When in Rome? More Like, When in Palestine!
If you plan on traveling to Palestine or the Middle East this summer, you should definitely consider creating your own itinerary to fully experience the beautiful land all throughout its highs and lows (quite literally, because the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth). And if you are lucky enough to be visiting Palestine for a second or third time, you just may still benefit from learning more about important places that you have yet to visit during your stay. This blog is dedicated to the most essential Palestinian sites for both natives and tourists and as the summer gets warmer, the desire for exploring gets stronger!
Side note – although the pandemic has its limitations and the enforced State of Israel has recently brought upon more risk and disruption to specific cities in Palestine, we advise you to stay safe, travel with caution, and wear your mask. And without further ado, here are five wonderful landmarks that you NEED to go visit on the roots of Palestine:
1. Masjid Al Aqsa المسجد الاقصى
In the heart of Jerusalem, otherwise called “Al Quds” in Arabic, you will find the third holiest Islamic site - Al Aqsa Mosque. This mosque is an irreplaceable landmark in Islam and in the Quran – which stated that it was where the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBOH) was brought to during his Night Journey (الإسراء). It is also one of the most important sites to Palestinians living outside of Al Quds especially, because during Friday prayer, they’ll travel from miles and miles away just to see if they can pray in the beloved sanction of Allah’s house. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to enter the mesmerizing Mosque whenever you wanted? It’s not easy by any means in Palestine today. In order to enter the mosque (typically controlled by the IDF soldiers), you must go through checkpoints and provide sufficient documentation per their requests and even if you have Palestinian citizenship, they are still likely to deny your entry. Masjid Al Aqsa has become a more political piece under the occupation of Palestine by Israel, but in our hearts we know that the Mosque, and Jerusalem, belong to us!
2. The Dead Sea البحر الميت
As one of the natural wonders of the world, The Dead Sea is a unique body of water that you can't find anywhere on Earth. The Dead Sea is a whopping ten times saltier than the ocean. And as a matter of experience (per many Palestinian stories), the mud on the shore of the sea will do wonders for your skin. There are plenty of beautiful hotels and resorts behind the sea that smell of clarified air and a sandy beach. Pro tip – enjoy the mess that is the mud within The Dead Sea (since Cleopatra, it’s been known for having skin healing powers) you won’t regret it.
3. Ramallah رام الله
Located in the West Bank and founded in the mid 16th century, Ramallah has plenty of history. For thousands of business owners and families, Ramallah serves as being the nearest city for absolutely everything you could ever need. Families go to Ramallah to go shopping for clothes, foods, fresh market produce. Business owners shift their work to Ramallah for more success as well. Al-Manara Square is the hub for all types of cafes and restaurants where you can dine in with amazing views of the city as well. The most efficient and organized way to get to Ramallah from a different city (balad) is to take a taxi. Although it is busy and most certainly feels like a city, Ramallah has something for everyone! Make sure to stop at Abu Iskandar for the best chicken shawarma wraps and sandwiches. And right after that, walk down a few shops to find yourself at Rukab’s Ice Cream shoppe on 22 Rukab St for the most iconic and deliciously gooey ice cream! It’s literally an incomparable experience.
Watch this video to witness the see real Palestinian made ice cream with a long stretch.
4. Nablus (نابلس)
It is not up for argument – the world’s best knafeh is awaiting your visit in Nablus, Palestine. Knafeh, in short, (despite its authentic adoration in the history of Palestine) is a dessert that has one layer of cheese and one layer of a sweet syrup that goldens when it warms up. The comforting and rich pastry topped with shredded wheat, pistachio, and fresh syrup is made thousands of times all throughout the metropolis every single day. Knafeh is a cheesy delight and fortunately, Palestine is the best country for organic, farm raised cheese and milks! The classic Palestinian delicacy can even be enjoyed in different varieties. Those varieties include (but are no way in limited to) two types of Knafeh: Knafeh Naemeh (ناعمة) and Knafeh Khishneh (خشنة). Naemeh is soft while Khishneh is crispy – and although both are equally popular, they do compete with one another in certain households.
Also to note – most Knafeh houses in Palestine offer plenty of other authentic treats and pastries in case you are seeking a specific sweet fulfillment. Nablus Knafeh houses rated five stars include Abusair Pastries (source trip advisor) and Al Aqsa Sweets (identified as the red symbol image below), both located near Old Town, Nablus.
Check out this video to see how Knafeh is made from scratch!
5. ‘Akka عكّا
And finally, for the city with the deepest rooted history – ‘Akka, Palestine.
The beautiful outline of ‘Akka lies on a seashore bordering Palestine with the Mediterranean Sea. ‘Akka’s history begins back in the Bronze Age (3000 BC) – and it is remembered as the third oldest city in the world. Rich with trade, development, and Palestinian care, ‘Akka remains a comforting city holding onto Palestinian heritage despite Israel occupying it throughout. Although today ‘Akka is dominated by Israeli control, 32% of the population are Arab Palestinians who live in the “Old city” and fortunately keep our traditions and culture alive. If you have a chance to visit ‘Akka, make sure support local Palestinian restaurants and cafes. Definitely treat yourself to a calm and relaxing dinner by the sea.
This is Akka,Palestine.— Abbas Sarsour (@iFalasteen) September 27, 2014
So beautiful Mashallah. #Palestine #FreePalestine pic.twitter.com/1GyNvuBhBQ
"Bonus site! Right near the cities of Ramallah and Al Quds you’ll notice a very large and long wall (about 440 miles to be precise) that is considered the Israeli-West Bank barrier. This barrier borders near Ramallah and right behind it is the capital of Palestine, Jerusalem. The testimony of this inescapable wall that catches the eyes of thousands while they are passing through Palestine is its purpose as a symbol of perseverance of the Palestinian people. All of the graffiti and murals paint the terrorism that Palestine has been through under the occupation since 1948. Some of the artwork is by Banksy, an England-based street artist known for his outspoken and free hand graffiti. One of the highlights of the barrier wall is the mural of the incredible Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi!"
IMAGES: An Italian artist painted an image of Ahed Tamimi on the Separation Wall in occupied Bethlehem. https://t.co/ufP1XZi77z | #Palestine pic.twitter.com/Rs5xwVeXdM— Middle East Monitor (@MiddleEastMnt) July 26, 2018
For everyone going to visit Palestine, I wish you an unforgettable trip with delicious food, warm nights, and familial memories. And for those who might struggle to visit some of these sites due to the occupation, I hope you can still make the effort count! Safe travels - and as we say in Palestine – Inshallah besalama!