Our regular driver for permitted sites on the West Bank is Mahmoud, a Palestinian member of our security staff. He drove us down and through Jericho, by all the sites were we will soon take the students: Tel es-Sultan (the dig on the site of Bronze Age Jericho, you know, where the walls came tumbling down), Elisha's spring, Herod's winter palace, etc. Our objective today for this "extra" trip was Hishom's Palace, on of the best examples of early Islamic architecture in Palestine. It was built soon after the Umayyads took the Holy Land from my beloved Byzantines. This Arabian dynasty, which found itself transformed from a leading clan in Arabia to the fabulously wealthy lords of an Isalmic Empire that stretched across the Middle East and much of the Mediterranean, built great palaces and "estates" throughout Syria. Although originally attributed to Caliph Hisham bin Abed el-Malik (724-743), it is now thought that his heir el-Walid built it between 743-744. It was then believed to have been destroyed in the earthquake of 749, but an archaeologist from the University of Chicago whom we met there say that they now think it was occupied and used for centuries.
|Kent Jackson entering Hishom's Palace|
|This "star" was one of several along that was originally along the top of the portico. It may have been the prototype for later Gothic rose window traceries in Europe|
|Elaine in front of the star sculpture|
|Reconstructed piers from the bath|
|The bath floor had one of the largest mosaics, though it is mostly covered to protect it today|
|The hot bath (Romans would have called it the calidarium)|
|A model of what the bath complex originally looked like|
|An interesting Tree of Life mosaic|
|Stucco ornamentation from the wall|
|Remains of the octagonal fountain|
We then stopped on a mound of dirt that is the remains of Herod's theater and hippodrome in Jericho. Somehow I did not get any pictures of this, but Margaret Ludlow shared this one of the three faculty (Steve was not with us that day) standing on top of the tell: it was a cold, rainy day!
We then had lunch together at the "Temptation Restaurant" (so called because the traditional site of Jesus' temptations lay in Wadi Kelt above Jericho. Failed to get pictures of our traditional mid east lunch, too.
We then drove to a site called An Nabi Musa, which is a Muslim shrine that is now believed to be the grave of Moses (though the Bible says he was buried at Mt. Nebo on the other side of Jordan). Under the Mamluks and then continuing under the Ottomans, this shrine and pilgrimage hostel became the focus of a Palestinian yearly festival that was established partly to offset the Christian Holy Week celebrations each year. Starting in Jerusalem, a procession went down to Nabi Musa for a a week-long series of feasts and ceremonies.
|On the inside of the mosque|
|The courtyard of the complex was originally a caravanerei or "khan" used as the first stop on a pilgrimage|
|One of the chambers on the second floor of the khan|
|Margaret and Elaine inside one of the upper chambers|
|Looking out the window of a chamber at the Muslim graveyard|
|Because of the sanctity of the site, it is the place of many, many Muslim burials|
|It was a rainy day!|
|By the cenotaph, or empty grave marker, of "Moses"|
Our last stop was Wadi Kelt, a wadi or deep seasonal river bed, a canyon in many places, that runs from the Judean Hills down to the Jordan River at Jericho. We have seen dozens and dozens of wadis since we have been here, but now that we are in the rainy season, we have finally seen one running with muddy, rushing water.
|Entrance to the path down the wadi to St. George's|
|The overlook site|
|Pointing to the double-headed eagle of the Byzantine crest|
|Faint remains of a fresco, darkened by centuries of incense and candle smoke|
|The green draping is on a glass coffin of a former abbot|
|Nancy Jackson, Margaret Ludlow, and Elaine on the balcony of St. George's|
|The balcony and basket of a hermit's cell in the cliff face above the monastery|
|The grotto, or cave, associated with Elijah's sojourn in the wilderness|
|Fresco of Elijah being fed by ravens in the wilderness|