Gaza, The Holyland

Located on the Mediterranean seashore, 32 km north of the Egyptian border, Gaza City is considered one of the most ancient towns in the World. Strategically placed on the Mediterranean coastal route, ancient Gaza was a prosperous trade center and a stop on the caravan route between Egypt and Syria.

Gaza was a major Philistine city in the early Iron Age, and the site of the Canaanite God of fertility, Dagon. Gaza City is mentioned many times in the Bible, especially as the place, where according to tradition, Samson brought down the Philistine temple. In 734 BC, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III captured Gaza and the city remained under Assyrian control until the middle of the 7th century BC. In the 6th century, Gaza became an important royal fortress under the Babylonians. The city of Gaza flourished during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It was mentioned by the ancient Greek writer Herodouts as Kadytis.

In 332 BC, the city was captured by Alexander the Great after a long siege. During the Roman Period, Gaza became a major urban center, with temples dedicated to Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo and the major local deity Marnas. The city was expanded beyond the ancient settlement and the ancient port of Miaumas was established. During the Byzantine Period, the name of the city was changed to Constantia and a large church was built on the site of the temple of Marnas in the 5th century AD. The city was depicted on the Madaba mosaic map from the 6th century as a large city with colonnaded streets and a large basilica in the center. It was shown also on the mosaic floor of the church of St. Stephen at Umm Er-Rasas in Jordan from the 8th century.

In 636, Gaza came under Islamic rule. It became famous as the burial place of Hashim, the grandfather of prophet Mohammad (pbuh) and as the birthplace of Imam Al-Shafe'e. In 1187 the city was captured by Saladin and became part of the Ayyubid state. Gaza was a regional capital during the Mamluk period.

In 1516 the city of Gaza fell to the Ottoman Empire and became the capital of the province of Palestine. It flourished during this period as a main trade center and a station on the main trade route between Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. Gaza was under British rule from 1918 to1948, and to the Egyptian rule between 1948 and 1967, when it fell under Israeli occupation in 1967. Following the transfer of authority to the Palestinians in 1995, Gaza was again under the control of its people.

Today, Gaza City is the economic center for a region where citrus fruits and other crops are grown. The city is famous for its hand-woven carpets, wicker furniture, and pottery. Famous also for its fresh seafood, Gaza has numerous restaurants along the beach as well as public parks where visitors can enjoy the pleasant Mediterranean breeze.