Nablus (Arabic: نابلس Nāblus
[næːblʊs] ( listen), Hebrew: שכם Šəḵem,
ISO 259-3 Škem, Greek: Νεάπολις Νeapolis)
is a city in the northern West Bank, approximately 49 kilometers
(30 mi) north of Jerusalem, (approximately 63 kilometers
(39 mi) by road), with a population of 126,132. Located
Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus
Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center,
containing the An-Najah National University, one of the largest
Palestinian institutions of higher learning, and the Palestinian
Today, the population is predominantly Muslim, with small Christian
1 Historical outline
1.1 Roman period
1.2 Byzantine period
1.4 Crusader period
1.6 Ottoman period
1.7 British Mandate period
1.8 Jordanian period
1.9 Israeli period
1.10 Palestinian authonomy
3.1 Classical antiquity
3.2 Early Islamic era
3.3 Crusader period
3.5 Ottoman era
3.6 Egyptian rule and Ottoman revival
World War I
World War I and British Mandate
3.8 Jordanian period
3.9 Israeli period
3.10 Palestinian control
4.1 Old City
6.2 Modern era
8 Health care
9 Culture and arts
9.1 Traditional costume
9.3 Cultural centers
9.4 Soap production
10 Local government
11 Municipal services
11.1 Fire department
14 International relations
14.1 Twin towns and sister cities
15 See also
17 External links
The city was named by the Roman Emperor
Vespasian in 72 CE as Flavia
In the 5th and 6th centuries, conflict between the city's Christian
Samaritan inhabitants climaxed in a series of
against Byzantine rule, before their violent quelling in 529 CE
drastically dwindled that community's numbers in the city.
In 636, Neapolis, along with most of Palestine, came under the rule of
Arab Caliphate of
Umar ibn al-Khattab; its name Arabicized
In 1099, the Crusaders took control of the city for less than a
century, leaving its mixed Muslim, Christian and
Ayyubid forces took control of the interior of
Palestine in 1187, Islamic rule was reestablished, and continued under
Mamluk and Ottoman empires to follow.
Following its incorporation into the
Ottoman Empire in 1517, Nablus
was designated capital of the Jabal
Nablus ("Mount Nablus") district.
In 1657, after a series of upheavals, a number of
Arab clans from the
northern and eastern
Levant were dispatched to the city to reassert
Ottoman authority, and loyalty from among these clans staved off
challenges to the empire's authority by rival regional leaders, like
Umar in the 18th century, and Muhammad Ali—who briefly
ruled Nablus—in the 19th century. When Ottoman rule was firmly
reestablished in 1841,
Nablus prospered as a center of trade.
British Mandate period
After the city was captured by British forces during World War I,
Nablus was incorporated into the
British Mandate of Palestine
British Mandate of Palestine in 1922.
During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the city was captured and occupied
by Transjordan, which subsequently annexed it unilaterally.
Jordanian occupation held until Israeli occupation took its place in
the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War.
Since 1995, the city has been governed by the Palestinian National
In the Old City, there are a number of sites of archaeological
significance, spanning the 1st to 15th centuries.
Culturally, the city is known for its kanafeh, a popular sweet
throughout the Middle East, and its soap industry.
Samaritan Revolts and Samaria
Flavia Neapolis ("new city of the emperor Flavius") was named in 72 CE
by the Roman emperor
Vespasian and applied to an older Samaritan
village, variously called Mabartha ("the passage") or Mamorpha.
Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, the new city lay 2
kilometers (1.2 mi) west of the Biblical city of
was destroyed by the Romans that same year during the First
Jewish-Roman War. Holy places at the site of the city's founding
Joseph's Tomb and Jacob's Well. Due to the city's strategic
geographic position and the abundance of water from nearby springs,
Neapolis prospered, accumulating extensive territory, including the
former Judean toparchy of Acraba.
Insofar as the hilly topography of the site would allow, the city was
built on a Roman grid plan and settled with veterans who fought in the
victorious legions and other foreign colonists. In the 2nd century
Hadrian built a grand theater in Neapolis that could seat
up to 7,000 people. Coins found in
Nablus dating to this period
depict Roman military emblems and gods and goddesses of the Greek
pantheon such as Zeus, Artemis, Serapis, and Asklepios. Neapolis
was entirely pagan at this time.
Justin Martyr who was born in the
city c. 100 CE, came into contact with Platonism, but not with
Christians there. The city flourished until the civil war between
Septimius Severus and
Pescennius Niger in 198–9 CE. Having sided
with Niger, who was defeated, the city was temporarily stripped of its
legal privileges by Severus, who designated these to Sebastia
In 244 CE, Philip the
Flavius Neapolis into a Roman
colony named Julia Neapolis. It retained this status until the rule of
Trebonianus Gallus in 251 CE. The Encyclopaedia Judaica speculates
Christianity was dominant in the 2nd or 3rd century, with some
sources positing a later date of 480 CE. It is known for certain
that a bishop from
Nablus participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325
CE. The presence of
Samaritans in the city is attested to in
literary and epigraphic evidence dating to the 4th century CE. As
yet, there is no evidence attesting to a Jewish presence in ancient
Ruins from antiquity (foreground) in a residential area in Nablus,
Conflict among the Christian population of Neapolis emerged in 451. By
this time, Neapolis was within the
Palaestina Prima province under the
rule of the Byzantine Empire. The tension was a result of Monophysite
Christian attempts to prevent the return of the Patriarch of
Jerusalem, Juvenal, to his episcopal see. However, the conflict did
not grow into civil strife.
As tensions among the Christians of Neapolis decreased, tensions
between the Christian community and the
Samaritans grew dramatically.
In 484, the city became the site of a deadly encounter between the two
groups, provoked by rumors that the Christians intended to transfer
the remains of Aaron's sons and grandsons Eleazar,
Samaritans reacted by entering the cathedral of Neapolis,
killing the Christians inside and severing the fingers of the bishop
Terebinthus. Terebinthus then fled to Constantinople, requesting an
army garrison to prevent further attacks. As a result of the revolt,
the Byzantine emperor Zeno erected a church dedicated to Mary on Mount
Gerizim. He also forbade the
Samaritans to travel to the mountain to
celebrate their religious ceremonies, and confiscated their synagogue
there. These actions by the emperor fueled
Samaritan anger towards the
Samaritans rebelled again under the rule of emperor
Anastasius I, reoccupying Mount Gerizim, which was subsequently
reconquered by the Byzantine governor of Edessa, Procopius. A third
Samartian revolt which took place under the leadership of Julianus ben
Sabar in 529 was perhaps the most violent. Neapolis' bishop Ammonas
was murdered and the city's priests were hacked into pieces and then
burned together with the relics of saints. The forces of Emperor
Justinian I were sent in to quell the revolt, which ended with the
slaughter of the majority of the
Samaritan population in the city.
Early Islamic era
Minaret and entrance of 10th century Great
Mosque of Nablus, 1908
Neapolis, along with most of Palestine, was conquered by the Muslims
under Khalid ibn al-Walid, a general of the
Rashidun army of
al-Khattab, in 636 after the Battle of Yarmouk. The city's name
was retained in its Arabicized form, Nabulus. The town prevailed as an
important trade center during the centuries of Islamic
Arab rule under
the Umayyad, Abbasid and
Fatimid dynasties. Under
Muslim rule, Nablus
contained a diverse population of Arabs and Persians, Muslims,
Samaritans, Christians and Jews. In the 10th century, the Arab
geographer al-Muqaddasi, described it as abundant of olive trees, with
a large marketplace, a finely paved Great Mosque, houses built of
stone, a stream running through the center of the city, and notable
mills. He also noted that it was nicknamed "Little
Damascus." At the time, the linen produced in
Nablus was well
known throughout the Old World.
See also: Vassals of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
The city was captured by Crusaders in 1099, under the command of
Prince Tancred, and renamed Naples. Though the Crusaders extorted
many supplies from the population for their troops who were en route
to Jerusalem, they did not sack the city, presumably because of the
large Christian population there.
Nablus became part of the royal
domain of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Muslim, Eastern Orthodox
Samaritan populations remained in the city, and were
joined by some Crusaders who settled therein to take advantage of the
city's abundant resources. In 1120, the Crusaders convened the Council
Nablus out of which was issued the first written laws for the
kingdom. They converted the
Samaritan synagogue in
Nablus into a
Samaritan community built a new synagogue in the
1130s. In 1137,
Arab and Turkish troops stationed in Damascus
raided Nablus, killing many Christians and burning down the city's
churches. However, they were unsuccessful in retaking the city.
Queen Melisende of
Jerusalem resided in
Nablus from 1150 to 1161,
after she was granted control over the city in order to resolve a
dispute with her son Baldwin III. Crusaders began building Christian
institutions in Nablus, including a church dedicated to the Passion
and Resurrection of Jesus, and in 1170 they erected a hospice for
Interior view of the An-Nasr Mosque, converted from a Crusader church
to a mosque in the 13th century
Crusader rule came to an end in 1187, when the Ayyubids led by Saladin
captured the city. According to a liturgical manuscript in Syriac,
Latin Christians fled Nablus, but the original Eastern Orthodox
Christian inhabitants remained. Syrian geographer
Yaqut al-Hamawi (1179–1229), wrote that
Nablus was a
"celebrated city in Filastin (Palestine)... having wide lands and a
fine district." He also mentions the large
Samaritan population in the
city. After its recapture by the Muslims, the Great
Nablus, which had become a church under Crusader rule, was restored as
a mosque by the Ayyubids, who also built a mausoleum in the old
In October 1242,
Nablus was raided by the Knights Templar. This was
the conclusion of the 1242 campaign season in which the Templars had
joined forces with the
Ayyubid emir of Kerak, An-Nasir Dawud, against
the Mamluks. The Templars raided
Nablus in revenge for a preceding
massacre of Christians by their erstwhile ally An-Nasir Dawud. The
attack is reported as a particularly bloody affair lasting for three
days, during which the
Mosque was burned and many residents of the
city, Christians alongside Muslims, were killed or sold in the slave
markets of Acre. The successful raid was widely publicized by the
Templars in Europe; it is thought to be depicted in a late
13th-century fresco in the Templar church of San Bevignate,
In 1244, the
Samaritan synagogue, built in 362 by the high priest
Akbon and converted into a church by the Crusaders, was converted into
al-Khadra Mosque. Two other Crusader churches became the An-Nasr
Mosque and al-Masakim
Mosque during that century.
Mamluk dynasty gained control of
Nablus in 1260 and during their
reign, they built numerous mosques and schools. Under
Nablus possessed running water, many Turkish bathes and exported olive
oil and soap to Egypt, Syria, the Hejaz, several Mediterranean
islands, and the Arabian Desert. The city's olive oil was also used in
Mosque in Damascus. Ibn Battuta, the
Nablus in 1355, and described it as a city "full of trees and
streams and full of olives." He noted that the city grew and exported
carob jam to
Cairo and Damascus.
Jacob's Well, 1912
Nablus came under the rule of the
Ottoman Empire in 1517, along with
the whole of Palestine. The Ottomans divided Palestine into six
sanjaqs ("districts"): Safad, Jenin, Jerusalem, Gaza,
Nablus, all of which were part of Ottoman Syria. These five sanjaqs
were subdistricts of the Vilayet of Damascus. Sanjaq
further subdivided into five nahiya (subdistricts), in addition to the
city itself. The Ottomans did not attempt to restructure the political
configuration of the region on the local level such that the borders
of the nahiya were drawn to coincide with the historic strongholds of
Nablus was only one among a number of local centers
of power within Jabal Nablus, and its relations with the surrounding
villages, such as Beita and Aqraba, were partially mediated by the
rural-based chiefs of the nahiya. During the 16th century, the
population was predominantly Muslim, with Jewish,
After decades of upheavals and rebellions mounted by
Arab tribes in
the Middle East, the Ottomans attempted to reassert centralized
control over the
Arab vilayets. In 1657, they sent an expeditionary
force led mostly by
Arab sipahi officers from central Syria to
reassert Ottoman authority in
Nablus and its hinterland, as part of a
broader attempt to established centralized rule throughout the empire
at that time. In return for their services, the officers were granted
agricultural lands around the villages of Jabal Nablus. The Ottomans,
fearing that the new
Arab land holders would establish independent
bases of power, dispersed the land plots to separate and distant
locations within Jabal
Nablus to avoid creating contiguous territory
controlled by individual clans. Contrary to its centralization
purpose, the 1657 campaign allowed the
Arab sipahi officers to
establish their own increasingly autonomous foothold in Nablus. The
officers raised their families there and intermarried with the local
notables of the area, namely the ulama and merchant families. Without
abandoning their nominal military service, they acquired diverse
properties to consolidate their presence and income such as soap and
pottery factories, bathhouses, agricultural lands, grain mills and,
olive and sesame oil presses.
The most influential military family were the Nimrs, who were
originally local governors of
Homs and Hama's rural subdistricts.
Other officer families included the Akhrami, Asqalan, Bayram, Jawhari,
Khammash, Mir'i, Shafi, Sultan and Tamimi families, some of which
remained in active service, while some left service for other
pursuits. In the years following the 1657 campaign, two other families
migrated to Nablus: the Jarrars from Balqa and the Tuqans from
northern Syria or Transjordan. The Jarrars came to dominate the
hinterland of Nablus, while the Tuqans and Nimrs competed for
influence in the town. The former held the post of mutasallim (tax
collector, strongman) of
Nablus longer, though non-consecutively, than
any other family. The three families maintained their power until the
Nablus, by W. C. P. Medlycott, in H. B. Tristram, 1865
In the mid-18th century, Zahir al-Umar, the autonomous
Arab ruler of
Galilee became a dominant figure in Palestine. In order to build
up his army, he strove to gain a monopoly over the cotton and olive
oil trade of the southern Levant, including Jabal Nablus, which was a
major producer of both crops. In 1771, during the Egyptian Mamluk
invasion of Syria, Zahir aligned himself with the Mamluks and besieged
Nablus, but did not succeed in taking the city. In 1773, he tried
again without success. Nevertheless, from a political perspective, the
sieges led to a decline in the importance of the city in favor of
Acre. Zahir's successor, Jezzar Pasha, maintained Acre's dominance
over Nablus. After his reign ended in 1804,
Nablus regained its
autonomy, and the Tuqans, who represented a principal opposing force,
rose to power.
Egyptian rule and Ottoman revival
Nablus in 1898
In 1831-32 Khedivate Egypt, then led by Muhammad Ali, conquered
Palestine from the Ottomans. A policy of conscription and new taxation
was instituted which led to a revolt organized by the a'ayan
(notables) of Nablus,
Hebron and the Jerusalem-
Jaffa area. In May
1834, Qasim al-Ahmad—the chief of the
Jamma'in nahiya—rallied the
rural sheikhs and fellahin (peasants) of Jabal
Nablus and launched a
revolt against Governor Ibrahim Pasha, in protest at conscription
orders, among other new policies. The leaders of
Nablus and its
hinterland sent thousands of rebels to attack Jerusalem, the center of
government authority in Palestine, aided by the
Abu Ghosh clan, and
they conquered the city on 31 May. However, they were later defeated
by Ibrahim Pasha's forces the next month. Ibrahim then forced the
heads of the Jabal
Nablus clans to leave for nearby villages. By the
end of August, the countrywide revolt had been suppressed and Qasim
Egyptian rule in Palestine resulted in the destruction of Acre and
thus, the political importance of
Nablus was further elevated. The
Ottomans wrested back control of Palestine from
Egypt in 1840–41.
However, the Arraba-based Abd al-Hadi clan which rose to prominence
under Egyptian rule for supporting Ibrahim Pasha, continued its
political dominance in Jabal Nablus.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries,
Nablus was the principal trade
and manufacturing center in Ottoman Syria. Its economic activity and
regional leadership position surpassed that of
Jerusalem and the
coastal cities of
Jaffa and Acre.
Olive oil was the primary product of
Nablus and fueled other related industries such as soap-making and
basket weaving. It was also the largest producer of cotton in the
Levant, topping the production of northern cities such as
Nablus enjoyed a greater degree of autonomy than
other sanjaqs under Ottoman control, probably because the city was the
capital of a hilly region, in which there were no "foreigners" who
held any military or bureaucratic posts. Thus,
Nablus remained outside
the direct "supervision" of the Ottoman government, according to
historian Beshara Doumani.
World War I
World War I and British Mandate
Nablus in 1918
Between 19 September and 25 September 1918, in the last months of the
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War the Battle of
Nablus took place, together with the
Battle of Sharon
Battle of Sharon during the set
piece Battle of Megiddo. Fighting took place in the
Judean Hills where
the British Empire's XX Corps and airforce attacked the Ottoman
Empire's Yildirim Army Group's Seventh Army which held a defensive
position in front of Nablus, and which the Eighth Army had attempted
to retreat to, in vain.
1927 Jericho earthquake
1927 Jericho earthquake destroyed many of the Nablus' historic
buildings, including the An-Nasr Mosque. Though they were
subsequently rebuilt by Haj Amin al-Husayni's Supreme
in the mid-1930s, their previous "picturesque" character was lost.
During British rule,
Nablus emerged as a site of local resistance and
the Old City quarter of Qaryun was demolished by the British during
Arab revolt in Palestine. Jewish immigration did
not significantly impact the demographic composition of Nablus, and it
was slated for inclusion in the
Arab state envisioned by the United
Nations General Assembly's 1947 partition plan for Palestine.
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War,
Nablus came under Jordanian control.
Palestinian refugees fleeing from areas captured by
Israel arrived in Nablus, settling in refugee camps in and around the
city. Its population doubled and the influx of refugees put a heavy
strain on the city's resources. Three such camps still located within
the city limits today are Ein Beit al-Ma',
Balata and Askar. During
the Jordanian period, the adjacent villages of Rafidia, Balata
al-Balad, al-Juneid and Askar were annexed to the Nablus
Six-Day War ended in the Israeli occupation of Nablus. Many
Israeli settlements were built around
Nablus during the 1980s and
early 1990s. The restrictions placed on
Nablus during the First
Intifada were met by a back-to-the-land movement to secure
self-sufficiency, and had a notable outcome in boosting local
Huwwara checkpoint with Palestinians waiting to travel south,
Jurisdiction over the city was handed over to the Palestinian National
Authority on December 12, 1995, as a result of the Oslo Accords
Interim Agreement on the West Bank.
Nablus is surrounded by
Israeli settlements and was site of regular clashes with the IDF
First Intifada when the local prison was known for
torture. In the 1990s,
Nablus was a hub of Palestinian nationalist
activity in the
West Bank and when the
Second Intifada began,
arsonists of Jewish shrines in
Nablus were applauded. After the
Danish cartoons was published in 2006, militias kidnapped two
foreigners and threatened to kidnap more as a protest. In 2008, Noa
Meir, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said
Nablus remains "capital of
terror" of the West Bank.
From the start of the Second Intifada,
Nablus became a flash-point of
clashes between the
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinians. The
city has a tradition of political activism, as evinced by its
nickname, jabal al-nar (Fire Mountain), and, located between two
mountains, was closed off at both ends of the valley by Israeli
checkpoints. For several years, movements in and out of the city were
highly restricted. The city and the refugee camps of
Askar constituted the center of "knowhow" for the production and
operation of the rockets in the West Bank.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs, 522 residents of
Nablus and surrounding refugee
camps, including civilians, were killed and 3,104 injured during IDF
military operations from 2000 to 2005. In April 2002, following
the Passover massacre—an attack by Palestinian militants that killed
30 Israeli civilians attending a seder dinner at the Park Hotel in
Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, a major military
operation targeting in particular
Nablus and Jenin. At least 80
Palestinians were killed in
Nablus during the operation and several
houses were destroyed or severely damaged.
The operation also resulted in severe damage to the historic core of
the city, with 64 heritage buildings being heavily damaged or
destroyed. IDF forces reentered
Nablus during Operation Determined
Path in June 2002, remaining inside the city until the end of
September. Over those three months, there had been more than 70 days
of full 24-hour curfews. According to Gush Shalom, IDF bulldozers
damaged the al-Khadra Mosque, the Great Mosque, the al-Satoon Mosque
Greek Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church in 2002. Some 60 houses were destroyed,
and parts of the stone-paving in the old city were damaged. The
al-Shifa hammam was hit by three rockets from Apache helicopters. The
eastern entrance of the Khan al-Wikala (old market) and three soap
factories were destroyed in F-16 bombings. The cost of the damage was
estimated at $80 million US.
On August 2016, the Old city of
Nablus became a site of fierce clashes
between a militant group vs Palestinian police. On August 18, two
Palestinian Police servicemen were killed in the city. Shortly the
raid of Police on the suspected areas in the Old city deteriorated
into a gun battle, in which 3 armed militia men were killed, including
one killed by beating following his arrest. The person beaten to
death was the suspected “mastermind” behind the August 18 shooting
- Ahmed Izz Halaweh, a senior member of the armed wing of the Fatah
movement the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. His death was branded by
the UN and Palestinian factions as an part of “extrajudicial
executions.” A widespread manhunt for multiple gunmen was
initiated by the police as a result, concluding with the arrest of one
suspect Salah al-Kurdi on August 25.
Section of topographical map of
Nablus lies in a strategic position at a junction between two ancient
commercial roads; one linking the Sharon coastal plain to the Jordan
valley, the other linking
Nablus to the
Galilee in the north, and the
Judea to the south through the mountains. The city stands
at an elevation of around 550 meters (1,800 ft) above sea
level, in a narrow valley running roughly east-west between two
mountains: Mount Ebal, the northern mountain, is the taller peak at
940 meters (3,080 ft), while Mount Gerizim, the southern
mountain, is 881 meters (2,890 ft) high.
Nablus is located 42 kilometers (26 mi) east of Tel Aviv, Israel,
110 kilometers (68 mi) west of Amman,
Jordan and 63 kilometers
(39 mi) north of Jerusalem. Nearby cities and towns include
Aqraba to the south,
Beit Furik to the southeast,
Asira ash-Shamaliya to the north and
Kafr Qaddum and
Tell to the west.
See also: Levantine archaeology § Nablus
Alley in the Old City leading to and from the souk, 2008
In the center of
Nablus lies the old city, composed of six major
quarters: Yasmina, Gharb, Qaryun, Aqaba, Qaysariyya and Habala. Habala
is the largest quarter and its population growth led to the
development of two smaller neighborhoods: al-Arda and Tal al-Kreim.
The old city is densely populated and prominent families include the
Nimrs, Tuqans, and Abd al-Hadis. The large fortress-like compound of
Abd al-Hadi Palace
Abd al-Hadi Palace built in the 19th century is located in Qaryun.
The Nimr Hall and the Tuqan Palace are located in the center of the
old city. There are several mosques in the Old City: The Great Mosque
of Nablus, An-Nasr Mosque, al-Tina Mosque, al-Khadra Mosque, Hanbali
Mosque, al-Anbia Mosque, Ajaj
Mosque and others
There are six hamaams (Turkish baths) in the Old City, the most
prominent of them being al-Shifa and al-Hana. Al-Shifa Hamaam was
built by the Tuqans in 1624. Al-Hana in Yasmina, was the last hamaam
built in the city in the 19th century. It was closed in 1928 but
restored and reopened in 1994. Several leather tanneries, souks,
pottery and textile workshops line the Old City streets. There
are a number of historic monuments in the old city including the Khan
al-Tujjar and the al-
Manara Clock Tower
Manara Clock Tower built in 1906.
Panorama of Nablus
Picture showing to the right the mountain "Ebal" with the rock of "Sit
Islamieh", and to the left the south mountain "Jirziem" with an IDF
military post on the far left
The relatively temperate
Mediterranean climate brings hot, dry summers
and cool, rainy winters to Nablus. Spring arrives around March–April
and the hottest months in
Nablus are July and August with the average
high being 29.6 °C (85.3 °F). The coldest month is January
with temperatures usually at 6.2 °C (43.2 °F). Rain
generally falls between October and March, with annual precipitation
rates being approximately 656 mm (25.8 in).
Climate data for Nabulus ( 570 meters above sea level) 1972-1997
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average relative humidity (%)
Arab Meteorology Book
Prayer hall of Hanbali Mosque
In 1596, the population consisted of 806
Muslim households, 20
Samaritan households, 18 Christian households, and 15 Jewish
households. Local Ottoman authorities recorded a population of
around 20,000 residents in
Nablus in 1849. In 1867 American
visitors found the town to have a population of 4,000 'the chief part
of whom are Mohammedans', with some Jews and Christians and 'about 150
Samaritans'. In the 1922 British census of Palestine, there were a
total of 15,947 inhabitants: 15,238 Muslims, 16 Jews, 544 Christians,
Samaritans and others. Population continued to grow, rising to
17,498 at the 1931 census of Palestine.
According to the
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS),
Nablus had a population of 126,132 in 2007. In the PCBS's 1997
census, the city had a population of 100,034, including 23,397
refugees, accounting for about 24% of the city's residents.
Nablus' Old City had a population of 12,000 in 2006. The population
Nablus city comprises 40% of its governorate's inhabitants.
Approximately half of population is under 20 years old. In 1997, the
age distribution of the city's inhabitants was 28.4% under the age of
10, 20.8% from 10 to 19, 17.7% from 20–29, 18% from 30 to 44, 11.1%
from 45 to 64 and 3.7% above the age of 65. The gender distribution
was 50,945 males (50.92%) and 49,089 females (49.07%).
In 891 AD, during the early centuries of Islamic rule,
Nablus had a
religiously diverse population of Samaritans, local Muslims and
Arab geographer Al-Dimashqi, recorded that under the rule
Mamluk Dynasty (
Muslim Dynasty based in Egypt), local Muslims,
Samaritans, Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Jews populated the
city. At the 1931 census, the population was counted as 16,483
Muslims, 533 Christians, 6 Jews, 7 Druses and 160 Samaritans.
However, this census was taken after the
1929 Palestine riots
1929 Palestine riots which
drove the Jews out of many majority-
The majority of the inhabitants today are Muslim, but there are small
Samaritan communities as well. Much of the local
Muslim population of
Nablus is believed to be descended
Samaritans who converted to Islam. Certain Nabulsi family names
are associated with
Samaritan ancestry – Muslimani, Yaish, and
Shakshir among others. According to the historian Fayyad Altif,
large numbers of
Samaritans converted due to persecution and because
the monotheistic nature of
Islam made it easy for them to accept
In 1967, there were about 3,500 Christians of various denominations in
Nablus, but that figure dwindled to about 650 in 2008. Of the
Christian populace, there are seventy
Orthodox Christian families,
about thirty Catholic (Roman Catholic & Eastern Melkite Catholic)
families and thirty
Anglican families. Most Christians used to live in
the suburb of
Rafidia in the western part of the city.
There are seventeen Islamic monuments and eleven mosques in the Old
City. Nine of the mosques were established before the 15th
century. In addition to
Muslim houses of worship,
an Orthodox church dedicated
Saint Justin Martyr, built in 1898 and
Samaritan synagogue, which is still in use.
Manara clock tower in the Old City
Beginning in the early 16th century, trade networks connecting Nablus
Cairo were supplemented by the establishment of
trading posts in the
Hejaz and Gulf regions to the south and east, as
well as in the
Anatolian Peninsula and the
Mediterranean islands of
Crete and Cyprus.
Nablus also developed trade relations with Aleppo,
Mosul, and Baghdad.
The Ottoman government ensured adequate safety and funding for the
annual pilgrimage caravan (qafilat al-hajj) from
Damascus to the
Islamic holy cities of
Mecca and Medina. This policy benefited Nablus
economically. Pilgrimage caravans became the key factor in the fiscal
and political relationship between
Nablus and the central government.
For a brief period in the early 17th century, the governor of Nablus,
Farrukh Pasha, was appointed leader of the pilgrimage caravan (amir
al-hajj), and he constructued a large commercial compound in Nablus
for that purpose.
In 1882, there were 32 soap factories and 400 looms exporting their
products throughout the Middle East.
three-fourths of its soap — the city's most important commodity —
Cairo by caravan through Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, and by sea
through the ports of
Jaffa and Gaza. From Egypt, and particularly from
Cairo and Damietta,
Nablus merchants imported mainly rice, sugar, and
spices, as well as linen, cotton, and wool textiles. Cotton, soap,
olive oil, and textiles were exported by
Nablus merchants to Damascus,
whence silks, high-quality textiles, copper, and a number luxury
items, such as jewellery were imported.
With regard to the local economy, agriculture was the major component.
Outside of the city limits, there were extensive fields of olive
groves, fig and pomegranate orchards and grape vineyards that covered
the area's slopes. Crops, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and
mulukhiyya were grown in the fields, vegetable gardens, and grain
mills scattered across central Samaria.
Nablus was also the
largest producer of cotton in the Levant, producing over
225,000 kg (496,040 lb) of the product by 1837.
Downtown Nablus, Martyrs Square
Nablus has a bustling modern commercial center with restaurants, and a
shopping mall. Traditional industries continue to operate in
Nablus, such as the production of soap, olive oil, and handicrafts.
Other industries include furniture production, tile production, stone
quarrying, textile manufacturing and leather tanning. The city is also
a regional trading center for live produce. Most of these industries
are centered in the old city.
The Vegetable Oil Industry Co. is a
Nablus factory that produces
refined vegetable oils, especially olive oil, and vegetable butter
from the factory is exported to Jordan. The al-Huda Textiles
factory is also located in Nablus. In 2000, the factory produced 500
pieces of clothing daily; however, production plummeted to 150–200
pieces daily in 2002. Al-Huda mainly imports textiles from China and
exports finished products to Israel. There are eight restaurants
in the city and four hotels — the largest being al-Qasr and
al-Yasmeen. Nablus' once thriving soap industry has been largely
isolated due to difficult transportation conditions stemming from West
Bank closures and IDF incursions. Today, there are only two soap
factories still operating in the city.
The Al-Arz ice-cream company is the largest of six ice-cream
manufacturers in the Palestinian territories. The
developed from an ice-factory set up by Mohammad Anabtawi in the town
centre in 1950. It produces 50 tons a day, and exports to
Iraq. Most of the ingredients are imported from Israel.
Before 2000, 13.4% of Nablus' residents worked in Israel, with the
figure dropping to 4.7% in 2004. The city's manufacturing sector made
up 15.7% of the economy in 2004, a drop from 21% in 2000. Since 2000,
most of the workforce has been employed in agriculture and local
trade. In the wake of the Intifada, unemployment rates rose from
14.2% in 1997 to 60% in 2004. According to an
OCHA report in 2008, one
of the reasons for the high unemployment was a ring of checkpoints
around the city, leading to the relocation of many businesses.
Since the removal of the
Hawara roadblock, the casbah has become a
Nablus is home to the Palestine Securities
Exchange (PSE) and the al-Quds Financial Index, housed in the al-Qasr
building in the
Rafidia suburb of the city. The PSE's first trading
session took place on February 19, 1997. In 2007, the capitalization
of the PSE topped 3.5 million Jordanian dinars.
An-Najah University, Nablus
According to the
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in
1997, 44,926 were enrolled in schools (41.2% in primary school, 36.2%
in secondary school, and 22.6% in high school). About 19.8% of high
school students received bachelor diplomas or higher diplomas. In
2006, there were 234 schools and 93,925 students in the Nablus
Governorate; 196 schools are run by the Education Ministry of the
Palestinian National Authority, 14 by the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency (UNRWA) and 24 are private schools.
Nablus is also home to an-Najah National University, the largest
Palestinian university in the West Bank. Founded in 1918 by the
an-Najah Nabulsi School, it became a college in 1941 and a university
in 1977. An-Najah was closed down by Israeli authorities during the
First Intifada, but reopened in 1991. Today, the university has three
Nablus with over 16,500 students and 300 professors. The
university's faculties include seven in the humanities and nine in the
There are six hospitals in Nablus, the four major ones being
al-Ittihad, St. Lukes, al-Watani(the National) and the
Hospital. The latter, located in Rafidia, a suburb in western Nablus,
is the largest hospital in the city. Al-Watani
Hospital specializes in
oncology services. The
Anglican St. Lukes hospital and the
Hospital were built in 1900 and 1910 respectively. In
addition to hospitals,
Nablus contains the al-Rahma and at-Tadamon
clinics, the al-Razi medical center, the Amal Center for
Rehabilitation and 68 pharmacies. In addition to that, in 2001,
Hospital was built, in which it is specialized in
open heart surgery, angiograms and angioplasties.
Culture and arts
Nablus dress featuring brightly colored coat draped over
head and shoulders
Nablus and its culture enjoy a certain renown throughout the
Palestinian Territories and the
Arab world with significant and unique
contributions to Palestinian culture, cuisine and costume. Nabulsi,
meaning "from Nablus", is used to describe items such as handicrafts
(e.g. Nabulsi soap) and food products (e.g. Nabulsi cheese) that are
Nablus or in the traditional
Main article: Palestinian costumes
Nablus costume was of a distinctive style that employed colorful
combinations of various fabrics. Due to its position as important
trade center with a flourishing souk ("market"), in late 19th century,
there was a large choice of fabrics available in the city, from
Aleppo silk to
Manchester cottons and calicos. Similar in
construction to the garments worn in the Galilee, both long and short
Turkish style jackets were worn over the thob ("robe"). For daily
wear, thobs were often made of white cotton or linen, with a
preference for winged sleeves. In the summer, costumes often
incorporated interwoven striped bands of red, green and yellow on the
front and back, with appliqué and braidwork popularly decorating the
qabbeh ("square chest piece").
A siniyyeh of Kanafeh
Nablus is one of the Palestinian cities that sustained elite classes,
fostering the development of a culture of "high cuisine", such as that
Damascus or Baghdad. The city is home to a number of food products
well known throughout the Levant, the
Arab world and the former
provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
Kanafeh is the most famed Nabulsi sweet. Originating in
the 15th century, by 1575, its recipe was exported throughout the
Ottoman Empire — which controlled Palestine at the time.
made of several fine shreds of pastry noodles with honey-sweetened
cheese in the center. The top layer of the pastry is usually dyed
orange with food coloring and sprinkled with crushed pistachios.
Though it is now made throughout the Middle East, to the present day,
kanafeh Nabulsi enjoys continued fame, partly due to its use of a
white-brine cheese called jibneh Nabulsi. Boiled sugar is used as a
syrup for kanafeh.
Other sweets made in
Nablus include baklawa, "Tamriya", mabrumeh and
ghuraybeh, a plain pastry made of butter, flour and sugar in an
"S"-shape, or shaped as fingers or bracelets.
There are three cultural centers in Nablus. The Child Cultural Center
(CCC), founded in 1998 and built in a renovated historic building,
operates an art and drawing workshop, a stage for play performances, a
music room, a children's library and a multimedia lab. The
Children Happiness Center (CHC) was also established in 1998. Its main
activities include promoting
Palestinian culture through social
events, dabke classes and field trips. In addition to national
culture, the CHC has a football and chess team. The Nablus
municipal government established its own cultural center in 2003,
Nablus Municipality Cultural Center (NMCC) aimed at
establishing and developing educational facilities.
Nabulsi soap stacked at Tuqan factory, Nablus
Main article: Nabulsi soap
Nabulsi soap or sabon nabulsi is a type of castile soap produced only
in Nablus and made of three primary ingredients: virgin olive oil,
water, and a sodium compound. Since the 10th century, Nabulsi
soap has enjoyed a reputation for being a fine product, and has
been exported across the
Arab world and to Europe. Though the
number of soap factories decreased from a peak of thirty in the 19th
century to only two today, efforts to preserve this important part of
Palestinian and Nabulsi cultural heritage continue.
Made in a cube-like shape about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) tall and 2.25
by 2.25 inches (5.7 by 5.7 cm) wide, the color of
Nabulsi soap is
like that of "the page of an old book." The cubes are stamped on
the top with the seal of the factory that produces it. The soap's
sodium compound came from the barilla plant. Prior to the 1860s, in
the summertime, the barilla would be placed in towering stacks,
burned, and then the ashes and coals would be gathered into sacks, and
Nablus from the area of modern-day
Jordan in large
caravans. In the city, the ashes and coals were pounded into a fine
natural alkaline soda powder called qilw. Today, qilw is still
used in combination with lime.
New clock tower at Martyrs Square in downtown Nablus
The city of
Nablus is the muhfaza (seat) of the
and is governed by a municipal council made up of fifteen elected
members, including the mayor.
The two primary political parties in the municipal council are Hamas
and Fatah. In the 2005 Palestinian municipal elections, the Reform and
Change list representing the
Hamas faction won 73.4% of the vote,
gaining the majority of the municipal seats (13). Palestine Tomorrow,
representing Fatah, gained the remaining two seats with 13.0% of the
vote. Other political parties, such as the Palestinian People's Party
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine failed to
gain any seats in the council, though they each received over 1,000
Yaish's four-year term legally expired in December 2009. While
elections in the
West Bank were scheduled for 17 July 2010, they were
canceled due to Fatah's lack of agreement on list of candidates.
Nablus was one of the most important municipalities where
to resolve internal conflicts that resulted in two competing Fatah
lists: one headed by former mayor
Ghassan Shakaa and one headed by
In the October 2012 municipal elections,
Hamas boycotted the polls,
protesting the holding of elections while reconciliation efforts with
Fatah were at a standstill. Former mayor Ghassan Shakaa, a former
Fatah leader, won the vote as an independent against Fatah
member Amin Makboul and another independent candidate.
Main article: List of mayors of Nablus
Modern mayorship in
Nablus began in 1869 with the appointment of
Sheikh Mohammad Tuffaha by the Ottoman governor of Syria/Palestine. On
July 2, 1980, Bassam Shakaa, then mayor of Nablus, lost both of his
legs as a result of a car bombing carried out by Israeli militants
affiliated with the
Gush Emunim Underground movement.
The current mayor, Adly Yaish, a
Hamas member, was arrested by the
Israel Defense Forces in May 2007, during Operation Summer Rains,
launched in retaliation for the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad
Shalit by Hamas. Municipal council members Abdel Jabbar Adel Musa
"Dweikat", Majida Fadda, Khulood El-Masri, and Mahdi Hanbali were also
arrested. He spent 15 months in prison without being charged.
A street in
Nablus leading to the Old City.
Minaret of An-Nasr Mosque
in the background
In 1997, 99.7% of Nablus' 18,003 households were connected to
electricity through a public network. Prior to its establishment in
1957, electricity came from private generators. Today, the majority of
the inhabitants of 18 nearby towns, in addition to the city's
inhabitants, are connected to the
The majority of households are connected to a public sewage system
(93%), with the reminaing 7% connected through cesspits. The
sewage system, established n the early 1950s, also connects the
refugee camps of Balata, Askar and Ein Beit al-Ma'. Pipe water is
provided for 100% of the city's households, primarily through a public
network (99.3%), but some residents receive water through a private
system (0.7%). The water network was established in 1932 by the
British authorities and is fed by water from four nearby wells: Deir
Sharaf, Far'a, al-Badan and Audala.
Nablus is one of the few cities in the
West Bank to have a fire
department, which was founded in 1958. At that time, the "fire
brigade" (as it was called) was composed of five members and one
extinguishing vehicle. In 2007, the department had seventy members and
over twenty vehicles. Until 1986, it was responsible for all of the
northern West Bank, but today it only covers the
Nablus and Tubas
Governorates. From 1997 to 2006, Nablus' fire department extinguished
In the early 20th century,
Nablus was the southernmost station of a
spur from the Jezreel Valley railway's
Afula station, itself a spur
Hejaz railway. The extension of the railway to
built in 1911–12. During the beginning of the British Mandate,
one weekly train was operated from Haifa to
Jenin. The railway was destroyed during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War,
and the route of the line bisected by the Green Line.
The main Beersheba–
Nazareth road running through the middle of the
West Bank ends in Nablus, although thoroughfare of local Arabs is
severely restricted. The city was connected to Tulkarm,
Jenin by roads which are now blocked by the Israeli
West Bank barrier.
From 2000 until 2011,
Israel maintained checkpoints such as Huwwara
checkpoint which effectively cut off the city, severely curtailing
social and economic travel. From January 2002, buses, taxis,
trucks and private citizens required a permit from the Israeli
military authorities to leave and enter Nablus. Since 2011, there
has been a relaxation of travel restrictions and the dismantlement of
The nearest airport is the
Ben Gurion International Airport
Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod,
Israel, but because of restrictions governing the entry of
Palestinians to Israel, and their lack of access to foreign Embassies
to get travel visas, many residents must travel to Amman,
use the Queen Alia International Airport, which requires passage
through a number of checkpoints and the Jordanian border. Taxis are
the main form of public transportation within
Nablus and the city
contains 28 taxi offices and garages.
Nablus football stadium has a capacity of 8,000. The stadium
is home to the city's football club al-Ittihad, which is in the main
league of the Palestinian Territories. The club participated in
the Middle East
Mediterranean Scholar Athlete Games in 2000.
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See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in the Palestinian
Twin towns and sister cities
Nablus is twinned, or has sister city relationships with:
Dundee, United Kingdom
List of cities administered by the Palestinian National Authority
List of people from Nablus
Shechem, the Biblical city which occupied the same location
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Occupied Housing Units by Locality and Connection to Sewage System in
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Occupied Housing Units by Locality and Connection to Water Network in
Housing Unit Archived 2008-11-18 at the Wayback Machine. Palestinian
Central Bureau of Statistics. Statistic from a 1997 census.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nablus.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Nablus.
A site explaining the reasons for the devastated Palestinian economy
Nablus the Culture, reviving cultural life in Nablus
Nablus after Five Years of Conflict December 2005 report by OCHA
Archaeological Remains Found in Nablus
Nablus from east (Panorama)
Picture showing east region of
Nablus (Panorama) – The picture taken
Bahjat Sabri, "Urban Aspects in the City of
Nablus in the First Half
of the Nineteenth Century"
An-Najah University Journal for Research -
Humanities, Volume 6 (1992)
Balata al-Balad • Juneid • Rafidia)
Sebastia (Nisf Jubeil)
Furush Beit Dajan
al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya (Ammuriya)
Majdal Bani Fadil
Ein Beit al-Ma'
Cities administered by the State of Palestine
Rawabi (under construction)
*From June 2007, the
Gaza Strip has been under de facto Hamas
Roman colonies in ancient Levant
Colonies of legion veterans
Caesarea Maritima 2
Aelia Capitolina 1 3
Colonies of late Empire
Palmyra 1 3
Damascus 1 3
Bostra 1 3
Possible colonial status
Jerusalem: Aelia Capitolina
Imwas: Emmaus Nicopolis
Umm Qais: Gadara
Arqa: Arca Caesarea
Legacy of the Roman Empire
1 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; 2 Proposed; 3 in Danger