The Cave of the Seven Sleepers is a historical and religious site in al-Rajib, a village to the east of Amman. It is claimed that this cave housed the Seven Sleepers —a group of young men who, according to Byzantine and Islamic sources, fled the religious persecution of Roman emperor Decius.
The Cave of the Seven Sleepers (Kahf ar-Raqīm) is a historical and religious site in al-Rajib, a village to the east of Amman. It is claimed that this cave housed the Seven Sleepers (aṣḥāb al kahf) a group of young men who, according to Byzantine and Islamic sources, fled the religious persecution of Roman emperor Decius. Legend has it that these men hid in a cave around 250 AD, emerging miraculously about 200 or 300 years later. Considerable debate remains concerning the exact location of this cave; various locations in Turkey including Afşin, Tarsus, and Mount Pion been suggested in addition to the al-Rajib site. The site is surrounded by the remains of two mosques and a large Byzantine cemetery. It is near the Sabah bus station and approximately a fifteen-minute bus ride from Amman’s Wihdat Station.
“The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus Discovered by Alexander the Great”, Folio from a Falnama (Book of Omens) or The seven sleepers of Ephesus, Folio from a Dispersed Nuzhatnama, 1550 CE. In Christian and Muslim tradition, the Seven Sleepers, aṣḥāb al kahf, the ‘People of the Cave’ is the story of a group of youths who hid inside a cave outside the city of Ephesus around 250 CE to escape a religious persecution and emerged some 300 years later. The earliest version of this story comes from the Syrian bishop Jacob of Serugh (circa 450 – 521), which is itself derived from an earlier Greek source, now lost. The story appears in the Qur’an (Surah Al-Kahf 9–26) and thus is important to Islam. The Islamic version includes mention of a dog, who accompanied the youths into the cave and appears to keep watch. In Islam, these youths are referred to as the People of the Cave.
The cave is divided into three sections, one section stretches straight from the entrance in a northward direction, a second section branches off towards the east on the right hand side, and a third section branches off towards the west on the left hand side. In the eastern and western sections are eight constructed graves resembling coffins.
Eastern Section and Crypt
The grave on the northern flank (left) of the eastern section has a small hole. If one peers (look inside) into the right hole, human remains can be clearly seen. This is a hollow cavity that contains human remains. The tomb to the right bears an octagon, maybe a remenant of the Christian church.
In the eastern section of the cave is a small tunnel ascending upwards which resembles a chimney that expels smoke. This tunnel enters and leaves through the roof of the cave. Usama Ibn Munqidh, one of Salahuddin Ayyubi’s courtiers, writes in his Kitab al-I’tibar, “I, together with 30 horsemen, entered this cave and performed prayers here, but there was a narrow tunnel that we did not enter.”
Lower Mosque, looking west with mehrab and stone-minbar to the left, was probably installed either during Umayyad or Abbasid periods.
The Upper Mosque; the remains of an ancient mosque together with its niche can be clearly noticed, elevated several feet above the cave. At one time a small church was built on top of the cave; this was converted to a mosque with the mihrab still being visible above the entrance. This mosque is 10 metres in length and 10 metres in width. Four pillars were discovered fashioned in the mode of the Roman era and several copper coins were also discovered from the era of the Roman emperor Justin (517-527 CE).
A number of artefacts were found during excavations, including coins belonging to the Roman era, Islamic era, Ottoman era, together with a clay bowl, a pearl necklace, a copper comb, and rings. All of these things have now been gathered and placed on a display now maintained within the northern wall of the cave. Several clay jugs were also discovered nearby which were probably used to perform ablution.