The Road to Jericho
There are a number of interesting historical sites on the main Jerusalem Jericho road that one should not miss. The road runs though a semidesert area known locally as Bariyet Al Quds "the wilderness of Jerusalem" or the Judaean Desert. A semi-desert of about 500km2 lies here, it sustains no life except in the wadis. In ancient times, monks and hermits came to meditate and pray in its silence. Today as in ancient times, Bedouin tents and camps line the road. Lately, a couple of Israeli settlements have sprung up in the desert. They obtain their water by digging very deep wells that reach water beds, thus affecting the natural water flow down to Jericho.
Bethany (Al Ezariah)
Four km east of Jerusalem on the main Jerusalem-Jericho road is the Palestinian village of Al Ezariah, home to the famous church of Bethany. The Arabic name of the village is a derivation of the earlier Greek name Lazarus, who according to the New Testament was raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. A chapel dedicated to Lazarus was built on his tomb during the 4th century, and was replaced by a church during the Crusader period. The church was later converted into a mosque, but in the 17th century it became a church once again. The present church was built by the Roman Catholics in the 1950s. Nearby is the Greek Orthodox Church with its beautiful blue dome. Visiting hours are from 8 to 11:30am and from 2 to 5pm.
Al Khan Al Ahmar
Ten (10) km east of Jerusalem, on the main road to Jericho, is Al Khan Al Ahmar, also known as the Good Samaritan Inn. The Khan is a 16th century Ottoman structure where travelers on this ancient trade route linking the two banks of the Jordan stopped to refresh themselves and their animals. Today, a souvenir shop and a Bedouin tent serving refreshments for tourists occupy the inn. On the opposite side of the road there are visible but inaccessible remains of the church of St. Euthymius. Built in the 5th century, it soon became one of the most important monastic centers in Palestine. The church was built on the site to commemorate the famous story of the Good Samaritan who helped Jesus on his return journey to Jerusalem. The name "the Good Samaritan Inn" is derived from this source. It remained in use until the 13th century when it was destroyed by the Mamluk sultan Baybars because it was on the pilgrimage route to Nabi Musa. The hill beyond the Khan is occupied by the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale Edomim which was esablished in 1978 and is now a city. Israel plans to incorporate this settlement into what it calls metropolitan Jerusalem. Visiting is possible all day long.
Wadi Qelt (Saint George Monastery)
Beyond the Khan, the road begins its descent towards the Jordan valley. Three km after the Khan to the left is a narrow road leading to wadi Qelt and the monastery of Saint George "Dair Al Qelt". The wadi is a natural rift in the hills with high, sheer rock walls extending 45km between Jerusalem and Jericho. The narrow and difficult road lining the wadi was once the main road to Jericho. It is now used only by tourists visiting the monastery, the wadi, the springs, and the ancient water systems which were probably the largest and the most interesting in the whole country. Hermits have inhabited the wadi since the 3rd century AD. They initially lived in caves and rock-hollowed niches, but in the AD 5th-6th centuries, they started building monasteries. Many such monasteries were built here, only the monastery of Saint George survived. During the Persian invasion of Palestine in AD 614, this monastery was destroyed and many of its monks were killed. Skulls and mummies of the deceased are on display at the monatery. Most of the present church dates from the 1901 restoration by the Greek Orthodox Church. The wadi is also known as wonderful place for hiking tours, especially in winter. A 15km walking path has been marked here, it starts at the springs of Qelt or Farah, down to the site of Tulul Abu Al Alaieq (Herod's winter palace) in Jericho. Visiting hours are from 9 to 12am and from 2 to 4pm.
Maqam Al Nabi Musa
The maqam of Nabi Musa is considered a holy place because it houses the grave of prophet Moses according to local tradition. Moses is recognized by Moslems as one of the great prophets of Islam. The bituminous rocks around the shrine add to its mystique and sanctity since they are flammable. This remarkable property is due to their mineral content of qatraan or tar, with its distinctive smell. Pilgrims used the stones as fuel for warmth and cooking.
The tomb has been the site of annual pilgrimage festival or mawsim at least since the time of the great Muslim leader Salah Al Din ( Saladin ) who liberated Jerusalem from the Crusaders in the twelfth century AD. Muslims believe that Moses is buried here, although, according to the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 34), Moses never entered Palestine, the ‘‘Promised Land‘‘, but rather died at Mount Nebo in modern-day Jordan.
The main body of the present shrine-the mosque, minaret, and some of the rooms - was completed in AD 1269 during the reign of the Mamluk Sultan, Al Thaher Baybars who reigned from AD 1260 to 1277. Baybars bequeathed a huge religious endowment-Waqf of agricultural land and villages to support the maqam, including Turmus Aiya, al-Mazara‘a, Khirbet Abu Falah, Sur Baher, and the lands and waters of Wadi Qilt and Jericho. In later periods, more land and villages from the Nablus region and Ajlun were added to the waqf, making it the largest in the whole of Palestine.
Successive additions of rooms for visitors and pilgrims brought the maqam to its present shape and size in AD 1475. Further major maintenance and restorations were undertaken by the Ottoman rulers in 1820, this is documented by an inscription above the main western entrance of the maqam.
The mawsim of Nabi Musa
The development of the annual pilgrimage and festival of Nabi‘ Musa goes back to the time of the liberation of Jerusalem by Saladin from the crusaders. As a show of Muslim strength and good will to the Christians, Saladin allowed, under the terms of the agreement, the Crusades and another Western pilgrims to visit the Christian holy places at Easter time. That is the reason why the pilgrims and festival of Nabi Musa falls always on the week proceeding Easter.
From that time on, thousand of Muslims from all over Palestine made it their habit to come to Jerusalem on Good Friday. They prayed in Al-Aqsa Mosque and then marched in grand procession, singing religious songs, dancing the traditional dabkeh, and playing flutes and drums until they reached the maqam. Prayers, celebrations, horse racing and games continued for five days around the shrine. This has developed over the years to became one of the most attractive and popular festivals in Palestine.
The mawsim is a religious occasion but it is also a time for celebration and relaxation. It was an important social event too, since it brought together Palestinians from all parts of the country who met, discussed their affairs, forged links with one another and planned joint activities. Delegations came from as far away as Haifa, Nablus, Jaffa, Hebron and Jerusalem, and other towns and villages in Palestine. The political significance of such a huge gathering was demonstrated during the 1920s and 1930s. Tens of thousands of Palestinians at the mawsim of Nabi Musa demonstrated against Zionist immigration and settlement in Palestine, and against the British mandate authorities who supported it. In 1930s, the British army was called in to quell demonstrations at the site, and in 1937, the British banned celebrations at the maqam completely. Annual pilgrimage was resumed only in 1987, when 50.000 Palestinians attended a mawsim organized by the Muslim Waqf in Jerusalem after a break of 50 years.
This was stopped by the Israeli arbitrary measures against the Palestinian people during the Intifadah period ( 1987-1995 ). The Committee for the Promotion of Tourism in the Governorate of Jericho in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs revived under the patronage of President Yasser Arafat in 1997 this mawsim and pilgrimage.
Description of the Site:
The maqam represents Islamic architecture in its simplest and best form. It is a huge three story building topped by a complex of domes. The building consists of a large central open courtyard surrounded by over 120 rooms and halls.
The main mosque, with a minaret, lies against the western wall of the courtyard. Inside, there is a mihrab or prayer niche pointing in the direction of Mecca, and it is a minbar or pulpit from which the Imam traditionally leads the prayers. A wall with a large opening divides the mosque into two parts: the large eastern section is designated for men, while the smaller western part is for women. To the right of the main entrance of the mosque, another door leads to a small chamber in the center of which is a tomb covered with green cloth, that is the burial place of the Prophet Moses. On the wall, in Arabic a Mamluk inscription reads: " The construction of this maqam over the grave of the prophet who spoke with God, Moses, is ordered by his majesty, Sultan Taher Abu Al Fatah Baybars, in the year 668 hijra" ( AD 1269/70 ). The title, Abu Al Fatah, meaning " The Conqueror ", was given to Baybars since he liberated Palestine from the Crusaders.
Outside the mosque, the fine minaret affords a wonderful panoramic view of the shrine, the Jordan valley and the desert hills beyond. On a clear day, one can also catch sight of the Hills of Moab on the eastern bank of the Jordan River and Mount Nebo which biblical tradition associates with Moses.
The huge cemetery outside the walls of the shrine is for Muslims who either died during the festivals or who asked to be buried here because of the sanctity of the site. According to the local tradition, the cemetery includes two important tombs over which two small maqams have been built: the larger one, about one kilometer west of Nabi Mussa, is held by local tradition to be that of Hassan Al-Ra‘i, the shepherd of the Prophet Moses, although records show him to have been a guardian of the maqam in the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, this maqam has been vandalized in recent years. The second tomb, to the southeast, is that of A‘isha, a righteous local woman. First mention of this maqam of A‘isha appeared in 1920.
The maqam today
The 1937 ban on the mawsim of Nabi Musa continued and the shrine was used as military base under Jordanian rule and by the Israelis until 1973 when it was handed back to the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem. It resumed once in 1987 but was stopped by the Israelis at the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada against the occupation which started in December of that year. The Oslo Accord of 1992 between Israel and the PLO placed the sanctuary under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Ministry of the Islamic Waqf. Major reconstruction and restoration works need to be carried out. The PNA assigned a Committee for that purpose.
A Palestinian family from Jericho lives on the site and looks after it, they are happy to show visitors around. They run a small shop selling interesting and unusual gifts, such as pure olive-oil soap, honey and locally-produced olive oil, the proceeds of which go towards maintaining the site. Soft drinks and snacks are also available. They sanctuary is open daily from 8 until sunset, no entrance fee is required, but donations towards its upkeep are welcome.
Maqam Al-Nabi Musa, or the Tomb of Prophet Moses, is splendid example of early Islamic architecture set in an awe-inspiring landscape.
It lies 8 km south west of Jericho on the main Jericho-Jerusalem road. From the main road it lies 2 km to the north. It is therefore 28 km to the east of Jerusalem in a semi-desert area called Barriyat Al Quds or the Wilderness of Jerusalem, 2 km beyond the sign indicating sea level.
This is a revised version of the text on the maqam prepared by the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange ( PACE ) in Ramalla, an article by the Islamic Research and Heritage Revival Establishment in Jerusalem and from a report made by Abass Nimr Published in Al Quds Newspaper in 1997.
Maqam Hasan Al Ra‘i and Maqam Aisha
The huge cemetery outside the walls of Nabi Musa is reserved for Muslim pilgrims who died here during the festivals or those who asked to be buried here because of the sanctity of the site. According to local tradition, the cemetery includes two important tombs over which two small maqams have been built: the larger one, about one kilometer west of Nabi Musa, is held to be that of Hassan Al Ra‘i, the shepherd of Prophet Moses, although records show him to have been the guardian of the maqam in the nineteenth century. The second tomb, to the southeast, is held to be that of ‘Aisha, the favorite wife of Prophet Mohammed. Again, ‘Aisha is known to have died in Syria, this tomb is perhaps that of a righteous local woman of the same name.
Tulul Abu Al Alaieq (Herod Palace)
The site is made up of several low hills on both sides of wadi Qelt. It is located right at the southern entrance of Jericho, at the point where wadi Qelt meets the plateau of Jericho. The site can be reached either from the main Jerusalem-Jericho road, or better via the old road to Jericho which lines the wadi. The oldest discoveries at Tulul Abu Al Alaieq date back to the Chalcolithic period 4500-3100BC, but the most impressive remains are either from the Hellenistic or the Roman periods in date. In Roman times, Jericho was a garden of fruit and palm trees, it was given as a gift to Cleopatra by Mark Antony.
The city reached its peak under Herod the Great who built his winter palace at the site of Tulul Abu Al Alaieq. This palace is the best preserved and the most impressive structure at the site which seems to have served as the administrative center of the town of Jericho at that time. It was built on both sides of the wadi to allow the inhabitants to enjoy the scene of the waters of the wadi in winter. A huge garden of palm trees and Balsam measuring 11000m2 was found during excavation works on the site to the north of the palace. It was called the Royal Garden. The foundations of a wall surrounding the complex, several workshops, pools, ovens, a large wine press, sewage systems and liquid storage buildings, were also found in what is believed to be the industrial area of the city.
It is not clear when the site was abandoned, this might have happened after the earthquake which shook the area around the middle of the AD 1st century. Some remains at Tulul Abu Al Alaieq from the Byzantine and Islamic periods indicate that the site was never completely abandoned but rather shrunk in size. There are no entrance fees the the site and visiting is possible all day long.
Old jericho (Tell Al Sultan)
The most ancient city of Jericho is situated on a mound overlooking the oasis, 2km north west of the center of modern Jericho. Excavations by the late British archaeologist K. Kenyon uncovered settlements dating from 9000BC. This period marks the transition from nomadic to settled agricultural life. The site has been cleared to bedrock and more than 23 layers of ancient
civilizations that have built this impressive hill up to the present height have been uncovered. Many structures are visible here including the oldest known stairs in the world, the oldest wall, and the massive, round, defense tower dating from before 7000BC at the center of the site. Those finds make Jericho the first fortified city in history. The last layer of occupation at the site dates from the late Byzantine - early Islamic periods.
Jericho‘s contribution to human civilization is unique. This is particularly true given the city‘s role in the domestication of plants and animals and the invention of pottery. Those developments took place here some 1000 years before Mesopotamia and Egypt. The walls and tower of Jericho preceded the pyramids of Egypt by 4000 years. Jericho is also famous for its destruction by the invading Israelite tribes around 1200BC as described in the Old Testament. Excavations, however,
have shown no evidence of this story.
Opposite the tell is the spring of Ain Al Sultan, its waters are abundant. Its output of 700 cubic meters an hour make it the most important of all springs of Jericho: Nue‘meh, Duyuk, Ojah, and Qelt. Ain Al Sultan was called by this name because the Babylonians put out the eyes of the ousted king of Jerusalem here. It is also called Elisha‘s well, after prophet Elisha who purified its waters by salt. The site is open daily from 8am to 5pm.
Mount of Temptation
Byzantine-Christian Jericho was situated in and around the modern town. Several churches and monasteries have been discovered here, the most important of which is the Monastery of Temptation "Dair Quruntul". The mountain of temptation " Jabel Quruntul" rises about 350m west of Jericho overlooking the Jordan Valley. Here, Jesus spent 40 days and nights fasting and meditating during the temptation of Satan. The thirty to forty caves on the eastern slopes of the mountain were inhabited by monks and hermits since the early days of Christianity. The path leading to the Greek monastery is very steep and difficult to climb, but a visit to the monastery certainly is worth the walk. Other than the monastery one can see the Roman fortress of Al Doq on the top of the mountain which was built to guard the valley. The word Quruntul derives from the Latin word. Quadraginta, meaning "forty" to indicate the forty days of the fast of Christ. The name given to the mountain by the crusaders in the 12th century. The present monastery was built in the 1895 replacing the earlier crusader Church of the 12th century date. Visiting hours are from 7am to 3pm and from 4pm to 5pm in summer and from 3pm to 4pm in winter.
The Sugar Mills
Half way between Tell Al Sultan and the Mount of Temptation on your right as you depart Tell Al Sultan are the sugar mills known as Tawahin Al Sukkar. Sugar cane production and processing was known in Palestine since the Umayyad period, the Crusaders expanded sugar production for export to Europe. For that purpose they built sophisticated sugar mills including those located in Jericho. The remains of the aqueduct which brought the water from Ain Duyuk are still visible today. The water provided the necessary energy for the mill and its pottery workshop. One can also see here the remains of the press and the factory. The site, even though extremely interesting, is not protected and is rarely visited.
About four kilometers northwest of Jericho is the Byzantine settlement of Na‘aran. The site is situated next to the spring of Ain Al Duyuk and Ain Al Nue‘meh where the aqueduct that once brought water to Hisham‘s palace can still be traced. The most impressive remnant of the aqueduct is the fine arch spanning the wadi close to the springs. Remains of a synagogue were found in the basement of a private Palestinian house. The beautiful mosaic floor of AD 5th or 6th century date and the Hebrew inscription reading "peace upon Israel" make the visit truly interesting. The house is still under Israeli control even after the hand-over of Jericho to the Palestinian authority, Israeli soldiers are guarding the site around the clock.
Hisham‘s Palace (Khirbet al Mafjar)
Five (5) km north of Jericho are the ruins of the impressive desert palace of Hisham (Hisham‘s Palace). The palace was a country residence built either by the Umayyad Caliph Hisham Ibn Abd Al Malik (AD 724-743) or Al Walid Ibn Yazid (AD 743-4). The Arab-Umayyad dynasty ruled an empire stretching from India to France. Like most early Arab rulers, Hisham preferred the freedom of the desert to the city life of Damascus, the capital. The palace is a complex of buildings, baths,
mosques, and colonnaded courts. Its mosaics and stucco ornaments are fine examples of early Islamic art and architecture. Experts say that an earthquake destroyed the buildings before they were completed. Thus the accumulated sand and debris helped to preserve the palace‘s lovely mosaics. The mosaic floors of the baths are a major attraction for visitors and so is the tree of Life of the guest room (also called the Tree of Human Cruelty), this is one of the most beautiful mosaics in the world. Many of the carved stuccos from the palace are displyed at the Rockefeller Archeological Museum in Jerusalem. Saladin troops attempted to restore the palace in the 12th century, but thereafter and down to the 1940‘s of this century, the ruins served as a quarry of cut stones for the people of Jericho. A small museum on the right of the entrance houses a collection of pottery found on the site. Visiting hours are from 8am to 5pm.
The site is about five kilometres to the north of Jericho. It is possible that the site occupied a vast area where the Caliph practiced his hobby of hunting. Traces of the fence that used to surround it can be found here and there, proving that it stretched about two kilometers in the direction of the Jordan Rive, but its north-south boundaries are difficult to locate accurately. As there were no springs then near the site, water from Nuwei’meh Spring, three kilometers to the north west was brought to it. This necessitated the construction of a number of bridges in two valleys. In ancient times running water was employed to run water mills in two locations. Traces of these mills can still be seen about a hundred meters west of the Palace.
Touring the Palace:
1. You pass through the external wall from the southern gate on the sides of which there are two round towers, and enter into the front courtyard whose length is three hundred meters and width forty meters. It is surrounded on its four sides by arched porticoes.
2. On proceeding northwards we reach a square pool one meter deep with its walls thickly plastered as if they were marble. It is painted red and yellow. Water used to gush out from a fountain at its center and pass through an outlet on its southern side. It was covered by a ceiling decorated in the Persian fashion.
3. We return a little backwards and change our direction eastwards to enter the eastern gate, the main entrance to the Palace building surrounded by two square towers. On the two sides of the entrance there are two stone seats, each containing three round props as if they were cushions on which the watchman stretched himself. On the top of the seats there is a zone embellished with drawings of flowers and leaves topped by three niches in which statues were erected, covered by half circular arches resembling those found on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Over the niches stands the ceiling covering the entrance, consisting of several Arab arches. This entrance was roofed with bricks, which goes to show that labourers from Iraq participated in its construction. It was customary for the ceiling to consist of stones available in Syrian mason used in his roofs.
4. This entrance leads to a lobby twelve meters long, on either side of which there were nine columns which, together with the walls were covered by gypsum on which geometrical figures were inscribed, interspersed with men’s heads covered with turbans, and women’s heads covered with veils, leaving no doubt about the Arabic nature of this Palace. There are also heads of birds, wild and domesticated animals, some of which nibble bunches of grapes and other fruits.
5. Stepping from the lobby to the courtyard of the Palace we come across the moat of the eastern building which consists of eight rooms on the left and an equal number on the right. On the western side overlooking the courtyard there is a colored picture of flowers and animals as well as a number of window glass panes stocked in the corners ready for use.
6. Moving forward we enter the central courtyard round which rise buildings from the four sides. This courtyard is almost a square 29x28 meters, surrounded by columns topped by marble arches carrying a ceiling forming a portico in front of the rooms which stand behind it. The floor of the courtyard and portico is paved with black tiles. Below these tiles are regular outlets from which water flows out of the Palace.
7. The eastern building consists of four rectangular rooms. In the middle stands the Caliph’s private mosque, its walls covered with white marble, but whose niche is free from decoration and embellishment. These rooms are not tiled, but tiles were found piled up ready for use. The rooms and mosque were mastefully roofed with tiles or stones preventing the leakage of water to the inside.
8. The Caliph’s residence was in the western building, consisting of two rows of rooms each having six rooms of various width. They contained inner doors joining them together so that their residents did not need to go out to the partico and courtyard. In the middle was the Caliph’s bathroom reached by descending stairs to a depth of five meters. In the bathroom there was a fire-place, a hot water basin and a rest chamber. The seats placed on the sides were paved with colored mosaics. Water descended to the bathroom from a reservoir receiving its water from the main canal. On the roof this room was the special office of the Caliph roofed with red bricks.
9. The northern building consists of a large entrance hall 29 meters long and eleven meters wide. No partitions divides it into rooms, but there are bridges in it. Its roof contains seven small domes.
10. Between this northern entrance hall and the eastern building there are steps leading to the upper floor over-looking the palace courtyard. The ceiling of the portico stood on white marble columns thinner than the ground floor columns. Some of them have crosses indicating that they were taken from the ruins of local churches. Between the marble columns there is a gypsum ail inscribed with geometrical and floral motifs. They were found cast on the ground floor along with decorative and pictorial plaster. They were collected in a special hall in the Archeological Museum in Jerusalem in an admirable way. On looking at these gypsum forms you will find that it competes with the most advanced level that this arts has reached among the Persians.
11. The most beautiful part of this portico was the eastern one overlooking the small garden in front of the palaces, and the great field surrounding the Palace which used to be a charming park with its trees and flowers as if it were a piece of the gardens of Damascus.
12. We descend the stairs which we climbed, and return to the portico in front of the northern entrance hall, and proceed westwards, changing our direction northwards. We ascend steps leading to a path to the right of which there is an open yard which is the yard of the mosque standing to the east of it. It is the mosque in which the residents of the Palace pray. We see clearly its niche to the south. We see also behind it the remnants of the minaret adjoining the wastern entrance hall.
13. we now return to the western passage leading to the big hall, the reception hall adjoining the bathroom area. It is a square hall. Everyone of its sides has three round curves, and in every curve there stands the statue of a bare-breasted woman with her necklace, or the statue of a man wearing a lion cloth. This hall is singled out by its many colored mosaics making it a masterpiece of splendour and brilliance. The most important part is that which was found in the middle section of the wall of the western wall where the Caliph used to sit watching the slave-girls dancing in front of him in that spectacular hall. This entrance hall was roofed by a big dome in its middle surrounded by four domes on a lower level.
14. when the caliph left the bathroom he resorted to a room on the north western corner of the entrance hall. The internal part of this room has a half circular chamber, paved with the most spectacular mosaics in the world. The Seville orange tree appears in it. Under it and on its two sides can be noticed the emotions of the animals a victorious and a vanquished deer. Around this figure there is a view in the shape of a Persian carpet. Sixteen kinds of stones were employed in paving it.
15. The real facilities of the bathroom were to be found behind the lobby or entrance hall from the north. Hot water is distributed from it through clay pipes, facilitating the flow of water over the bathroom basin. In some of them the bather enjoyed a steam bath in a way not surpassed by the central heating facilities and the luxury and the comforts of life that go with it these days. When the plaster peeled off there appeared the red brick which preserved the heat. Most of the bathrooms had side seats in which the bather relaxed after the loosening of his muscles. In their roofs there were windows allowing a little light to enter to soothe the nerves. The Palace had a big garden with abundant trees and flowers. The remains of the Mosque and its niche can still be seen. the Mosque lies between the Palace and the bathrooms. Apparently Byzantine artists were brought to work on these drawings with mosaics, considered among the most beautiful masterpieces that have ever reached us. Archeologists who excavated the Palace believe that the earthquake which occurred in 746 A.D. destroyed the whole Palace before the upper floor had been completed. The Palace was destroyed at the same time as the Church of the Holly Sepulcher in Jerusalem, Jarash churches and others were destroyed. The Palace site continued to be abandoned until construction in Jericho was renewed and people began to take its carved stones to build their homes with.
Work on the construction of the Palace and equipping it continued until the death of Hisham 125 A.H. ( 743 A.D. ). There is no evidence to prove that he spent a single winter in it.
Three years later the Umayyad state collapsed. The ‘Abbasids showed no interest in its buildings, so that they transferred the seat of the Caliphate to Iraq. It is not improbable that the coins and few pieces of pottery found of this age belonged to the labourers who worked there. It appears from their names such as Qustantin, Simon, Yuhanna ( Jhon) and Morcos (Mark) that others were Christians - working together.
It appears that a company from Saladin the Ayubite’s army repaired some rooms of this Palace and inhabited them in the twelfth century A.D., leaving some remains such as coins and pottery. The Palace remained in ruins until 1933, when digging work started, then the Jordanian Antiquities Department drew the five years an 1957-1961 to uncover whatever parts of the Palace remained. Digging in the two seasons of 1957-1958 resulted in discovering the homes of the workers who had built the Palace...and miners’ shops. All these findings go back in time to the interval between the eighth and twelfth century A.D.
The Palace reveals to us the progress of social life among the Muslims. It is supplied with a remarkable network of canals joined to magnificent bathrooms.
A lot of carved gypsum which was in those buildings was transferred to the Palestine Archeological Museum in Jerusalem where it is now exhibited. What made this necessary is that the gypsum is very brittle, and cannot be left in its place, exposed to changes in the weather, particularly as most of it is painted and colored.
This is what is contained in Arabic sources about the Palace. The efforts of man and his strife were, in fact, enjoyable and entertaining. Mr. Baramki who participated in the archeological work of the Palace is an Arab from Jerusalem. The Palace is considered one of the greatest tourist centers of the Umayyad period in the west bank. For example to prove how important it is, the Palace of Hisham in 1961 had 19154 visitors, in 1962 23302 visitors, in 1964, 19376 visitors and in 1965, 25429 visitors.
Twenty (20) km south of Jericho, one kilometer before Ain Al Faskha on the western shore of the Dead Sea, is one of the world‘s most ancient monasteries "monastery of the Essenes". This is the place where the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The discovery story of the scrolls goes back to 1947 when a Bedouin shepherd happened upon several scrolls in clay jars hidden in a cave on a rocky cliff high above the Dead Sea. The Jordan Department of Antiquities along with the French school of archaeology in Jerusalem, searched every hole in these desolate hills and turned up one of the most exciting discoveries of modern times: Biblical manuscripts, 2000 years old, predating by some 1000 years the earliest known Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Among the finds were books of an unknown religious community, identified as the Essenes, a pre-Christian, mystical Jewish sect. The writings in these scrolls covered a period of 300 years, including the birth of Christ. They offer insights and a background to the teachings of Christ. The Essence community came to Qumran in the late second century BC. They lived in caves and dwellings around Khirbet Qumran under strict rules of obedience and high ethical standards in a
secluded life of prayer and study. They spent their lives studying and writing the holy scripture and praying for the coming of the Messiah. To cope with the problem of water on the waterless hilltop, an aqueduct was built to bring captured rainwater from nearby Wadi Qumran. Visitors will notice a large numbers of cisterns at the site. In AD 68 the settlement came to an abrupt end when a Roman Legion, enroute to Jerusalem to put down a revolt, destroyed the community. The Essence fled after placing their precious manuscripts in the nearby caves for safekeeping, but they never came back, the settlement and the people were lost to history. Displays of scroll fragments may be seen at the Archeological Museums in Amman and in the museums of Jerusalem.
Dead Sea (Bahr Lut )
A small lake whose dropping of water-level caused its length to decrease from 76km early this century to less than 50km today. Its width varies from 15 to less than 3km. Situated at about 405m below Sea level, it is the lowest place on earth. The Dead Sea is unique in the world: no life exists here because of its high salt content which is about 25% more than the average sea. The climate in the area is extremely hot in summer and the rate of evaporation is quite rapid. This, coupled with
the fact that the amount of water coming in from the Jordan has lessened because much of it is being channeled into irrigation channels run of the river higher up. This has led to fears that the sea could evaporate. Plans to bring water to the Dead Sea via a canal from the Mediterranean or the Red sea are thus under consideration. The waters of the Dead Sea are helpful in treating skin diseases. Several bathing beaches along the sea shores such as Galia, Ain Fashkha, Ain Gedi, an Ain Boqeq provide showers and changing room for visitors. Ain Gedi, 55km south of Jericho is probably the most visited beach.
The River Jordan
Eight (8) km east of Jericho, is the river Jordan. Sadly, the western bank of the river with its many religious and historical sites are not accessible to tourists because it is a closed Israeli military zone. The Jordan is the longest river in Palestine (252km) but it can be a visual disappointment as it is neither wide nor deep. The Jordan is rather a shallow stream flowing from north to south and on into the Dead sea. Its significance lies in its historical and biblical associations. Much of the river runs parallel with the boundary between Jordan to the east and the West Bank and Israel to the west. It is part of the great rift valley which runs from Syria to Tanzania. Just before the point where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea, a number of bridges are found, the most important of which is the British built Allenby bridge, also known as Jesr Al-Karameh by the Palestinians and King Husein bridge by the Jordanians. It is the main crossing point between the West Bank and Jordan. King Abdullah Bridge lies to the south of the Allenby bridge, and between these two bridges lies the site of Jesus‘ baptism. The site is seasonally used by the Orthodox church and Roman Catholic church; unfortunately, however, it is out of reach to tourists as it is a military zone and it is unsure when or whether this will change