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The King’s Highway was an ancient trade route that began in Egypt, and stretched across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba and then northward to Damascus and the Euphrates River. One of the earliest references to the King’s Highway is found in the Bible (Numbers 20:17), where the Israelites request for a safe passage through Edom:
17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King's Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.'"
18 Then Edom said to him, "You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword."
19 So the children of Israel said to him, "We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more."
20 Then he said,"You shall not pass through." So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.
During the 1st millennium BC, the King’s Highway linked the kingdoms of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. Several centuries later the Nabateans used this road as a trade route for luxury goods such as frankincense and spices coming up from the southern Arabian peninsula. Later the Romans renamed it the Via Nova Traiana. The highway has long been an important pilgrimage route for both Christians and Muslims: Christians used it to visit nearby holy sights such as Mount Nebo and Al Maghtas at the Jordan River, and Muslims used it as the main Haj route to Mecca until the Ottomans built the Tariq al-Bint in the 16th century.
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