The name “Iraq al-Amir” refers to a town – a complex of nearby caves with human usage dating back to the early Bronze Age – and sometimes to a first-millennium BCE monument nearby, otherwise known as Qasr al-Abd.
The name “Iraq al-Amir” evidently translates to “The Prince’s Caves”; the meaning of “Iraq” is not cognate with the name of the adjacent country. “Qasr al-Abd” clearly means “Palace of the Servant,” though the origin of the name is unclear.
The Qasr itself is mysterious – it may have been a wealthy estate, a fortress, or even a mausoleum. Built in the 4th century BCE, it reflects a Hellenistic architectural style and was probably part of a much larger complex. Like many other historic buildings in the region, it was severely damaged by an earthquake in the fourth century CE and has been partially restored in recent times. The building is mentioned by the historian Flavius Josephus, indicating that it was a landmark of sorts even in ancient times.
In the village, the Iraq al-Amir Women’s Cooperative Association is an effort once supported by a royal family initiative and now continued by the town’s women aiming to teach crafting skills to local women in order to give them a source of income. Pottery, weaving, and traditional paper production are among the crafts practiced here; in a town with high unemployment, sales of these handicrafts are a valuable part of the economy.