Etymology and location
A-Nebi Moussa is the Arabic name for “The Prophet Moses” used in the Qur’an.
The site’s location is in the eastern Judean Desert close to the Jerusalem-Jericho road and a few kilometres west of from the cliffs overlooking the northern edge of
the Dead Sea. Biblical mention of Moses burial site
According to the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), the site of burial for the Prophet Moses is unknown (Deut 34:4-6) The passage states that Moses dies at Mount Nebo and is buried in its vicinity. Mount Nebo is in the mountains of Moab within today’s Kingdom of Jordan, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea.
The Moslem Tradition
The annual celebration here is the only Muslim event which is celebrated according to the Gregorian solar calendar, and falls in parallel to Easter and its equivalent of the Jewish Passover. All other Moslem celebrations follow the Islamic lunar calendar.
The burial site is not incidental: “Nabi Musa”, is located on the ancient road from Jerusalem to the traditional Christian pilgrimage sites of The Baptism, Mount Nebo, and Madaba. Each Easter the Christian pilgrims would take this road, with huge convoys beginning with a mass-gathering at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. After the Moslem re-conquest of the land from the Crusaders at the end of the 12th century, the Ayyubid ruler Salah-e-Din (a.k.a. Saladin) wanted to initiate an equivalent Moslem celebration, and constructed the first building at the site.
Internal strife between the sons of Saladin, who died not long after recapturing the region, led to the significance of the site being marginalised, however, the Mameluke rulers from Egypt who expelled the last Crusaders from the land in the latter half of the 13th Century re-established the site as a major one of Moslem pilgrimage and enlarged the buildings.
The celebration usually begins on Friday, after the ceremonial mid-day prayers in the mosques of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The multitudes are organized according to countries and villages, bearing decorated flags.
The modern Era of Moses burial site
During the 1980’s the site was deserted and even served for filming several Hollywood films (featuring Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone). After the agreements reached between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the site came back into the hands of the Muslim ‘Waqf’ (religious council), which has established a rehabilitation institute at the site for drug addicts.
The site is constructed as a rectangular fortress. The external walls have 2 or 3 floors and are topped with a set of rectangular domes. Inside the buildings is a central courtyard surrounded by arched pillars. At the center is the structure of the tomb, but of doubtful authenticity. Outside the walls is a large Moslem cemetery.