The khan was built in the early XVII century, on the remains of Roman and Crusaders buildings, along the main road that stretches from Nablus to the Mediterranean Coast. Located within the city, at the western edge of the souk, Khan al-Wakala was known as an urban caravanserai, a warehouse with stables, shops and accommodation for travelers. It profited from being located on the way of goods transiting from Damascus to Jerusalem as well as of the pilgrimage route to Mecca and Medina. It is constructed with a unique material, the local Nablus stone. On the main facade (the only one at present days) several shops are located, without connections with the internal side of the building. The main façade contains also the unique entrance to the building.
Compared with the other khans, Khan al-Wakala is a unique case where the plan has an irregular form; in fact, it presents the advancement of a portion of the southern façade, and consequently a contraction of the inner courtyard, probably due to the necessity to respect former property borders and the presence of a consolidated viability. The ground level has a very close and dense architectural rhythm. Along all the ground floor, every room is opened to outside through a door-window pair. The second level could be reached through open stairs facing the main entrance on the opposite wing. The roof is holded by cross vaults.
The project Following the financing agreement that was signed between the European Commission and the Municipality of Nablus in 2000, An-Najah National University was nominated to implement the project, in direct coordination and cooperation with UNESCO, Nablus municipality and the European Commission. The initial phase of the project consisted in the restoration of the khan. The goal of this part, in addition to maintaining a historically valuable site, is to allow building use for handcrafts, tourism and cultural services.
Around a central courtyard, historically used exclusively to serve the travelers, new collective functions are arranged: a restaurant, a civic hall, a museum, a small hotel and some commercial activities.
UNESCO invites us to intervene at a later stage, after the restoration of structures, assigning us the design of the courtyard, the flooring, doors, windows and the interiors.
The new courtyard paving is articulated by the use of local sandstone slabs, cut into fourteen different formats, a reference to local tradition of stone craftsmanship.
At the entrances to the main functions the plates size becomes denser, a square module of 20x20cm is introduced. This modularity is a reference to a local product linked to the image of the city: the handmade soap of Nablus.
On the new stony plot lean some elements in Carrara marble: a monolithic fountain, instead of the previous lost, and some bridge-shaped benches. The use of Carrara marble resumes details and materials present in an old town mosque, in which the same material, recovered from roman ruins, was reused for an ablution pool.
The museum, the hotel and the restaurant are on two levels, accessible by stairs carved into the stone mass of the entrance tower. In the restaurant a new staircase is divided in two ramps, different from one another for material and language: the first is in concrete paneled in mahogany, partially hidden by a fixed wood wardrobe, the second is in calendered iron sheets, pre-assembled and then installed.
The shops on the street have been renovated: new folding iron doors take place of those lost.