Exploring Ancient Sebastia: The Contemporary City With An Eventful Past - PaliRoots

Exploring Ancient Sebastia: The Contemporary City With An Eventful Past

What allows for the ancient Palestinian city of Sebastia to remain so unique? This city encompasses archaeological ruins from six succeeding civilizations dating back over tens of thousands of years. These civilizations include: Samaritan, Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Crusader and Ottoman empires. Sebastia has been conquered by Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar, to name a few. Thus through constant succession of rule, it has undergone both a lot of destruction and a lot of rebirth. Sebastia currently remains one of the oldest standing cities to be inhabited by modern day civilization; all while keeping its archaeological ruins intact.

Sebastia has remarkable scenery as it is positioned at an elevation of around 550 meters (1,800 feet) above sea level. It is located in an exceptional position in which the hills rise up to 500 feet in the north and is surrounded by all sides except for the east. On the east end of the village there is a flat plateau with a higher hill extending from it, allowing for an astounding view of the Mediterranean Sea. The village and surrounding area is covered with abundant agriculture that flourishes throughout. Specifically in the South where the soil is at its finest, one will stumble upon groves filled with olive trees that are found rising in terrace above terrace.

View of Sebastia from Guest House

The vibrant population of Sebastia estimates to about 4,500 inhabitants. Due to the large acres planted with olive trees, the agricultural community remains strong within this region. Inside the beautiful village, remains the Al-Kayed Palace from the times of the Ottoman Empire. It has been newly renovated into a hotel-like guesthouse welcoming tourism in support of the village. Likewise, inside this historic structure, the village carries out many events, meetings and cultural activities. Amongst these activities include study groups, cooking, crafts, soap making and projects dedicated towards sustaining the vibrant health within this community.

Nabi Yehia Mosque in Sebastia

Tourism plays a huge role in supporting the local natives and organizations within the village. There are numerous sites one may visit upon traveling to this ancient city. Amongst them include historic archaeological remains and structures, as well as multiple shrines of holy men such as John the Baptist referred to by Muslims as Nabi Yehyā. The contemporary activities enjoyed by tourists include sight seeing of these historic remains, hikes amongst stunning scenery, and the enjoyment of authentic Palestinian cuisine. Additionally, instead of booking a room in a hotel while visiting, one is able to experience what it’s like to stay in the Al-Kayed Palace of the Ottoman Empire, where rooms are rented out each night. This not only allows for one to enjoy the unique experience of truly staying overnight in a royal palace, but also to contribute vast support to the local people and community organizations within Sebastia!