Friday, July 26, 2013

Ramadan in Nablus

On a rather scorching hot Tuesday afternoon, four women from all over the world decided to take a visit to Nablus in the West Bank. These four ladies, all very different brought some interesting cards to the table. We all study together at the Hebrew University, coming everyday to absorb Hebrew slowly but surely. Our common language is Hebrew, but we were a surprising little group. One from England, fluent in Spanish. One American-Russian, fluent in both. A Frenchie, who also speaks English, Italian and Spanish, and myself, an American with Arabic and Turkish.

After heading down on the new Jerusalem light rail to Damascus Gate, we ventured towards the little Palestinian bus station that takes you anywhere in the West Bank. After pushing our way to the get in the line, fighting grandmas who were trying to take us down, we finally made it on the bus to Ramallah, our first stop. We crossed through the Qalandia checkpoint, depressing as always, and shuttled up the hills to reach the central bus station (the last stop) in Ramallah. There, we waited to hop on a bus that would take us to Nablus. This bus was rather large, and we shuffled on, clearly being the only foreigners on the entire bus. We sat quietly, taking in the stunning landscape of terraced hills, beautiful white-washed villas, lambs wandering the fields, and villages popping up in each valley, decorated by a community mosque, it's minaret peeking up above the hills. It is also possible to see some of the settlements, which stand out as not belonging with the rest of the landscape.

views of the hills of Nablus
I turned around to ask someone behind me how long it'd be before we would reach Nablus and was sucked into a conversation with the two men behind me. They were very curious about where we were from and who we supported politically. They were very enthusiastic about Russians, expressing how the Russians have helped the Palestinian cause for years. Before this trip, I didn't know that Russian support would emit such an emotional response from so many.

We reached Nablus about an hour later, and stopped off in the city center. The sun was preparing to make its descent, and the streets were filled with energy, anticipating the hour which they could finally break fast and eat. We wandered into a few different stores to ask about prices back to Jerusalem and also to inquire about some good restaurants. I was pleasantly surprised upon meeting several people from Nablus. They were the MOST welcoming people. They asked about us and our families, introduced us to their families, promised that they were our personal contacts now in Nablus, invited us to a meal in their homes and even introduced us to their children. We were welcomed with open arms and could not have felt more accepted. They pointed us in the direction of the old market and encouraged us to come back and have tea with them.

the clocktower
The streets in Nablus highlight the views of the surrounding hills and the terraced houses. We made it to the old city,slowly and sweetly taking in smells of baking sweets, the sounds of the streets and the stunning views of the landscape. We sauntered by an old Turkish bath (which was sadly closed for the day), and found ourselves at the central mosque and church tower.
When we entered in the mosque, we immediately entered the woman's quarters, which were off to the side, not even touching the regular mosque. It was quite strange to me, never had I seen a woman's quarter so isolated from the rest of the mosque. What was actually quite sad was the amount of propaganda inside the women's quarter. There were pictures of "appropriate Muslim clothing" which showed women in naqab's (full length dress) and pictures comparing stylish women to rotten candy. I was so bothered by this, I asked my boss for the NGO who explained to me that this was quite unusual, and we pondered about the Salafi presence in the West Bank, apparently it is something that is gaining influence in some areas. Besides that downside, the mosque was beautiful, its top dome painted in a stunning teal green shade.

ladies eyelashes: a sweet dessert 
Luckily, the best was yet to come. We stumbled upon the BEST kunefe shop in all of the West Bank, called Al-Aqsa Kunefe. Alas, we arrived and they were completely sold out! So with sad faces, we ventured to the next best bakery shop, Damascus sweets, where the gentlemen working there were so happy to help us, and even gave us a tray of the dessert they call ladies eyelashes, filled with fresh cream and smothered in a sugar syrup. One of these babies is enough dessert for a week. Sugar literally oozes into your mouth when you take a bit, followed by a hit of a smoothy cream.

We made many friends along the way, all of whom invited us to break fast with them. Being short on time (*we had to return to Jerusalem that night because we had school the next day) we had to sadly decline, as many of these meals and parties last all night long. We instead broke fast at a restaurant called Al-Khamees . We endured a three hour, several course meal, including breaking the fast with dates and the traditional carob juice, accompanied with cola, water, Arab coffee and of course, nargilah. The night ended sadly, as none of us wanted to leave. We hopped on a shared taxi back to the border, wishing we could stay all night long. We completed our trip by going through the Qalandia border by foot. It was a quite scary experience, and unnerving. Sitting in a holding cell and waiting for people to buzz us into the gate to be checked for security made me understand what many people go through every day. There was tension, and we were all uncomfortable with the whole process. It was an odd end to a glorious day!

1 comment:

  1. You are an amazing beautiful woman Sarah! Keep writing and I look forward to seeing you when you are back... :-)


Search My Blog