Surrounded by soaring mountains and often overgrown with olive trees, Bani Na’im is an attractive and emotive town. With more than 20,000 residents, it is big enough to boast most of the necessary facilities, including a hospital and a busy high street. The Old Town is one of the best preserved in the Hebron governorate, and some of the historic stone buildings are actually still lived in. It is in the Old Town where Bani Na’im’s oldest mosque can be found.
The town is best known as the burial place of the prophet Lot, who was sent on an unsuccessful mission by God to persuade the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to stop their lustful, violent way of life. His tomb was later turned into a Mosque which is now located in the centre of Bani Na’im, while his daughters are allegedly buried in a tomb on the hill directly opposite. There is a shrine dedicated to Lot to the southeast of the town, called Maqam an-Nabi Yatin (Shrine of the Truthful Prophet). Legend has it that Lot prayed at this exact site, leaving visible imprints of his in a rock.
Both Muslim and Christian tradition heralds Bani Na’im as the place where Abraham saw the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah ‘rising as the smoke of a furnace’. Today, Bani Na’im – just 8km east of Hebron – is a key commercial centre for many villages.
Omar Manasreh fled the town as a refugee and returned 44 years later in 2014. Bani Na’im ‘gave him back his soul’, read about it here.
Population: 20,084 (2007)