Hidden in the mountains north of Ramallah, on the hilltops and in the old Palestinian villages, lies a scattered network of Sufi shrines and sacred sites that go back to remote pre-history. The Sufi Trails are designed to help you explore the landscape – to walk the paths through the oak forests and olive groves, to discover the story of these forgotten sanctuaries, and to meet the kind, welcoming people who live in these villages today.
The Sufi Trails have been designed to take you into a landscape unseen by most travellers. The trails connect some of the most beautiful Islamic shrines and historic towns in Palestine, and pass through some of its finest countryside.
Starting and ending in the lively university town of Birzeit, with its restaurants and cafés, these tours can be adapted to meet the needs of the discerning visitor. Walk as much or as little as you like, from a full day’s hike down the spectacular Wadi Natuf to a gentle stroll around the Ottoman streets of Deir Ghassaneh. Picnic under the shade of the olive trees, or enjoy a home-cooked meal with a Palestinian family. However you travel, the experience will captivate you with the beauty and hospitality of these hills.
The Deir Ghassaneh Trail
This route takes you to the historic Palestinian village of Deir Ghassaneh and allows you to explore the unspoiled beauty of the surrounding countryside. Built on a ridge in the hills north of Ramallah, Deir Ghassaneh commands spectacular views across to the coastal plain and the Mediterranean Sea. In the old heart of the town you can explore the fortified mansions of the Ottoman nobility, visit a museum of rural folklore, and share home-cooked Palestinian food made by the members of Deir Ghassaneh’s thriving women’s association. An hour’s walk beyond the village is the shrine of Al Majdhub – one of the most beautiful and evocative medieval Sufi sanctuaries in Palestine.
Some of the places that you will come across on this tour include the Shrine of Sheikh Al Qatrawani at the entrance of the village of Atara, the Sanctuary of Nabi Saleh, and the Shrine of Al-Khawwas.
The Deir Ammar Trail
The Deir Ammar Trail is a fabulous day’s walk from the medieval Sufi shrine of Nabi Ghaith down along the remote Wadi Natuf. The valley gives its name to the pre-historic culture of the Natufians – a people who lived in the eastern Mediterranean some 12,000 years ago, and who may have been among the first humans to cultivate plants, domesticate animals, and build permanent settlements. The track takes you through the hidden gardens of the village, where you may well be invited to drink tea under the orange trees. The walk ends at the natural springs of Ein Zarqa, from where you can leave by road back to Birzeit or Ramallah.
The Nabi Anir Trail
The Nabi Anir Trail is an exploration of rural Palestine that takes you into villages and archaeological sites that most tourists never see. From the living communities of Deir Ammar and Beitillu we walk out towards the abandoned village of Nabi Anir, where we find the ruins of a Byzantine church and the natural spring at Ain Ayoub.
Each one of these trails will reveal a new and fascinating world.
• Discover the historic Sufi shrines and sacred sites of rural Palestine, as well as the neglected features of this historic landscape – Byzantine ruins, Roman aqueducts, Ottoman water mills and olive presses.
• Enjoy the beauty of the landscape – flowers and herbs, olive groves and oak forests, wild animals and birds.
• Encounter the local people, learn about the living traditions of the villages, and taste the wonderful food.
Your support for Sufi Trails’ local guides and drivers is an important contribution to the economy of rural Palestine.
For more information, contact: Rozana Association, Birzeit, Old Town.