Nabi Musa is way, way out in the Judean desert. The giant mosque rises up improbably in the middle of nowhere. Muslim tradition holds that Moses is buried here, though it seems pretty far from Mount Nebo, where he supposedly died.
We saw this from the road and expected a quick, quiet, contemplative visit (at least as far as possible, with a three and six year old in tow). Instead we found a parking lot jam-packed with cars, serveeces, camels and food carts. Completely and totally by accident, we happened upon the Nabi Musa Festival, held every year around Orthodox Easter (although it is a Muslim festival. This event used to span a week, attract tens of thousands from all over Palestine, and begin with a large pilgrimage from Jerusalem). The joint was hopping; the mood was light. Scouts marched; bands played; people picnicked in the ancient caravanseries. I didn’t see any other tourists, but everyone was extremely welcoming.
Then suddenly the party was over. In the time it took Margaret to take a potty break, the parking lot emptied. The band packed up and boarded its bus. The sun was low in the sky and these ancient graves were again in peace.