Rafah is a city and refugee camp on the border of Egypt and Gaza. There have been a lot of conflicts there over the years and the border to Gaza from Rafah is frequently closed. Much of the city was destroyed when the city of Rafah was split after the 1979 Egyptian and Israeli peace treaty was signed. There is a lot of history in this city and area dating back 3000 years. There have recently been some discoveries of ancient ruins in the area that date back thousands of years. It is located close to the Mediterranean which is always a beautiful place to be.
There are also many things to see right across the border in Gaza and Gaza city. If you are able to get to Gaza then you might be interested in checking out some of these places:
- The Church of St. Porphyrius
This is a Greek Orthdox Church that is still used by the community there. It is in the old city of Gaza. This church is from 420 AD and is where St. Porphyrius died and was buried. It was re-constructed by the Crusaders in the 1150’s and was dedicated to St. Porphyrius at that time. Saint Porphyrius was the bishop of Gaza in the 5th century. His tomb is in the northeastern corner of the church. The church is the oldest active church in Gaza.
- Great Omari Mosque
This Mosque which is in downtown Gaza was said to occupy the site of the first ancient philistine temple. It was originally a church built by the crusaders in the 12th century. It features beautiful minarets. This building was destroyed and reconstructed many times. After many distractions the mosque was rebuilt in 1340 and then restored again in the 16th century. The mosque was again severely damaged during World War I. It was restored again under a former Gaza Mayor Said Al-Shawa by 1927. The Omari Mosque is still an active Mosque and is a support to the people who live in Gaza.
- Anthedon Harbour
This is an archeological site that is located in the Gaza Strip. It is the first known seaport in Gaza. It was used from 800 BC to 1100 AD. It was a Greek independent city named Anthedon during the Hellenistic period. The city and port changed names and rulers over the years. It was conquered by the Jewish leader Alexander Jannaeus in 64 BC. It was then liberated by Pompey and was later rebuilt. It was controlled by Cleopatra at one point in its history. There is a lot of archeological history in this area showing the different buildings and inhabitants over the years.
- The Pottery Workshop
This is a unique place that has a long history. The tradition of pottery dates back to the Greeks in the Byzantine period. During this time there were “Gaza Jars” that were filled with olive oil and wine. They were transported all over Europe.
While there are many great things to see in Rafah and Gaza it is a very dangerous place to travel at this time. There are many restrictions and checkpoints when going to this area. The border crossing is not always open and if it is there are restrictions as to who can cross. Unless you are working with an aid organization and have been approved to go it is likely that you will not be allowed in. The Northern Sinai area is not a safe area for foreign travelers at this time. Hopefully one day the conditions will be better for traveling to the area.