The Christian Bible tells of a story about how the walls that protected an entire city came crashing down after the armies of Israel led by Joshua had encircled the city, blew their horns and shouted at the top of their lungs. That city is called Jericho, and people still live in the city up to the present time. As a matter of fact, people have lived there since 9,000 B.C., making it by far the oldest city that has been populated continuously in the world. Contrast that with the relative youth of London, which was founded only in 43 A.D.
Other cities in Europe, which we have thought to be grand and old, are actually fresh and new when compared to Jericho. Lisbon was established in 1,000 B.C., yet is 8,000 years younger than Jericho. So is the Italian capital of Rome, which was created in 753 B.C.
Jericho is located in the West Bank near the Jordan River. A proof of its established presence since 9,000 B.C. is the 20 successive settlements that archaeologists have discovered beneath the city. It is currently home to around 20,000 people.
Brief Timeline of the World’s Oldest City
The city of Jericho has had inhabitants since 9,000 B.C. because of the abundant springs that can be found in the area. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the city was even described as the City of Palm Trees. While the reason behind the collapse of its walls is subject to debate, archaeologists have already unearthed evidences of the existence of those walls.
In the modern era, Jericho used to be under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The First World War, however, saw the empire’s collapse, and the city subsequently came under the rule of Great Britain. Fortresses were built by the British around the city before the Second World War to thwart off any Nazi invasion.
The end of the Second World War saw a new struggle between the fledgling Israeli nation up against its Arab neighbors. Jordan was able to occupy Jericho in 1948, before the country formally annexed the city two years later in 1950. As a result, its inhabitants were able to attain Jordanian citizenship.
In 1967, the Arab nations and Israel engaged in another bloody encounter in the Six-Day War. Israel was able to occupy several lands afterwards, including West Bank, where Jericho is located. They controlled Jericho until 1994, when it became the first city to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo agreement.
Places to See and Things to Do While in Jericho
The monastery is just outside Jericho. St. Gerasimus is a monk known for taming a lion after he removed a thorn from the paw of the beast. This monastery is also where Joseph, Mary and Jesus sought refuge to escape Herod. An underground chapel now stands on the spot where the Holy Family stayed while in the monastery.
Bones and skeletal remains of monks who were massacred by Persian forces during the latter’s occupation of the Holy Land are also buried beneath the crypt floor.
There are a lot of existing hiking trails across and around the city. Follow the trails and you are bound to get to unique spots that offer a great view of Jericho and its surroundings. Take note however that you should always pack bottled water as the weather in the city tends to get really hot.
Hisham’s Palace is a massive site that has a mosque, several buildings, water fountains and mosaic floors. It was originally a winter palace for Hisham Ibn Abdul Malek, an Omayyad caliph.
You can swim in the waters of the Dead Sea at the Kaliya Beach. It is called such because it is being managed by the nearby Israeli settlement of Kaliya.
This is an ancient Jewish worship place. It boasts of a beautiful architecture and mosaic floors.
Qasr al Yahoud
Qasr al Yahoud is recognized as the exact spot where the armies of Israel crossed the river to enter Canaan. It is also claimed to be the real spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, as opposed to the one located in Northern Israel.
The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority manage this complex of caves. It is renowned as the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Quruntal Mountain of Temptation
An ancient Greek Orthodox monastery stands on top of this mountain. It is also known as the mountain where Jesus was tempted by the devil. It offers a good view of the city and the Jordan Valley. The mountain can be reached through cable cars near the base. It is reputed to be the longest cable car in the world below sea level.
Shalom al Yisrael Synagogue
To be more precise, this is actually a private house where an ancient synagogue used to stand. The basement of the house contains the original mosaic flooring of the sixth century worship place.
Sycamore Tree of Jericho
It was mentioned in the Bible as the tree used by a rich tax collector named Zacchaeus, who wanted to witness Jesus as the latter was passing that way. The tree is located at the city center.
Teli es-Sultan is the site of ancient Jericho. It is the center of archaeological digs, located a couple of kilometers northwest of central Jericho. It overlooks the natural spring of Ein Sultan.
Tomb of Moses
This used to serve as a spot from where to view the burial site of Moses on Mount Nebo. This Muslim monument later on was pointed as the actual burial site, as Salahaddin had brought Moses’ remains there during the Crusades. Colorful carpets drape the coffin holding the body of Moses.
Wadi Qelt Synagogue
This is the oldest Jewish house of worship in the world. It was built during the Second Temple Period, and is part of the Jericho Royal Winter Palace.