Today is described as the highlight of the trail, a good path through a rocky canyon, barren desert and arguably the most spectacular sight on the trail - the Monastery of St George of Choziba. However the temperature was forecast to reach 37C. by midday and with no shade for the last three or four hours of walking we were prepared to abandon today's walk at he Monastery and call the service-taxi to take us on to the Muslim desert shrine of Nabi Musa.
The path out of Jericho leads us through the ruins of Tulul Abu al-'Alayiq (Herod's Winter Palace) circa 10 BC and soon we are entering a gash in the mountains - Wadi al-Quelt.
|Entering Wadi al-Quelt
Spectacular Wadi Quelt descends from east of Jerusalem down to Jericho with the ancient Roman road following its southern rim. It is believed that this gorge inspired the words of the Psalm.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
In the 3rd and 4th centuries this area became a centre for desert monasticism and the caves of hermits, who met at the monastery for weekly mass and a communal meal, still dot the cliffs.
Soon the spectacular monastery comes into view.
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
1 Kings 19.9-14,
It was sacked by the Persians in 614, renovated by the Crusaders, abandoned and in 1878 restored by a Greek monk called Kalanikos.
It was now seriously hot. We climbed a good path from the monastery to the road, at minus 100'. The way ahead along a shepherd's track in this heat looked ominous, we were disappointed but our guide was conscious of his responsibilities and although we had perfected our TE Lawrence impersonations even a spot of bare back camel trekking was probably not an option.
|The path from above the Monastery of St George of Choziba towards Nabi Musa
|Our guide Nidal R sits in the shade whilst we wait for the service-taxi
And so it was that we arrived at Nabi Musa..
|Nabi Musa - built in 1269, the solar panels are a later addition
|The tomb of Moses at Nabi Musa
The Muslim shrine and pilgrimage site of the Maqam Al Nabi Mus (Tomb of the Prophet Moses) is directly opposite Mount Nebo in Jordan from where according to Old Testament tradition, just prior to his death, Moses looked across at the 'Promised Land’. There is an Arabic inscription over the tomb: ‘The construction of this maqam over the grave of the Prophet who spoke with God, Moses, is ordered by His Majesty Sultan Thaher Abu Al-Fateh Baybars in the year 688 Hijra'. The nearby mausoleum is said to be that of A’isha, Mohammed’s favourite wife, whilst half a mile SW along the road is the maqam of Hassan al-Rai, the shepherd of Moses.
For 700 years, the shrine was the focus of a huge annual Muslim pilgrimage. Accompanied by drums and flutes, thousands walked through the desert hills from Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque for five days of prayers and festivities. Beginning as a celebration of Islam's triumph over the Crusaders it coincided with the Holy Week of the Eastern church. Banned first during the British Mandate it was revived in 1997 until the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, since when Israel has declared the area a 'military security zone'. Today there are few visitors.