By Sara Toth Stub
When the geographer Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Shams al-Din al-Muqaddasi visited the city of Ramla on the road between Cairo and Damascus in the 10th Century, he described an urban paradise that rivalled his hometown of Jerusalem.
“It is a fine city, and well built; its water is good and plentiful; its fruits are abundant,” al-Muqaddasi wrote in his famous travelogue. “Commerce here is prosperous, and the markets excellent.”
The city, established as the new provincial capital of Palestine in 715, shortly after the area came under Muslim rule, boasted grand mosques, administrative buildings and mansions with gardens, mosaics and fountains. But most of these early Islamic buildings were destroyed in a series of earthquakes in the 11th Century, and the city, although partially rebuilt, never regained its earlier prestige.
“You can see almost nothing of this today,” said Gideon Avni, head of the archaeological division of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.