Gaza is situated at the crossroads between Africa and Asia. Famous for its beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and archaeological treasures, Gaza has been a trading port and cultural center for thousands of years.
Alexander the Great conquered Gaza in 332 BC. Later it was ruled by the Romans. In 637, Gaza became part of the Islamic Empire. The Crusaders invaded Gaza in 1100 and were defeated by Saladin in 1187. The Ottomans took control of Gaza in 1517 and stayed in power for more than 400 years.
Napoleon Bonaparte came to Gaza on his route through Palestine in 1799. During World War, Gaza was the scene of famous battles, and today there is a serene, beautifully landscaped British war cemetery in the city.
Gaza City is rich with history. The Great Omari Mosque is in the city’s Daraj Quarter. This famous mosque was built in the seventh century on the site of a Roman temple and is named after the Islamic second caliph Omar Ibn Khattaab.
Gaza is also known for its rich archaeological resources. Byzantine ruins and tombs have recently been excavated in the northern part of Gaza. One can visit these archaeological sites and see splendid mosaics with colorful animal and plant figures. Another must-see in Gaza is the Arts and Crafts Village. A beautifully designed gallery inspired by traditional Islamic architecture, the village offers for sale embroidery, copper, rugs, and pottery. It also exhibits modern art from renowned national and international artists.
Despite its small size, the Gaza Strip includes other important cities, such as Khan Younis, Rafah, and Deir Balah, each uniquely rich with cultural and historical sites. Just around the corner from the mosque is the famous Souq Dhahab, one of the oldest gold markets in the world.
Another interesting site in Gaza is the Church of St. Prophyrus. This fifth-century Greek Orthodox Church has an ornate ceiling and a striking collection of icons, while the relics of this important Byzantine saint are located within the church compound.