Thursday, 15 April 2010

Warm welcomes and warm baths

Changing room in the Turkish bath in Nablus old city

I have been doing my own mini tour around the northern West Bank for the last few days, and there are things i witnessed related to the occupation that i will blog on soon.

But i wanted to mention some very positive experiences i've had. On my first night away in Salfit, i stayed in the house of a local contact, a university student. He and his friends provided a big meal of grilled meat, bread and salad. Then someone played the Oud and sang songs by famous Arab singers such as Fayrouz and Umm Kulthum.

Even though i have been travelling on my own i have always felt safe and relaxed. Many people will talk to you and help you out. On my way to Jenin, the man sitting next to me paid my fare and then took me by foot to my accomodation. That evening, i ate at a local restaurant and the owner refused to take any money from me.

The next day in Nablus, i was walking through the market in the old city and passed a traditional coffee shop, with a group of middle aged men sitting inside smoking shisha. One of them called me in and asked me where i was from and what i was doing in Palestine, before buying me a coffee and giving me his phone number should i need any help.

In Nablus i went to the Turkish bath in the old city. It was built in the 16th century and retains the old style of building. It is a beautiful place to relax, with domed ceilings speckled with small round stained glass windows. It cost the equivalent of 6 GBP (including soap and loofer) and the owner gave me a free cup of tea at the end.

Leaving the Turkish bath and wandering through the narrow alleyways of the old city market with the sun shining, things seemed beautiful and the violence of the occupation felt far away.

Of course, like anywhere in the world, in Palestine there are friendly people and unfriendly people. But if you come here in solidarity, you are pretty much guaranteed a warm welcome and a good time.

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