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Nabi Musa (in Arabic: [site of] Prophet Moses) is a Muslim holy site in the Judean Desert, about 15 miles east of Jerusalem. By Muslim tradition, it is the burial site of Musa (Moses), a prophet in the Quran.

History of Nabi Musa

The Hebrew Bible records Moses dying and buried on Mount Nebo before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. However, it adds that the exact burial spot is unknown (Deut. 34:6). Perhaps that gave way to the Muslim tradition that in the 12th century, the Muslim ruler Saladin had a vision in which Moses’ tomb was shown to him in the Judean Desert. by 1269 Mamluk Sultan Baybars completer a memorial structure (Maqam) at the site.

In the 19th century, the local Muslims developed the tradition of an annual procession to the site from Jerusalem, on the same days the Christians celebrated Easter. Thousands of pilgrims marched through Jerusalem streets, then headed to Nabi Musa, where they camped for a week and feasted. Eventually a khan (inn) was built around the maqam to accommodate the crowds. In 1920, the Mufti of Jerusalem incited the pilgrims to attack the Jews in the Old City during the processions. They killed six and wounded another 200.

Following the Jordanian takeover of Judea and Samaria in 1948, they supressed the Nabi Musa festivals because of their potential political power. After the Six Day War in 1967, the site became under Israeli rule, but in 1995, it was handed to the Palestinian Authority. In recent years, the site operates as a Muslim rehabilitation center. In 2019, the European Union sponsored a conservation project at the site.

Touring Nabi Musa

Nabi Musa is not far from the Jerusalem-Jericho road. A right turn a bit after the Sea Level sign leads to the site. The current complex is comprised of 120 rooms set in a square around the holy burial. At its door is an Arabic inscription from the Mamluk period indicating its construction is from year 1269-1270 CE. The western wing of the courtyard around it is designated for men and the eastern is for women. Other inscriptions indicate constructions done in 1737, 1820, and 1885. By Muslim tradition, a small domed structure 1.5 Miles south of Nabi Musa is the burial site of Moses, shepherd. A Muslim and Bedouin cemetery developed around it.

A tour of Nabi Musa can be combined in a guided day tour of the Dead Sea.

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