Travelling through the Palestinian Territories
Caitlin Wood shares her recent experience of joining our Walking in Palestine tour.
Palestine - what an incredible and eye opening part of the world! Split between the West Bank consisting of chaotic cities, ancient biblical sites and beautiful desert landscapes, and Gaza - a war ravaged strip sealed by Israel and Egypt which is currently off limits for travellers. Recently I was fortunate enough to travel to the West Bank, get off the beaten track and witness what this incredible part of the world has to offer. Below I explore some of the highlights of my travels to the Palestinian Territories, a destination that often hits the headlines for the wrong reasons but is truly such a welcoming and hospitable place to visit.
1.The city of Nablus
I began my travels in Nablus, a bustling, vibrant and exciting city set in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Nablus is a hotbed of Palestinian activism, with its central square covered in banners, flags and posters of martyrs, those killed in the decade-long conflict with Israel. This was a confronting experience at first because I was saddened to witness the daily struggles of the Palestinian people but I was soon reassured with what an amazing place this was with all of the local people approaching with smiles saying “Welcome!”, “How are you?” and “I hope you enjoy your time in Nablus!”. To see how happy and proud they were of Nablus, made me feel so welcome and at home.
As I continued my travels through Nablus, one of the highlights that stood out to me was their stunningly beautiful Old City. It is known to be very similar to Jerusalem’s, just without all of the tourists (in fact, I think we were the only tourists in Nablus!) As our group made our way through the beautiful old town streets, we explored some of Nablus’ famous soap factories, vibrant and fresh fruit and vegetable markets, the local Bath Houses and the bustling old town markets just to name a few. We also tried Kunafeh, a syrupy wheat and cheese pastry which is absolutely delicious and famous throughout the Middle East.
2. Hiking Abraham's Path
Another highlight of my travels through the Palestinian territories was partaking in a five day hike along Abraham’s Path. I started my journey in the small village of Awarta and hiked to Bethlehem covering a distance of approximately 70km across the five days. I had previously not done much hiking making this a very daunting experience, but it is safe to say that hiking is my new favourite hobby and the trek turned out to be more enjoyable than tiring because of the copious amounts of super sugary Palestinian tea we were given for energy!
Some highlights of Abraham’s Path included walking alongside Shepard’s with their flocks of sheep, spotting donkey’s and mountain goats amongst the rocky mountains, taking in the stunning scenery and landscapes along the way from desert landscapes to beautiful mountains and gorges which encompass the trail. I was so amazed at how beautiful the West Bank is and even more impressed that we had this beautiful part of the world to ourselves.
3. Overnight Bedouin Community Stay
We spent the night in black goat hair tents, learning about the Bedouin culture and traditions. We were welcomed by the Bedouin people with copious amounts of delicious Palestinian food, kids running up laughing and high-fiving us and not to forget the incredible sunset accompanied by a clear outlook into the night sky filled with stars and a full moon. This was definitely one of my favourite experiences of the trip because it is not often that you have the chance to spend the night camping out in the desert in such an untouched part of the world!
It reached 8:30pm and our whole group had fallen asleep after a strenuous day of hiking. In hindsight, this early bed time was definitely a good thing because little did we know we would be up at 4am due to the Bedouin people milking their goats, roosters crowing, donkey’s eeyoring and of course the snores of fellow travellers (no need for an alarm clock over here!). However, it was all still worth it to witness the astonishing sunrise to start our days. The Bedouin people are some of the most welcoming, warm and generous people who educated us deeply about their simple way of life!
Whilst the media may portray this region as a war torn destination, my recent experience challenged this view because I have never been to such a beautiful destination that has so much to offer and where the locals are so kind and generous. If you are looking for a truly unique and authentic travel experience for your next getaway, I would definitely recommend Crooked Compass’s Walking in Palestine small group tour!
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