Gaza city, one of the oldest cities in the world, has gained great importance as a result of its geographical location as a confluence of both continents; Asia and Africa. Its prestigious location granted Gaza a high military and strategic status.
Gaza city is considered that largest city in the state of Palestine with a population of 515,556. It has been dominated by several different people and empires throughout history. The Philistines made it a part of their pentapolis after the Ancient Egyptians had ruled it for nearly 350 years. It was also ruled by the Romans and later the Byzantines.
The population of Gaza is overwhelmingly composed of Muslims, who mostly follow Sunni Islam. During the Fatimid period, Shia Islam was dominant in Gaza, but after Saladin conquered the city in 1187, he promoted a strictly Sunni religious and educational policy, which at the time was instrumental in uniting his Arab and Turkish soldiers.
Gaza is home to a small Palestinian Christian minority of about 3,500 people. The majorities live in the Zaytun Quarter of the Old City and belong to the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist denominations. In 1906 there were about 750 Christians, of whom 700 were Orthodox and 50 were Roman Catholic.
The Gaza Strip is situated on a relatively flat coastal plain. Temperatures average in the mid-50s F (about 13 °C) in the winter and in the upper 70s to low 80s F (mid- to upper 20s C) in summer. The area receives an average of about 12 inches (300 mm) of precipitation annually.
GAZA PORT(Credit: Motaz Al-Araj)
The Port of Gaza is a small port near the Rimal district of Gaza City. It was the principal port on the Mediterranean serving the Incense Road. Strabo and Ptolemy referred to it as Gazaion limen. The port was distinct from the city, which was located opposite it. Under Constantine the Great, the settled area around the port was granted city status and named Konstaneia. Under the emperor Julian, it was downgraded and the name was changed to Maioumas ("harbor place"). It became associated at this time with a pagan festival.
The Port of Gaza was at the end of the Nabataean spice road where trade was conducted in herbs, spices incense, drapery, glass and food. Goods arrived in the port on the backs of camels from Southern Arabia (the Kingdom of Sheba) through Petra, the Arava Valley and crossing Negev Desert via Avdat. At the port of Gaza, these goods were dispatched to the European markets.
Alexander Jannaeus' conquest of Gaza (99 BCE) that denied the Nabateans access to the port and trade with Rome led to Obodas launching a military campaign against the Hasmonean King.
Gaza Port was rebuilt after it was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 63 BCE under the command of Pompey Magnus and trade routes were reopened.
In 2011, eight Roman columns believed to be the remains of a church were swept ashore during a storm. In 2013, the Palestinian naval police found ancient artifacts that included poles and baked clay.
Gaza's Archaeological SitesGreat Mosque of Gaza:
The Great Mosque of Gaza known as the largest and oldest mosque in the Gaza Strip, located in Gaza's old city.
Believed to stand on the site of an ancient Philistine temple, the site was used by the Byzantines to erect a church in the 5th century, but after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, it was transformed into a mosque. Described as "beautiful" by an Arab geographer in the 10th century, the Great Mosque's minaret was toppled in an earthquake in 1033. In 1149, the Crusaders built a cathedral dedicated to John the Baptist, but it was mostly destroyed by the Ayyubids in 1187, and then rebuilt as a mosque by the Mamluks in the early 13th century. It was destroyed by the Mongols in 1260, and then soon restored only for it to be destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the century. The Great Mosque was restored again by the Ottomans roughly 300 years later. Severely damaged after British bombardment during World War I, the mosque was restored in 1925 by the Supreme Muslim Council.
The Great Mosque is situated in the Daraj Quarter of the Old City in Downtown Gaza at the eastern end of Omar Mukhtar Street, southeast of Palestine Square. Gaza's Gold Market is located adjacent to it on the south side, while to the northeast is the Welayat Mosque and to the east, on Wehda Street, is a girls' school.
The Gold Market also known as the Qissariya Market,is a narrow covered passageway located in the old quarter of Gaza; it is both a center for trading and buying gold, and location for foreign exchange. The Market lies along the southern edge of the Great Mosque of Gaza, beside the main Omar Mukhtar Street. The Market is configured with a pointed and vaulted roof above the central road, which is lined on both sides by small shops that are themselves roofed by the cross vaults of the covered central road.
Qasr al-Basha also known as Radwan Castle and Napoleon's Fort was formerly a large palace, and now a two-floored girl's school and museum, situated in the Old City of Gaza. It served as a seat of power in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods and as a police station under the British Mandate.
Hamam al-Sammara is the only active Turkish bath remaining in Gaza, located in the Zeitoun Quarter of the Old City. It is situated 3 meters (9.8 ft) below street level. It is currently owned by Salim Abdullah al-Wazeer.
Church of Saint Porphyrius:
The Church of Saint Porphyrius is the Orthodox Christian church of Gaza, and the oldest active church in the city. Located in the Zaytun Quarter of the Old City, it is named after the 5th century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius, whose tomb is situated in the northeastern corner of the church.
Shuja'iyya is a neighborhood district of the Palestinian city of Gaza east of the city center, its nucleus situated on a hill, located across the main Salah al-Din Road that runs north-south throughout the Gaza Strip. It is one of the largest neighborhoods in Gaza, with around 100,000 residents. Shuja'iyya contains several ancient structures, mosques and tombs. The Commonwealth War Cemetery is located 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) north of the commercial center of the neighborhood.