A stunning desert palace
Hisham’s Palace was built between the years 720 and 750 AD. It is also known as Hirbet al-Mafjar, which roughly translates to “flower water ruins.” This enticing palace lies nestled in the desert and, though it takes its name from Hisham bin Abdel Malek, many have argued that its decor and structure are more suited to Hisham’s nephew and successor, Al-Walid bin Yazid. Walid led quite the playboy lifestyle, and his palace suited it, being used predominantly for luxury. For lovers of beauty, the mosaics in the palace are truly unmissable.
Hisham’s Palace Road, Jericho, +962 (6) 4642034
Khan of the Ottoman era
The Khan is an 18th-century construction settled in the port of Acre. When built by Ahmed Al-Jazzar, it was separated into two floors. The first floor was used for the unloading of goods by merchants fresh from the sea, while the top floor housed the merchants overnight. Despite being built for practical purposes, the architectural beauty of the structure is undeniable. With cave-like sections lining the two floors, resting on rows of granite pillars, the Khan of Acre is quite a remarkable sight.
Acre, Israel, +972 4-995-6707
Temple Mount – the Holy Sanctuary
The Haram al-Sharif is revered by Jews and Muslims alike. For the Jews, the compound is believed to have been built over the ancient temple of Herod. For the Muslims, the site is home to the golden dome, called The Dome of the Rock, one of their most valued mosques. It is believed to be the place at which the prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven. The dome’s beauty is profound. It is banked by the Wailing Wall, where crowds gather daily, and stands out as a lone golden dome in the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem.
Temple Mount, Jerusalem, West Bank, +972 73-758-1472
Burial site of Herod the Great
Atop a truncated, cone-shaped hill, Herod the Great left his mark. In the Judaean Desert, a palace, fortress, and small town can be found, built between 15 and 23 AD. Excavations of the artificial hill, which is the peak of the Judaean Desert, revealed some remarkable discoveries. The ruins of Herodyon still remain and, like the fictitious city of Atlantis, have an unearthly quality to them. Imagining the construction of this incredible site is amazing enough, but witnessing it is almost overwhelming. Visitors will surely find themselves aghast at the fascinating ruins of this unique fortress.
Herodyon National Park, Judeaen Desert, West Bank, +972 2-563-6249
Site of the crucifixion
The site of the crucifixion, and the burial site of Jesus of Nazareth, this is one of the holiest sites in the world for Christianity. Despite its religious significance, the beauty of this church surpasses all else, including its history. The interior is colorful, ornate, and compelling. The atmosphere of the church alone is well worth experiencing. Many people come to the church to weep and to caress the stone of Golgotha, where the cross is believed to have been placed. With high-domed ceilings and an ancient structure, the building is a sight that shouldn’t be missed by anyone with a keen eye for architecture.
Monastery in the mountains
The Mount of Temptation is where Jesus is said to have been tempted by the devil during his 40 days of fasting. On the sheer face of this mountain, a monastery has been built. The monastery blends into the stone of the mountain, and has visitors astounded when they finally catch a glimpse of what lies in wait for them across the desert. With spectacular views from the monastery and equally spectacular views of the monastery from below, this was bound to make the list of the most beautiful places in Palestine. Being built into a cliff, the monastery has a fantastical, otherworldly quality to it.
Solomon’s underground quarry
In the Old City of Jerusalem, East of the Damascus Gate, Zedekiah’s Cave lies quietly hidden. The caves stretch back over 1000 feet and appear to have been around for over 2000 years. It is believed to have been a quarry, but the cave also has a tragic story to accompany it. Zedekiah, the last biblical King of Jerusalem, was under siege and attempted to escape through the caves. Instead, he was dragged in front of King Nebuchadnezzar. The King then had his sons murdered in front of Zedekiah, and plucked out his eyes. This is documented in 2 Kings 25:1-6 of the Bible. To accompany this miserable tale, there is a spring in the cave, aptly named Zedekiah’s tears.
Zedekiah’s Cave, Jerusalem, West Bank, +972 2-627-7550
Ruins of Samaritan palaces and Byzantine churches
In the stunning region of Nablus, the ruins of Sebastia are just waiting to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. The site features the ruins of Samaritan palaces, Byzantine churches and Hellenic watchtowers. In the same vicinity, tourists can see the Ottoman railway station before settling down for the night in one of the renovated Byzantine rooms. Visiting the ruins is truly a unique experience, where the tall ruins of pillars, houses, and temples will have you slipping into another era entirely.
Sebastia, Nablus, West Bank, +970 9 233 7077
By Mary-Anne Farah