Hebron is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world, its Arabic name, Khalil al-Rahman, means ‘The Friend of God.’ Ancient Hebron was situated on Jebel Ar-Rumeideh (the Rumeideh hill), located southwest of the current historic town. Archaeological investigations show several layers of habitation, dating from the Chalcolithic period (circa 4500-3200 BC) down to the Umayyad period (661-750 AD). The city has always been known as the burial place of the prophets Abraham/Ibrahim, Isaac, Jacob and their wives. During the Roman period, Herod the Great (73-4 BC) built a massive wall to enclose the cave of the prophets’ tombs. After the conquest of Hebron by the Crusaders (1099), this enclosure was turned into a church, and subsequently, after Saladin’s retaking of the city in 1187, into a mosque. Inside it, a walnut-wood carved minbur (pulpit) stands near the prayer niche. It was brought by Saladin from Egypt and is believed to be among the oldest wooden Islamic pulpits.
With the Arab-Muslim conquest, Hebron became the fourth sacred city of Islam after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, and was visited by Muslim pilgrims from all over the world. The town and the mosque were honoured and sanctified by the rulers of successive Muslim states, the Islamic leaders, and by the public. During Mamluk rule (1250-1516 AD), Hebron flourished and became a famous Sufi centre. Hundreds of Islamic religious and historical monuments were built close to the enclosed tombs. During Ottoman rule (1517- 1918 AD) the town witnessed a period of expansion, giving the old city its present-day shape and boundaries.
Still dominated by Mamluk-style architecture, Hebron is one of the few Islamic cities that has preserved its authentic set up, visible in its urban fabric and prestigious architecture, corroborated by its particular craftsmanship (the famous pottery and glassware of Mamluk origin) and its traditional life.
Hebron is one of the oldest towns in Palestine, its market, (souq) has striking arched roofs and a maze of alleys that are definitely worth exploring. The shops and stalls sell everything from pottery, olive wood, blown glass, to a wide array of aromatic spices and dried fruits.