Located 3 km southwest of Bethlehem near the old road that runs from Jerusalem to Hebron, Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories
The construction of the first and second pools dates to the second half of the 1st century BC. The third, lower pool was built between hegira 865–72 / AD 1461–7
Documents in the archives of the Shari’a Court in Jerusalem cite the appointment of Murad al-Nasrani the Armenian, in the position of “Architect of the Aqueducts of the Sabil” in AH 970 / AD 1562.
The first and second pools date to the Roman period, the third dates to the Mamluk period
It is not known who sponsored the construction of the water system in the pre-Islamic period when the first and second pools were built. The third pool was commissioned by the Mamluk sultan, Khushqadam (r. AH 865–72 / AD 1461–7). Restoration and renovation of the pools and the aqueducts known as al-Qanat al-Sabil (the Aqueducts of the Sabil), were undertaken by the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay (r. AH 872–901 / AD 1468–96) and after him, Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent (r. AH 926–74 / AD 1520–66).
The Pools of Solomon comprise three neighbouring pools that were arranged in such a manner that the first pool poured into the second, and the second into the third, and from which canals branched out. The first pool is 116 m long and approximately 72 m wide. Its depth ranges from between 6 m and 12 m, and its capacity was 85,000 cu m. The middle pool is 129 m long and 76 m wide. It is 12 m deep and its capacity was approximately 90,000 cu m. The lower, third pool (Mamluk), is the biggest of the three at 177 m long and 86 m at its widest point. It is around 15 m deep and had the greatest capacity of around 113,000 cu m. Thus the total capacity of all three pools exceeded a quarter of a million cu m.
Water was channelled from naturally occurring springs in the region to the pools by use of an aqueduct system which was more than 70 km long; the pools also served as reservoirs collecting rainwater. The pools provided the city of Jerusalem – which suffered constantly from drought – with water necessary for drinking, domestic use and for ablutions. Located on high ground, water from the pools flowed to Jerusalem by exploiting the inclined slopes and wadis of the natural landscape. The canal and aqueduct system took a zigzag course running for the equivalent of double the geographical distance between Jerusalem and the pools – about 22 km.
A mandate was issued by the Ottoman Sultanate for the protection and preservation of the water system which meant that the villages through which the system passed were responsible for its security. In AH 1027 / AD 1618 Sultan ‘Uthman II (Osman II, r. AH 1027–32 / AD 1618–22) constructed a fortified castle several meters to the north of the first pool.
These large water reservoirs located to the south of Bethlehem were named after Ottoman Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent who restored and developed them. Three large pools collected water and were connected to a complicated system of canals that channelled water from springs located tens of kilometres away. Canals transported the water from the pools to Jerusalem. The system was begun in the Roman period and was improved over the ages. A third pool was added in the Mamluk period. The improvement of the system to provide Jerusalem with water was considered a measure of the success of the ruling administration.
The water system is dated with the support of information handed down by the Roman historian Josephus (died after AD 100) and the Arab historian Mujir al-Din al-Hanbali (d. 928 / 1521).
Berchem, M. van, Materiaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum (Part II), Cairo, 1922.
Al-Hanbali, Mujir al-Din, (d. 927 / 1520), Al-Uns al-Jalil fi Tarikh al-Quds wa al-Khalil [The Magnificent Ambiance in the History of Jerusalem and Hebron], Amman, 1973.
Natsheh, Y., “The Architecture of Ottoman Jerusalem”, in S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (eds), Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (Part II),London, 2000.
Salama, O., and Zilberman, I., “Aspakat ha-mayim li-Yerushalayim ba-meot ha-16 ve-ha 17, [The Water Supply System of Jerusalem in the 16th and 17th Centuries]”, Cathedra, No. 41, 1985, pp.91–106.
Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza, pp.191–2.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Solomon’s Pools" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;22;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PA 22
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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