Royal Palace at Tel el-Ful – East Jerusalem, West Bank - Atlas Obscura

East Jerusalem, West Bank

Royal Palace at Tel el-Ful

The abandoned shell of what would have been the Jordanian royal family's summer palace. 

From its perch almost 3,000 feet above sea level, this abandoned building offers 360-degree views of the landscape below. It was meant to be a grand palace crowning Tel el-Ful, a hilltop long associated with the biblical Gibeah. But instead, it now exists as little more than a forgotten shell.

After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jordan seized control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Israel controlled West Jerusalem. Israel’s relocation of their president to West Jerusalem prompted the King of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, to respond with his own material show of power.

The young, jet-setting king planned to build a summer palace on a hilltop in East Jerusalem. He intended it to be place not only for the Jordanian family to spend the summers overlooking Jerusalem, which he had hoped would be their second capital, but also to host Hollywood stars and foreign dignitaries.

Construction began in 1965. The building was meant to have three levels of arched galleys made of luxurious Jerusalem stone. But after only two years, everything came to a halt when Israel seized East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Today, the palace is no more than a concrete skeleton. It’s been left exactly as is for the past five decades, and its only visitors are rowdy teens and curious urban explorers. The empty walls are covered in graffiti and trash litters the floor. Restoring or demolishing the abandoned palace would be difficult, as any move by Israel, Palestine, or Jordan would spark anger among the three governments.

Know Before You Go

The building is on top of a hill near the Beit Hanina community center, approximately a five-minute walk to the top. Bring water, as it can get hot, and it's best to wear closed-toe shoes to avoid prickly grass or broken glass. The structure has no barrier around it and is freely accessible.