Nabi Musa


“Nabi Musa” is Arabic for “Prophet Moses.” It is a site in the Judean desert that Palestinian folklore relates to Moses. Another connection between the cousin religions is found in the fact that Nabi Musa is also the name of an annual festival celebrated by Palestinian Muslims. The festival was considered the most important pilgrimage in Palestine, centering around a collective walk from Jerusalem to Jericho where the Tomb of Moses is thought to be located. This was also along the route that Mediterranean Arabs took on their pilgrimage to Mecca, making it even more frequented by passersby.

At Nabi Musa there is now a many-domed building which marks the Mausoleum of Moses and it is at a distance from Jerusalem where the first day of the pilgrimage to Mecca would have ended. It was thought to be a place to rest and from which to look out towards Mount Nebo, but later became an official site. A Mamluk sultan, Baibars al-Bunduqdari, built a small shrine there in 1269. This was a custom that he implemented of building shrines dedicated to prophets and the followers of Mohammad. The upkeep of these shrines was paid for by the waqf, which was an endowment that came from sale of properties formerly belonging to the Latin Church. The funding for Nabi Musa actually came from waqf assets in nearby Jericho. Hostels for travelers were built during the medieval period and later; the hospice that is found today in Nabi Musa was built between 1470 and 1480. Gradually, the fact that Nabi Musa was originally a point from which to look out towards Moses’ gravesite in the far distance of Jordan was forgotten totally, and the site was interchanged in people’s minds with the tomb itself, giving Nabi Musa an important place in Palestinian folklore and worship in more recent times.

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