrative center for the dominant clan of the area, and some were also branch centers for various Sufi orders, particularly the Qadiriyya. The leading clans of the area maintained connections with other clans through patronage networks and alliances, and had similar relationships with urban mercantile clans.[4] The sheikhs' relationship to the authorities stemmed from their role as local tax collectors on behalf of the government.[5]

The sheikhs of the prominent rural landowning clans ultimately based their power on violence or the threat thereof. However, force was rarely used due to the durability of patronage networks, whereby the sheikhs offered the local peasantry protection in exchange for loyalty. This network further increased the power of the sheikhs, who could effectively restrict local and regional trade routes with their ability to mobilize peasant militias. Their allegiance with the peasantry was also solidified due to the presence of kinsmen in lesser villages, intermarriage with large peasant clans, and the sheikhs' role as arbiters of disputes or enforcers of customary law.[1]

The throne villages played a key role in maintaining the autonomy of the region from direct Ottoman rule for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Jarrar family's fortress village of Sanur, continually served as the principal obstacle to the attempts by the governors of Acre, Sidon and Damascus to extend their authority to the central highlands of Palestine, particularly Jabal Nablus.[6] In response to Napoleon's siege of Acre in 1799, the ruling clans of the throne villages dispatched forces to counter the French invasion.[7] The throne villages also joined forces during the 1834 revolt against Muhammad Ali of Egypt's conscription orders.[8]

During the second half of the 19th century, Ottoman reforms brought changes to the political administration of the highlands region, with the central Ottoman authorities shifting their reliance on governing the region to the urban notables and appointed mukhtars (leaders of individual villages). This signified the loss of power of the rural sheikhs and the influence of their throne villages all but disappeared by the beginning of the 20th century.[9]


Each throne village contained a fortress-like palace where the local sheikh would reside.[1] The palace architecture were influenced by the building style of the urban centers as opposed to the simpler architecture of peasant homes.[5] This was a reflection of the close relationship between the rural sheikhs and the urban notables.[10]

List of throne villagesEdit

Village Subdistrict Clan
Abu Dis Wadiyah Erekat[11]
Abwein Bani Zeid Al-Sahwil[12]
Arraba Bilad al-Haritha Abd al-Hadi[3]
Beit Iksa Jabal al-Quds Al-Kasawni[11]
Beit 'Itab Al-Arqub Al-Lahham[11]
Bayt Jibrin Jabal al-Khalil al-Tahta Al-'Azza[11]
Beit Wazan Jurat Amra Qasim[3]
Beita Mashareq al-Beitawi Duwaykat[13]
Beitunia Jabal al-Quds Al-Beituni[14]
Al-Bireh Jabal al-Quds Al-Birawi[14]
Burqa Wadi al-Sha'ir Al-Burqawi and Al-Mir'i
Deir Ghassaneh Bani Zeid Barghouti[14]
Deir Ibzi Bani Harith Al-Ka'raja[14]
Deir Istiya Jamma'in Qasim[12]
Dura Jabal al-Khalil al-Fauqa 'Amr[15]
Jaba' Jabal Sami Jarrar[16]
Jalud Mashareq al-Beitawi Mansur[13]
Jammain Jammain Qasim and Rayyan[12]
Kafr Malik Bani Salem Al-Daykah[14]
Kur Bani Sa'b Jayyusi[3][12]
Majdal Yaba Jamma'in Rayyan[12]
al-Mazra'a ash-Sharqiya Bani Murra Al-Ansawiyah[14]
Ni'lin Al-Arqub Al-Khawaja[3]
Qaryat al-Inab Bani Malik Abu Ghosh[11]
Ras Karkar Al-Arqub Ibn Simhan[14]
Sanur Sha'rawiyah Jarrar[3][17]
Sebastia Wadi al-Sha'ir Al-Kayed[3]
Al-Walaja Bani Hasan Al-Absiyeh[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Doumani, 1995, p. 35
  2. ^ a b Irving, 2012, p. 248
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Historic Throne Villages Archived 2014-05-03 at the Wayback Machine. RIWAQ. 2009.
  4. ^ Doumani, 1995, p. 29
  5. ^ a b Throne Villages. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2013.
  6. ^ Doumani, 1995, p. 234
  7. ^ Doumani, 1995, pp. 16-17.
  8. ^ Doumani, 1995, p. 238
  9. ^ Amiry, 1987, p. 43.
  10. ^ Amiry and Tamiri, 1989, p. 11
  11. ^ a b c d e f Macalister and Masterman, 1905, p. 353
  12. ^ a b c d e Macalister and Masterman, 1905, p. 355
  13. ^ a b Macalister and Masterman, 1905, p. 356
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Macalister and Masterman, 1905, p. 354
  15. ^ Macalister and Masterman, 1905, p. 352
  16. ^ Doumani (1995), Map 2. Jabal Nablus, ca. 1885 [1]
  17. ^ Preventive Conservation of Throne Village Palaces. RIWAQ.


  • Amiry, Suad (1987). Space, Kinship and Gender: The Social Dimension of Peasant Architecture in Palestine. University of Edinburgh-Faculty of Social Sciences. hdl:1842/6987.
  • Amiry, Suad; Tamari, Vera (1989). The Palestinian Village Home. London: Trustees of the British Museum. ISBN 9780714115993.
  • Doumani, Beshara (1995). Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus. University of California Press.
  • Irving, Sarah (2012). Palestine. Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 9781841623672.
  • Macalister, R. A. Stewart; Masterman, E. W. G. (1905). "Occasional Papers on the Modern inhabitants of Palestine, part I & part II". Quarterly Statement - Palestine Exploration Fund. 37: 343–356.