Locked in between the mountains of Ebal and Gerazim, Nablus has been home to the tides of empire and conquest for a few millenia.
One of the most significant episodes of Abraham’s Journey, the binding of Isaac, took place on Mt. Gerazim according to the Samaritan community that now lives there. From the heart of Nablus, a climb up to the top of Mt. Gerazim takes travellers to the community and the location where Abraham offered Isaac and where the Temple was prior to its destruction. According to the Samaritans, Mt. Gerazim, not Jerusalem, is at the heart of the story of Abraham.
Jacob’s Well is Nablus’ most famous church. It has been beautifully restored by the serving Greek Orthodox priest, Justinus, who painted the spectacular frescoes by his own hands. The nearby archeological ruins of Tel al-Balata show the remains of biblical Shechem.
Exploring Nablus’ Old City is a great way to get familiar with the buzz in the largest Palestinian city in the north of the West Bank. Particularly worthwhile for an aimless stroll is the large traditional souk where locals shop for bargains if they do not sit around and sip coffee in its small charming alleyways. Tourists are a rare sight. The Old City is home to Ottoman hamams (Al-Shifa and Al-Hana), olive soap factories and a range of historical buildings. These include dozens of large and small mosques, of which the Great Mosque (Jameh’ Al-Kabir) is the oldest one, its structure also having served as a Church twice and allegedly as a Pagan temple prior to Christianity. Other Mosques with Byzantine Christian foundations are the An-Nasser Mosque and the Al-Beik Mosque. Another site worth visiting is the restored Khan al-Wikala, the traditional lodging and trading point for passing caravans. Nablus’ own clock tower, built by the Ottoman sultan in 1906, is a remarkable feat.
As with any large city, walking in or out of Nablus is not a rustic experience as one moves amidst heavy traffic and over few sidewalks to get to or from the city center. But is well worth the visit to the city and its people, and with enough to do and see, the city is an excellent start or resting point for a multi-day walk on the Abraham Path. Whatever you do, you can’t leave Nablus without eating its celebrated kanafa, the city’s most famous sweet and the craving of all Palestine.