Just a short bus ride (no. 124) away from Piazza Politeama is the beautiful Palace of the Zisa (Arabic, al-Aziz, “the Splendid one”) which was founded by King William I, but completed under the reign of William II in 1190 ca. The castle, as it is commonly called, is a striking example of palatial architecture ifiqena.
Sitting in what was once the Genoardo (from Arabic the Jannat al-ar, "Garden" or "paradise on earth"), it was inspired by Islamic gardens such as riyad of Persian origin. A fine example of Moorish architecture, the castle was the king's summer residence and still maintains that feeling of space and relaxation reinforced by the presence of trickling courses of water.
Three stories high, its exterior stonework reveals an embedded patterns of blind arches . At the center of the ground floor, aligned with the main portal, there is the representative room or "fountain room", the typical iwan Islamic one. Indeed it represents the crucial center of the whole building, directing towards the vestibule through a large ogival arch supported by twin columns, on the sides of them are the remains of the epigraph in stucco with the name of the building and the reference to William II. The whole room is adorned with decorative mosaics and marble inlays in opus sectile, large muqarnas vaulted niches and a rare kind of Byzantine mosaic panels with profane themes and Islamic iconographies.
In many rooms it houses some significant artifacts of an Islamic artistic matrix from the countries of the Mediterranean basin.
Among them are particularly important elegant musciarabia (from Arabic masrabiyya), gate wooden screens, composed of hundreds of spools stuck to each other, forming - like laces - designs and refined, light ornaments. There are also common tools or sometimes furnishing (candlesticks, bowls, basins, mortars) mainly made of brass with incised decorations and often embellished with agemine (wires and thin sheets) in gold and silver.