Leg­end puts Bib­li­cal Eve in Jid­dah

Thou­sands flock to tomb in Saudi Ara­bia

The Covington News - - Religion - By Donna Abu-Nasr

JID­DAH, Saudi Ara­bia — On a swel­ter­ing Au­gust morn­ing, a small group of Ira­ni­ans crowded out­side the green metal door of a ceme­tery. They wanted to go in to look at the re­mains of one par­tic­u­lar tomb: the tomb of bib­li­cal Eve.

Like hun­dreds of Mus­lims who visit Saudi Ara­bia for pil­grim­age in nearby Mecca, the Ira­ni­ans had heard the leg­end that Eve was buried in that spot. The two blue signs in­scribed with “ The Grave­yard of our mother Eve” flank­ing the ceme­tery en­trance ap­peared to add cred­i­bil­ity to a story passed on by gen­er­a­tions of Saudis but never sci­en­tif­i­cally proven.

“We hear this is the tomb of Eve,” said Mi­noo Ghadimkhani, 45. “That is why we want to go in.”

There is no ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence old enough to au­then­ti­cate the story of Eve’s burial in Jid­dah, ac­cord­ing to many Bi­ble ex­perts. But that hasn’t kept the leg­end from per­sist­ing.

Some say that the city’s name, when pro­nounced as “Jad­dah” — an Ara­bic word that means grand­mother — is a ref­er­ence to Eve. No one re­ally knows how the story orig­i­nated, and many in this Red Sea port city dis­miss it as a myth.

“It’s a leg­end, but it is one men­tioned by many schol­ars,” said Sami Nawar, gen­eral di­rec­tor for cul­ture and tourism. Nawar, an ex­pert on the his­tory of old Jid­dah, likes to lace a bit of the leg­end into his pre­sen­ta­tions on the city to vis­it­ing for­eign dig­ni­taries and jour­nal­ists.

“Jid­dah is the most fem­i­nine city in the whole world be­cause it has Eve,” Nawar says.

The Quran, Is­lam’s holy book, talks about Adam and Eve’s ex­pul­sion from par­adise af­ter eat­ing from the fruit of the for­bid­den tree. It does not say where they ap­peared on earth.

But Arab tra­di­tion puts Adam in the holy city of Mecca, which is 70 kilo­me­ters (43 miles) east of Jid­dah, where God or­dered him to build the Kaaba, the sa­cred stone struc­ture that Mus­lims face dur­ing their five daily pray­ers, ac­cord­ing to Nawar.

God then told Adam to go to a hill in Mecca to re­pent for his sins, said Nawar. Af­ter he re­pented, God sent him Eve, and the hill be­came known as Mount Arafat, from the Ara­bic word that means to know, he added. That story places Eve, Hawwa in Ara­bic, in the vicin­ity of Jid­dah, which is the en­try point for Mus­lim pil­grims to Mecca. It could ex­plain how the leg­end of her burial be­gan.

Arab andWestern his­to­ri­ans and trav­el­ers have de­scribed a tomb out­side the walls of old Jid­dah that they re­ferred to as Eve’s Grave­yard.

His­to­rian Ha­toon al-Fassi said 9th cen­tury Mecca his­to­rian al-Fak­ihi re­ported that two of Prophet Muham­mad’s com­pan­ions, Ibn Ab­bas and Ibn Mas­soud, men­tioned Eve’s tomb. The prophet died in 623.

Writ­ing about Jid­dah in his “Trav­els,” Ibn Jubayr, a 12th cen­tury ge­og­ra­pher, trav­eler and poet, born in Va­len­cia, then the seat of an Arab emi­rate, says that “in it is a place hav­ing an an­cient and lofty dome, which is said to have been the lodg­ing place of Eve, the mother of mankind, God’s bless­ing upon her when on her way to (Mecca).” The pas­sage was quoted by the Arab News, a Saudi pa­per.

The tomb no longer ex­ists. And it’s not clear how it was de­stroyed. Those who have been in­side the ceme­tery say that in its place is a row of un­marked tombs, and there’s noth­ing to in­di­cate the tomb had been there. (The Wah­habi strain of Is­lam bans the mark­ing of tombs, and women in the Saudi king­dom are barred from en­ter­ing ceme­ter­ies.)

William Dever, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Near East­ern stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona and a prom­i­nent U.S. ar­chae­ol­o­gist, said there just isn’t any ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence go­ing back far enough to back up the claims.

“The prob­lem is that th­ese are all leg­ends, th­ese are all myths and we can’t date them,” said Dever, who spe­cial­izes in the his­tory of Is­rael and Near East in bib­li­cal times. “My guess is the story could go back two or three thou­sand years, but we don’t have any ar­chae­o­log­i­cal proof.”

“There are lots of tra­di­tional tombs of saints of var­i­ous kinds in the Mid­dle East,” he added. “But they are never ex­ca­vated or in­ves­ti­gated sci­en­tif­i­cally.”

Asked if he had heard of any other fi­nal rest­ing place for Eve, Dever said, “No. There are tombs of Abra­ham all over the place, but I don’t hon­estly know in Is­rael or the West Bank or Jor­dan of any Eve tomb in th­ese places.”

On the quiet street of the ceme­tery, which faces lowrise, run­down build­ings, the Eve leg­end re­mains alive even though those who grew up with the story don’t re­ally be­lieve it.

Ahmed Bak­oudij, a 32-yearold me­chanic, said he called his garage “Hawwa’s Garage” de­spite his skep­ti­cism.

“I’ve been hear­ing about Hawwa’s grave since I was a kid,” said Bak­oudij. “But no one be­lieves it. I have to see it with my own eyes to be­lieve it.”

“But,” he added. “if I ever have kids, I’ll pass on the leg­end to them.”

Gro­cer Saleh Ba-Aqeel said hun­dreds of Mus­lim pil­grims from Iran, In­done­sia and other coun­tries visit the ceme­tery, es­pe­cially be­fore and af­ter the an­nual hajj pil­grim­age.

“When they come and ask me if Eve is re­ally buried here, I tell them, ‘God only knows,’” said Ba-Aqeel.

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