Southwest of Nablus on a rise above fields of olive trees lies Deir Istiya, appearing to float on an ocean of green. The trees are ancient and, if observed, are each different. They have sustained and been a central part of all the people who have lived here. Though threatened, they also remain today one of the largest plantings of their kind. No visit to this beautiful countryside of thousands of trees can be complete without a walk on the winding trails through the Wadi Qana (Qana Valley) or to the Maqam Abi Zard (a Sufi shrine), or a hike from the village of Marda to the orchards of Yasouf.
Deir Istiya was built mainly in the Mamluk era (mid-13th – 15th centuries) and is considered a good example of a Mamluk village. The well-preserved houses of original design in the village’s historic center are of a size normally found in Mamluk cities, not villages, and speak to the wealth of its residents. During the later Ottoman period it was a “throne village” from which the Abu Hiljeh clan governed surrounding villages. A visit to the Palace of Deir Istiya will enlighten visitors on the village’s Ottoman architecture and history.
The Deir Istiya region includes the villages of Marda, Kifl Haris, Yasouf, and Jama’een. Ancient records attest to abundant harvests of grain and summer crops as well as honey and goats. The Occupation has made agricultural production, which could be the region’s great asset, more difficult, but oil presses (which tourists will see in operation) and honey-soap workshops (which tourists can visit) are still producing.