The Azem Palace was built, in the 18th century, as a palatial residence for Assad Pasha al-Azem, Ottoman governor of Damascus for 14 years. It is considered a great example of Damascene houses. The governor had diverted the waters of Barada to his gardens and summoned most carpenters and masons in Damascus. He also ordered for roman columns from Bosra to be brought in along with the ancient paving of Banyas.
It is divided into separate quarters, one for the kitchens, one for the haremlek, where the governor's family used to live in private, and the third was the selamlek where the governor and other male members of the family would receive guests and conduct their business. Along the south side of the selamlek is a liwan that is very deep into the wall to free it from sunlight during the day. Next to this liwan is a room where the governor would receive his guests, there is a beautiful fountain at the center of its marble floor. The selamlek is, for the most part, used as the Museum of Popular Arts and Tradition.
Each room is designed and decorated to show you some of the typical Damascene traditions, including preparation for Hajj and preparation for marriage.