About BANI ZEID


Bani Zeid is a municipality with around 6,000 inhabitants, located 27 km north-west of Ramallah. It was founded in 1966 when the two villages of Deir Ghassaneh and Beit Rima merged together.

The modern town of Bani Zeid receives its name from a Bedouin tribe, Bani Zeid, who came from Saudi Arabia in the 11 th century. Some of them took part in Salah Eddin al-Ayyubi’s campaign to conquer Jerusalem against the Crusades. After winning, Salah Eddin decided to reward this tribe and convince them to stay in Palestine, so he gifted ‘Bani Zeid’ the territory of Deir Ghassaneh, Beit Rima, and other neighboring villages.

The tribe of Bani Zeid was lucky to have received this fertile land rich with olives, fruits, and facilities for treating the products. The villages grew their economy in the following centuries due to the continuous demand for olive oil, soap, and wheat from the neighboring communities.

In the 16 th century, under the Ottoman rule, Bani Zeid served as an administrative district for tax collection and army mobilization. Then in the 19 th century, it was ruled by the Barghouti noble family.

Deir Ghassaneh was included among the 24 Throne Villages under the Barghouti clan, which had economic and political influence and thus strengthened its power over the other villages. The cultural excellence is evident in the village, as exemplified in its rich architecture and style. Also visible in the village is the preservation of religious harmony and the spiritual Sufi experience.


How to reach it

You can get there by car, a reserved taxi, or by multiple buses/taxis from the bus stations of Ramallah and Jerusalem.

About DEIR GHASSANEH


Deir Ghassaneh is a village within the Bani Zeid municipality, adjacent to the other village of Beit Rima. From the tourist point of view, both villages (Deir Ghassaneh and Beit Rima) can be considered as one destination and the different offers as interchangeable.


The main points of interest



PALACE OF SALEH AL-BARGHOUTI

One of the oldest and most powerful clans of the Bani Zeid tribe was the wealthy noble family of al-Barghouti. The clan consisted of nine branches whose collective power extended beyond the Bani Zeid sheikhdom to the coastal plain of Palestine.

In 1602, they built their one-floor palace at the centre of Deir Ghassaneh as a sign of their power. 250 years later, Sheikh Saleh al-Barghouti, at the top of his power, renovated the palace and enlarged it. He completed the second floor and divided it among three parts. The first, salamlek , contained a reception area, dining halls, and a guesthouse. The people entered through one small door, whereas a larger one was for big animals and important guests. The ground floor, khazeen , included workshops, food depots, and stables. The haramlek , on the second floor, served as the living quarters for women and servants. Above the living quarters was the Sheikh's' retreat and leisure area overlooking his estates. The center has an open courtyard, enclosed by four partially open arcades for stables or storage.

The local guide will describe the different parts of the building to the guests, explaining the structure of the family and the roles that the palace’s men, women, children, servants, external helpers, and guests have had. It will be worth seeing through the architecture how the wives were secluded from the view of any but their husbands, and how this isolation impacted the design of the palace.

MAQAM AL-KHAWWAS (SHRINE)

The shrine of al-Khawwas is a double-domed building situated on a hilltop 500 meters west of Deir Ghassaneh. Standing in an isolated area and containing a mihrab, it is considered to have been the meditation site of al-Khawass, a Sufi holy man from Egypt who often visited the community. The eastern dome was constructed Deir Ghassaneh’s residents, while local legend holds that the western dome was completed by angels.

The domes had a simple interior and a two-door entrance on its northern end. The white interior and few Quran verses written on parts of the walls reflect the Muslim tradition of heavenly light and spirit.

Maqam al-Khawwas was reserved to women whereas the mosque had largely been a male domain. Prior to the British Mandate, it was frequented by women. During their seasonal pilgrimage, large groups of women and children from the villages of Bani Zeid would visit the shrine to celebrate festivities, socialize with other women, and pray. According to Suad Amiry (founder and director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation), Maqam al-Khawwas's isolation and the ritual of having to travel uphill to reach the sanctuary added (and is adding) to the tranquil feeling of the visit.

MAQAM AL-MAJDHOUB (SHRINE)

The shrine of al-Majdhoub, about an hour’s walk beyond the village of Deir Ghassaneh, is one of the most beautiful and evocative medieval Sufi sanctuaries in Palestine. The shrine is situated on top of al-Thaher Mountain and lies opposite the Maqam (shrine) of al-Khawass.

The name Al-Majdhoub (derived from the act of attraction to the divine), refers to a kind of spontaneous calling of the heart towards God, without struggle and sometime even without learning. Al-Majdhoub refers to a Sufi man was enticed by “justice” to witness the mystical divine presence. Al-Thaher Mountain, the place where the shrine was built, is called Rijal Sufa (the men of Sufa) – referring to the guardians buried in the shrine.

On the path to the shrine, the visitors cross Bahr al-Banat. The name literally translates to the "sea of girls." According to the local story, women gathered in this area during holiday seasons particularly on Good Friday. Since the times of Salah Eddin al-Ayyubi, people participated in periods that often coincided with Christian holidays and pilgrimages. The gathering of the people was a defensive measure in case of Crusader incursions. This has become a habit and people visited the different shrines and Maqams during certain seasons.

SHEIK KHALED SHRINE

Just beyond the center of the village and near the Women’s Association seat, there is the domed shrine of Sheikh Khaled, an Ottoman building dedicated to a local holy man whose story is long forgotten.

Now around the shrine, there is a garden for children. If it is not open, ask around: the neighbors will give you the key.

Don't miss such a quiet and meditative place. It gives you more of the Palestine spirituality than many mosques and churches.

DEIR GHASSANEH WOMEN SOCIETY

The shrine of Al-Majdhoub, about an hour’s walk beyond the village of Deir Ghassaneh, is one of the most beautiful and evocative medieval Sufi sanctuaries in Palestine. The shrine is situated on top of al-Thaher Mountain and lies opposite the Maqam (shrine) of al-Khawass.

The name Al-Majdhoub (derived from the act of attraction to the divine), refers to a kind of spontaneous calling of the heart towards God, without struggle and sometime even without learning. Al-Majdhoub refers to a Sufi man was enticed by “justice” to witness the mystical divine presence. Al-Thaher Mountain, the place where the shrine was built, is called Rijal Sufa (the men of Sufa) – referring to the guardians buried in the shrine.

On the path to the shrine, the visitors cross Bahr al-Banat. The name literally translates to the "sea of girls." According to the local story, women gathered in this area during holiday seasons particularly on Good Friday.


Since the times of Salah Eddin al-Ayyubi, people participated in periods that often coincided with Christian holidays and pilgrimages. The gathering of the people was a defensive measure in case of Crusader incursions. This has become a habit and people visited the different shrines and Maqams during certain seasons.

STREET FOOD AND SWEET TASTES

There are lots of shops in Deir Ghassaneh offering a wide variety of local fast foods such as falafel, shawarma, sandwiches, freekeh, pita bread, baklava, knafeh, and kullaj. Among those is Oum Ali shop, which makes falafels and also trains visitors to make them according to his special recipe!
Like in most villages, Deir Ghassaneh has an absence of formal dining restaurants. However, you can find the section below “Homestay and Gastronomic Meals Organized by the Women Association of Deir Ghassaneh” for fulfilling and complete dinners with inexpensive prices.

?‍?Um Ali Shop
Makes falafels and also trains visitors to make them as per the special recipe


HOMESTAY AND GASTRONOMIC MEALS

ORGANIZED BY THE WOMEN ASSOCIATION OF DEIR GHASSANEH

Bani Zeid does not yet have structured homestays or hotels for tourists, but there are other much better chances. The contact point of the Women Association is Ola Rimawi. She will organize lunch, dinner and even homestays for visitors, whether traveling solo, as couples, or with families. In this way, visitors can really experience and taste the typical Palestinian hospitality and lifestyle, beyond an exceptional meal with the best of the Palestinian cuisine.

? Women Association is in downtown Deir Ghassaneh
? Call Ola Rimawi +970 597945895

MUSIC AND DANCE

A NICE EVENING


In one of the palaces of Deir Ghassaneh is a flat dedicated to music and dance. It is one of the seats of al-Kamandjati group (with the headquarters in Ramallah). The group organizes, upon prior notice, an evening of music, song and dance where the participation and training of the guests is a main component.

? Downtown. The presence in the office is agreed after the reservation.

? Call +970 297 3101

? Email: [email protected]

Visit website

CULTURAL CENTRE OF BANI ZEID

The Cultural Centre is located in an old building of Ottoman-Palestinian style with a garden and a kindergarten, now under restoration.

When the works will be finished the Centre will be also a place for welcoming the tourists.

NABI SALEH SUFI SHRINE


In the surroundings of Beit Rima an interesting visit brings to the shrine of Nabi Saleh, which probably dates back to the last Mamluk or early Ottoman period, around 1500BC.

It has been extended and restored several times since then, most recently in 2003. The archaeological record suggests that it was built on top of a twelfth-century Crusader church, later replaced by a Byzantine monastery before definitively becoming an Islamic shrine.

This is a pattern typical of Palestine’s sacred sites. During the centuries, the shrine became destination of an annual pilgrimage that took place every May, and which included popular songs and dances. The festival survived here until very recently, coming to an end only with the second intifada.

The name Nabi Saleh refers to a pre-Islamic Arab prophet. The Quran says that Saleh preached some version of monotheism to the Thamud, a pagan Arab tribe who refused to abandon idolatry and were destroyed by God.


The Shrine consists of two rooms in form of Iwan, a square or rectangular shaped area closed from three sides whereas the fourth side is open with an arch.

On the east side of the shrine, lies the burial chamber adorned by the tomb, similar to other Islamic sanctuaries. An opening in the roof enables the visitors to enjoy a view from above.
See also

? Address: On the road towards South at the cross with the 465 National road to Birzeit and Ramallah. Always open.

PRIVATE AND HOSPITABLE HOUSE OF ABED AL-RAZEQ

Led by the local guide, the visitors can be welcomed in the Abed Al-Razeq Al-Alali palace by the landlord. Al-Alali is an expression which means, in the local sense, an architectural unit that indicates the high social status of its owner. The palace is a large complex of Ottoman-Palestinian buildings which still holds the premises of the complete cycle of treatment of olives. It reminds the old source of wealth of the family, owners of large extensions of land with olives. The visit of the house offers the opportunity to live for some moments the atmosphere of the end of the 19th century, witnessed by rooms well furnished with original furniture. The terrace of the upper floor offers a view at 360° on the village and its surroundings.
? Address The house is in downtown of Beit Rima and will be open by the landlord, a perfect host.

FATIMA ABED ALI

FOR EXPERIENCES OF EMBROIDERY WITH STRAW

In a large room on the main street of Beit Rima, the visitor can meet, after prior notice, Fatima Abed Ali who will introduce the guest to her sister Eideh. Eideh will show the products of embroidery made with straw from palm trees and olive branches. Scarves, carpets, bags, baskets, of good quality, are produced and the artist is willing to teach how to make them. After the lesson with the inevitable Arabic coffee, the teacher will give the participants also some straws and branches and the “mikhraz”, the special needle for the straw and branches, to invite them to continue at home the exercises.

? Address On the Main Road of Beit Rima.
? Call Mob of Eideh Abed Ali +970 595 303368

BAKERY ABED ALI

HOT TABOON WITH CHEESE OR ZA’ATAR

In the same premises of the embroidery, the family cooks in a fired wood oven and prepares with the guests a delicious taboon with za’atar or cheese and the usual Palestinian herbs and spices.

STREET FOOD AND TYPICAL SWEETS

Walking along Beit Rima, near the main square, the visitors meet shops for enjoying the local specialties for a fast and cheap meal.

The best suggestions are:

Abu Jawadt, open every evening (8 pm – 12 am ) from Sunday until Thursday. Friday, Saturday and other holidays from the morning until midnight. It offers a wide range of street food
• Same excellent offer by ShamShown, open every evening (8 pm – 12 am)
Yazeed, is open all day (6 am – 12 pm) of the whole week.
Al Khal restaurant too is open 6am - 12 pm 7days/7.

Note: The suggested accommodation's and meal's solution listed for Deir Ghassaneh are also valid for the adjacent Beit Rima.