Beni Na'im, Occupied Palestinian Territories
This was one of the most gratifying days of the trip so far. I found everything Ibn Battuta had described, exactly as he had described it.
“....and eastward of the sanctuary of al-Khalil is the turba of Lot (on him be peace.) Over his grave is a fine building, the grave itself being in a well-built and white-washed chamber within.”
Hebron is called al-Khalil in Arabic; meaning ‘friend’, it is a reference to Abraham who was the ‘friend of God’.
A turba is a funerary chapel, and the tomb which is still there, is in the village of Beni Na’im only a few miles away. We drove off the main highway in the direction of the village but did not get very far - the road was blocked by huge chunks of rock. (Such blockages are marked on the United Nations' map of West Bank Closures.)
One of the methods used by Israeli authorities to prevent Palestinians from accessing the highways; this is a roadblock, then there are 'earthmounds' which are essentially piles of rubble designed to do the same thing, and then there are trenches.
Not to be defeated we drove around to try and find another access. On our way we passed an Israeli army post. We parked the car and walked a few meters to a small building on stony ground set among cypress and olive trees. We were overlooking the Jordan Valley and in the far distance, the Dead Sea. Ibn Battuta had mentioned this site,
“In the vicinity of the turba of Lot is the Mosque of al-Yaqin which is situtated on a high hill...... In this mosque close by the door there is a spot sunk in solid rock in which there has been formed the figure of a mihrab only large enough to accommodate a single worshipper. It is said that Abraham prostrated himself in this spot in gratitude to God Most High on the destruction of the men of Lot, and the place where he prostrated himself moved and sank down a little way into the ground.”
The little Mosque of Yaqin sits on a windswept ridge overlooking the Jordan Valley or 'ghawr'.
The ‘men of Lot’ is a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the mihrab is the ornamental niche in the qibla, the wall facing Mecca. Going into the mosque which, strangely for such a historic place, is now abandoned, the first thing we saw in front of us was the sunken part of the floor exactly as Ibn Battuta described it. It was almost a little too perfect, as if a movie set had just been constructed in time for our arrival. But there it was in the shape of a mihrab exactly as he had written - I was dumbstruck.
As perfectly described by Ibn Battuta.....