Jericho and Hisham’s Palace, West Bank
I didn’t expect an explosion of spring flowers out in the desert. A feast of blue, green, pink, yellow, purple and white cascading through the rocks in an unruly burst of colour and joy.
The contrast with the barren land stretching as far as the eye could see with the delicacy of the flowers at my feet was wonderful. But then I hadn’t expected to visit Jericho this morning either. I find myself, unexpectedly, just north of Jericho in the West Bank. This is the part of Israel that is today part of the Palestinian Territories. In the past it was Palestine and before that Trans-Jordania. It is complicated in this part of the world. This morning I travelled with my guide Rami from Jerusalem, through the Judean Hills to Jericho, a city that over-looks the valley of the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. To the west is Tel Aviv and beyond that the Mediterranean Sea to the east is Jordan.
Today I’ve come to visit the archaeological remains of the ancient city of Jericho. The site here has been excavated on and off for almost a century. Mostly notably by Kathleen Kenyon, a British archaeologist, working here from 1951-58. I have an affection for the place before I even arrive. Kathleen Kenyon was Principal of my college at Oxford. I spent hours as an under-graduate reading her reports on the excavations at Jericho. She was one of the first archaeologists to adopt a stratigraphic approach to excavation, which she learned in England whilst working for Mortimer Wheeler. This means excavating a site in a rigorous scientific manner, layer by layer, to ensure that artefacts and remnants were recorded and therefore dated correctly in relation to each other. Kenyon was also one of the first women to run her own dig – quite an accomplishment in the post-war years.
Just to the north of Jericho is another amazing archaeological site, this is Hisham’s Palace, one of the oldest and most complete examples of early Islamic architecture to be found in the Middle East. The Palace dates from around the 8th century. Archaeologists believe that the palace, baths and agricultural complex were built by the Umayyad Princes as a hunting lodge and place for relaxation. At it’s height the palace would have included courtyards, fountains, fields irrigated by springs running in channels from the nearby hills. I can imagine beautifully perfumed, flower-filled gardens and tinkling fountains.
On my travels in Israel and in the West Bank I met exceptionally friendly Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. It’s important to remember that Israeli citizens are both ethnically and in religious terms diverse; Jewish, Christian and Arab. Palestinians too may be Muslim, Christian, or of no faith. We can’t allow politicians and the media (who always have an agenda) to manipulate and frighten us into forgetting that the people of the Middle East, whatever their colour or creed are people – just like you and me. They have children, take care of their families. They survive on hope and ambition and the belief that things will get better. The vast majority of us just want peace and stability, security and love.
- For more on Jerusalem and the Middle East explore My Blog – Educated Traveller
- If you’d like to support a traditional Palestinian industry – consider purchasing the fine, hand-made soap of Nablus. The Nablus soap-making tradition goes back to Biblical times – to learn more read my article on Ancient Mesopotamia
- To read a little more about Israel and Palestine read: The West Bank and the Separation Wall
- Nablus soap production continues in Nablus, West Bank (Palestinian Territories) to this day. The soaps are entirely natural, just three ingredients, olive oil, water and sodium. Many people with sensitive skins report an improvement in their skin when using these organic products.
- You can also check out Babel Soaps web site at: www.babelsoap.com
- Thanks for reading!
- Updated: 10-04-2018