The Israeli Antiquities Authority has announced that it has excavated the remains of one of the oldest rural mosques in the world, in the Bedouin city of Rahat (south).

“We discovered the remains of an open-air mosque, a rectangular building with a mihrab – prayer niche – facing south towards Mecca,” archaeologists Jon Seligman and Shachar Zur, in charge of the excavations, said in a statement made by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

For these archeologists, this is a rare discovery, especially as it is located in the northern part of the Israeli city of Beer Sheva, “where no other buildings of this kind have been discovered”.

“It is one of the oldest mosques dating back to the period of the arrival of Islam, and after the Arab conquest of 636 AD,” said Professor Gideon Avni, an expert of that era working for the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

Other remains were discovered during the excavations, which he said allowed him to better understand “the history of the country during this tumultuous period”: a farmhouse dating from the Byzantine period (between the 6th and 7th centuries AD) as well as houses dating from the beginning of the Islamic period (between the 7th and the 8th centuries AD).

Bedouin inhabitants of the region, as well as young people from nearby localities, have contributed to the excavations as part of a major project that was set up in recent years by the Antiquities Authority.

The research was carried out at the location where the Bedouin city of Rahat is about to build a new district.

The Authority for the Development of Bedouin Localities in the Negev Region and the Israeli Antiquities Authority are currently discussing the possibility of integrating these archaeological findings into the new district.