Nabi Mosa mosque is said to be a sacred place for Muslims because it is here that the prophet Moses is supposedly buried – mind you, that, like much else in the region, is subject to debate.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was well travelled by Mediterranean Arabs on their way to Mecca. Nabi Mosa is situation at what would have been the end of the first day’s walk. Nearby Mount Nebo is where Moses was thought to be buried back then – his ‘move’ to the Mosque is thought to be a matter of invention. The current building was completed in the late 1400s and restored by the Ottoman Turks in 1820. It’s now home to a treatment centre for addicts.
To give the local Muslims something to celebrate while their Christian counterparts were celebrating Easter, the Ottomans instituted a seven-day religious festival called Nabi Mosa. Thousands of Muslims would gather in Jerusalem and make the trip to the mosque where they’d celebrate for days before returning home. When Jordan took over the administration of the West Bank after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the festival was more or less cancelled.
In the shadows outside the mosque lies an old cemetery. The ground is rock solid and I can’t begin to imagine how anyone would dig a grave. This probably accounts for the raised grave sites. The inscriptions meant nothing to me and I can’t find any account of it anywhere so it’s difficult to tell how old it is. Graves seemed to be scattered around rather than laid out in any particular order reflecting the chaos that seems to be so innate to life in Palestine. And in the heat of the sun, miles from anywhere, the place had a serene and saintly feel to it. We were the only ones at the monastery and I was the only one in the cemetery. For the first time in days, I felt like I was communing with something other than commercialism. And I actually took the time to pray.