Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Israel and Palestinian Territories 2

[Imagine a voice-over] In Thursday's Thomas' Middle Eastern Adventures [a bit more catchy than the somewhat perfunctory title at the moment], Thomas and his family dealt with crazy boarding, prayers on planes and Israeli security. Thomas and Stephen found themselves in a dive of a hostel. Will they get any sleep? Will their troubles with the Border Control Agency continue? Will they be conned by a group of Bedouin and end up stranded in the Golan Heights? Read on to find out.

The first night in the Jaffa Gate hostel was probably the only night I got a decent sleep. In fact, we nearly over slept. There were no windows in the bedrooms so we woke up at twenty to nine, and the pitch darkness caused us to assume it was still night time. We were meant to be meeting are parents at nine in their guest house. Fortunately, they were staying just around the corner.

We wondered around Jerusalem a bit, and then we went on a really good guided tour. Anyone going to Jerusalem should go on one of these. They meet just outside the Jaffa Gate and they're free. The tour guides rely on tips, so you pay only what you think it's worth. Apparently they can be hit and miss (we were very fortunate, we got a really good guide called Yonatan), but as it's free and you can escape any time then isn't really a problem. It's just a fantastic way to get acquainted with the city.

The Cardo, remains of Roman Jerusalem
Me at the Western Wall.

After the 3 hours tour we did the Rampart Walk, which costs very little and is a way to get some alternative views of the city. We did it just before sunset so it cast a beautiful light over the city.

Jerusalem skyline. You can see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (centre) and the Lutheran Church (left).
The next day, we visited Nablus, the city where my brother was living (if you want to read about what he got up to in Nablus, read his blog here). I was very tired (read: 'grumpy'), due to a snoring woman sharing our room. I slept for most the journey, but do remember getting a welcome message from Jawwal, the Palestinian network provider:
Marhaba.  Smell the Jasmine and taste the olives.  JAWWAL welcomes you to Palestine.
Even the telephone networks show Middle Eastern hospitality in Palestine. We visited Jacob's Well, Joseph's Tomb, and the archaeological ruins of what's thought to be Shechem.

Tell Balata, what was perhaps once Shechem
We then went to the centre of Nablus, wandered the Old City, ate kaneffa (which I didn't really like. It was like a stringy, cheesy crème brûlée.) and really salty falafel. We visited Stephen's university, apartment and bought some Nabulsi soap. On our way back to Jerusalem we had our first experience of Israeli check-points. Although it was quite quick on this occasion it gave a hint of what it must be like for Palestinians.

Top tip: Famous Jerusalem Free Tour. 11 am, everyday, outside the Jaffa Gate. FREE and awesome.

To see more photos go to Israel and Palestinian Territories 1 or Israel and Palestine 2

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