Dating back more than 10,000 Years, Jericho is the oldest living town in the world. Its population of around 27,000 inhabitants makes it the smallest of the eight major cities of the westbank. It is 36 km. northeast of Jerusalem, and is situated at 250 m below sea level, the lowest town on the face of earth. Within an area of no more than 15 km2, Jericho has some of the world’s most important and interesting historical and archaeological sites, there have been at least four different historical centers for the city.
The Mount of Temptation is the Main Draw for Christian Pilgrims in Jericho, particularly the Orthodox Churches as there is the Orthodox Monastery of the Temptation Above. although archaeologists have debated on the exact location of the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted for 40 days and nights, the Orthodox Churches claimed that this is the exact location, where they have rebuilt it from a previous Byzantine Church. The summit of the mount, about 360 meters above sea level, offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab and Gilead. The Mount of Temptation is about 5 kilometers northwest of the West Bank city of Jericho
Representing a sample of early Islamic architecture, the ruins of this impressive desert palace lie 3 km from the northern outskirts of Jericho. This country residence of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham (724-743 AD) is a complex of royal buildings, mosques, baths, and colonnaded courts. There are also spectacular mosaic floors can be seen including the “Tree of Life” mosaic, one of the most beautiful in the world. Another famous feature is a courtyard framework featuring the shape of hexagonal Umayyad star.
Wadi (Valley) al-Qilt stretches from the suburbs of Jerusalem in the west to Jericho and Jordan River in the east. All along the beautiful path of the wadi hikers enjoy the natural view of rocks, caves and the eroded pebbles in the bottom of the valley. Trees and bushes are permanently green forming an oasis in the desert valley, and along the aqueduct. The many natural caves and shelters spread along the wadi are used by Bedouins and their livestock.
The appearance of many shelters and small ruins of the Byzantine Period indicates the density of monastic life during that period. Before the end of the wadi, Jericho appears a wide flat plain with a very beautiful natural scene.
The importance of the wadi commences with Herod's demand for water to supply his winter palace and garden during the Roman Period. A Roman aqueduct was built along the valley to bring water from 'Ein Fawwar. The structure of this aqueduct is still visible in the valley. The recent water aqueduct used now was built in the Jordanian times along the same line as the Roman one.
The availability of water made the valley one of the known Roman roads. This road was continued in the Byzantine Period and used as a pilgrimage road. Many of the caves and shelters along the Wadi were therefore densely populated by monks during the monastic movement in the Byzantine Period and later developed into a monastery.
Visitors must walk down and uphill along a paved path to visit Saint George Monastery, or walk the 200 meters dirt road left of the stone gate to an observation point to have a panoramic view of the valley and monastery from above. The monastery, the spring, aqueducts, and the ancient water systems are well preserved. They are quite impressive, and certainly worth the effort.
The Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint George is one of the oldest in Palestine and was originally the spiritual center for hermits from all over the country. Monks have inhabited this Wadi since the 3rd Century AD. They initially lived in caves and rock-hollowed niches, but from 5th-6th centuries on, they started building monasteries. Many such monasteries were built here, however only the monastery of saint George survived
During the Persian invasion of Palestine in AD 614, the monastery was destroyed and many of its monks were killed. Skulls and mummies of the deceased monks are on display here. Most of the present monastery dates from the 1901 restoration undertaken by the Greek Orthodox Church. Less than ten monks live here, and they are concerned about sustainability of their community.
Half way between Tell Al Sultan and the Mount of Temptation on your right as you depart Tell Al Sultan are the sugar mills known as Tawahin Al Sukkar. Sugar cane production and processing was known in Palestine since the Umayyad period, the Crusaders expanded sugar production for export to Europe. For that purpose they built sophisticated sugar mills including those located in Jericho. The remains of the aqueduct which brought the water from Ain Duyuk are still visible today. The water provided the necessary energy for the mill and its pottery workshop.
Tel al-Sultan reveals Jericho’s oldest history, and is therefore a world famous site of interest to tourists. The Tel is a 21 m. high artificial mound, overlooking the modern city from the northwest. It is about 2 km. away from today’s city center. Numerous excavations were carried out here since late eighteenth century. The most famous of which are the excavations of the British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, which were carried out between 1952 and 1958. They unearthed human activities at the Tel from around 9000 BC. Permanent settlement at the Tel began in the Middle stone age around 8000 BC which marks the transition from a nomadic life of hunting and gathering to an established agricultural life. Kenyon’s excavations uncovered 23 layers representing the diversity of civilizations at the site.
Today’s visitors can recognize numerous archeological features at the Tel including the famous Neolithic solid round stone tower in the center, as well as a defensive wall built of the mud brick, and the oldest known stairs in the world, all dating from before 7000 BC. These discoveries established Jericho as the first and oldest city in the history of mankind.
To the east of Tell es Sultan is Ain es Sultan, called by the Christians the Fountain of Eliseus, because the prophet, touched by the prayers of the inhabitants of Jericho, corrected the bitterness of the water and made it palatable by casting into it a handful of salt (2 Kings 2,19). The Byzantines built here a church in honour of St. Eliseus. It was the water of the spring which led to the early occupation of the nearby site, and today its water, regulated by law, accounts for the beautiful gardens of bananas, oranges, dates etc, in this most delightful of oases.
Dead Sea, located in the south of the Jordan Valley, the salty closed sea 400 meters below sea level is the lowest spot on Earth. The scenery on the shores of the sea in enchanting.
The Dead Sea is famous for its extraordinary salt and mineral content, which many people say makes it a natural healing agent for skin problems. People from around the world have been visiting the Dead Sea for many years for curative treatments and to enjoy its relaxing waters.
The Climate in the area is extremely hot in summer and the rate of evaporation is very rapid.