The Ottoman Hejaz Railway between Damascus and Medina, which should facilitate the pilgrimage to Mecca, has been built with German assistance. During the construction work the Ottoman Sultan donated the famous Mshatta façade to the German Emperor. Therefore the cornerstone of the Museum of Islamic Art is closely linked to the construction of the Hejaz Railway.
The Mshatta façade is part of an enclosing wall which was decorated with reliefs and belonged to a palace (built in Umayyad times, ca. 743/744) in the Jordan desert. The Mshatta façade is a world reference of an extensive architectural ornamentation of the early Islamic period and shows the continuity and answer of the Islamic culture and art to the Old Orient and late antiquity. The primary characteristics and motifs of late ancient, Coptic, Syrian and Sasanian paragons make the façade a stony manifestation of the traditions of the ancient Orient.
It is not only the largest, but also the most important property of Islamic art sited in a museum worldwide. Art historically, culture-historically and societal-historically the Mshatta façade is a monument of the human history and its value as a testimony to an epoch is comparable to the Ishtar Gate or the Pergamon Altar. It was the first time that a façade was completely covered with deeply elaborated ornamentation and a rhythm which was never experienced before. Several traditions of late Antiquity were united and brought together in this façade.