Mahmoud Joudeh 28\12\2023

The serenity that greets you in Khan Yunis is different from other cities where this ancient city was built by the Mamluk on the ruins of an old city which was known by (Janis), as mentioned by Herodotus in the fifth century BC. It is located to south of the city of Gaza. This serenity is derived from its name which consists of two words: the first "Khan" means Inn, and the second "Yunis" refers to Prince Yunis Al-Nurozi Al-Dawdar.
In the 14th century, the Mamluk established the city, and it flourished to the point where that prosperity required a place to serve the merchants who traveled with their goods between Egypt, Damascus and Palestine. The birth of the Khan was necessary because the Barqouq castle was 20 kilometers away from the border between Egypt and Palestine, and it connected Cairo, Damascus and Gaza Strip. This was the goal of its creation, to be a protection for the city and a safe meeting place for merchants and travelers who were heading to the two largest capital cities in the old Mamluk State, as well as a shelter from groups that targeted trade routes to rob them, as it was prevalent during this time period.


Thus, Khan Yunis became a city with a castle called Barqouq Castle, and after the construction and erection of the castle, people approached it and built their houses and stores, and decided to settle for serving the merchants, visitors and soldiers. Hence, the neighborhood and then the city came to be, until it reached its current population of about a quarter of a million people.
A visitor to the city of Khan Younis must pass through its castle located in the center of the city with its wide plaza in front of it, which was previously a park that served residents of the city during their holidays and annual celebrations. The castle takes the form of a square and extends over an area of 16 dunums. There is no longer anything remaining on its western facade, where its length is about 72 meters. The width of the remaining ruins at the entrance is approximately 11.50 meters. It is fortified with four corner towers with defensive fortifications in the form of circular towers, and is built of sandstone and marble. It also contains other architecturally detailed, exquisite and finely crafted Mameluke features such as carved and serrated balconies and arches. At each corner, there is a major building in the form of a large circular tower built of stone intended to protect the castle from thieves and raiders. The castle consists of two floors. The first floor includes a number of storage rooms used for storing goods, and another set of stables for housing horses. The second floor has multiple rooms used for the comfort of the castle's residents, in addition to a mosque located to the left of the main gate. The mosque also has two floors, connected by an old wooden staircase. The first floor of the mosque has a prayer room with a marble pulpit and some old engravings dating back to the Mamluk period. In front of the prayer room, there is a small dome made of colored glass.


Yearning for the intertwined past with Barquoq

I had to visit this ancient, deep historical site and contemplate the walls of the castle. As I wandered near the walls, I had a valuable meeting and conversation with the seventy-year-old man called "Abu Maher" who was sitting on his chair in front of the wall and sipping from his cup of tea. After greeting him he agreed to exchange views with me on the castle. When I asked him why he was sitting in that place? He said, "I come every day to sit in front of this wall and contemplate its creation and feel nostalgically for my village Hamama, which we were forcibly displaced, leaving behind our dreams, land and homes. This wall and the shape of old stones remind me of our old days and the shape of our homes that we forced to leave."
"He added, "This place brings us all together, me and the neighbors. Every day at evening, we meet and know each other's news, even the buyers who sell in front of the wall have become our companions. How delicious the cup of tea is, being on the fire during winter with the gathering in front of this beautiful wall."
When I asked him, "Do you see that there is protection for this historical wall in your opinion, since you live next to the wall?"
He assured me by saying, "Yes, despite the damage, theft, and destruction to the castle, it still retains its final shape that I see every time it is restored by the specialized departments to ensure its preservation and prevent it from being subjected to any other attacks. This is something that brings happiness and a sense of security towards it."
What most impressed me during my meeting with grandfather “Abu Maher” was that he was full of historical information about the castle of Barqouq, its landmarks and the history of the eras and wars it has witnessed. He was filled with enthusiasm and even took me to the western interior side of the wall and began to introduce me of its details, explaining: "Here you can see artistic palettes of marble and around them two lions. If you focus, you can see the words of the Mameluki Sultan's (Barqouq) command “firman” ordering the construction of the castle. The text is (His seal bearer, the prince Yunus Al-Nuruzi Al-Dawdar, was sent to build a castle).” (789 Hijri, corresponding to 1387 AD).