Palace of Tobiah (Qasr al-Abd)
Iraq al-amir, Jordan
Although little is known for definite about the history of Qasr al-Abd it is widely believed to have been built by a Tobiad notable, Hyrcanus of Jerusalem, head of the powerful Jewish Tobiad family and governor of Ammon. Credence for this theory is gained from the fact that the Hebrew name ‘Tuvya’ or 'Toviyya’ (Tobias) is engraved (טוביה but in a more Aramaic script) above the adjacent burial caves of Iraq al-Amir, which share their name with the nearby village.
The heavily decorated two-storey stone structure (measuring about 40 metres by 20 metres, and 13 metres high) is a rare example of Hellenistic architecture in Jordan. In the 1st century AD, Flavius Josephus described it as, “A strong fortress, which was constructed entirely of white marble up to the very roof and had beasts of gigantic size carved on it; and he enclosed it with a wide and deep moat”. The castle is built from some of the largest single blocks of any building in the Middle East, with the largest block measuring seven by three metres. However, these blocks were at most only 40 centimetres wide (making the building relatively vulnerable to the earthquake which destroyed it).