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Summer Time In Palestine… Where To Go And What To Do?
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Summer Time in Palestine… where to go and what to do?
By: Sami B. Khoury
OK…so Palestine might not your typical summer destination. In fact, when it comes to foreign inbound visitors, the months of June, July and August are considered low season. Most travelers opt to visit more popular family friendly destinations and the Sea Sand and Sun vacations. For most Palestinians, visiting a beach is in many cases out of reach. Entry to Gaza remains very restricted and access to its beautiful shores remains limited to the residents of the strip. In the West Bank, we have no access to OUR 40+km shore line along the Dead Sea.So unless you are among the slect few with permits to enter Israel and make it to historic Palestinian towns and cities such as Haifa, Yaffa or Akko, your best choice for a Sea Sand and Sun summer vacation is to travel abroad, to Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus and beyond.
With that said, if you live in Palestine or are visiting during the hot summer days, there is still quite a few interesting places to see and things to do. There are numerous family resorts and themes parks across the West Bank stretching from the Haddad Tourist Village in Jenin and the Qalqilya zoo to the dozens water parks and swimming pools in Jericho, Ramallah and Bethlehem.
Starting with Jerusalem, a tour of the Old city is an experience in and of itself. Walking through one of the Gates into the City brings about a feeling of transformation. The atmosphere, the sounds and scents, and the diversity of people and faiths inside the Walls are a unique and memorable experience for any visitor. Shops line all the streets and alleyways and there are many markets to explore such as spices market, the meat markets and more. Visitors can spend the entire day walking around the old city and visiting the many religious sites. Also, with the Holy Month of Ramadan underway, the atmosphere and activities in the old city add another layer to the experience. One of the more visual aspects of Ramadan is the decoration throughout the Muslim portions of the city. If you walk through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, you will find it filled with festive decorations, jazzy lights, colorful lanterns and delicious seasonal deserts and sweets. Jerusalem evening can provide a nice summer breeze so be sure to check out one of the many restaurants and hotels outlets across the city.
Jericho is a place to warm up and slow down in winters. The population ebbs in hot summer months and flows when rest of the West Bank shivers with rain and occasional snow. Jericho does nonetheless receive thousands of tourists in summer, who visit and ascend the Mount of Temptation by cable car and enjoy the spectacular view and then continue on to float in the salty waters of the Dead Sea. Locals continuously frequent the various resorts with swimming pools other with interesting children activities.
If you are into the arts and cultural scenes, then Ramallah should be your main destination as there are shows, concerts, exhibitions, and festivals going on all year long. They range from traditional Palestinian shows and cultural heritage festivals to international music festivals, dance festivals, international and local movie showings, and exhibitions of local and international artists and photographers.
The restaurant and culinary scene in Ramallah is also quite diverse and vibrant. Summer is the best time to really enjoy the evening weather relaxing with family and friends at one of the many venues throughout the city. For those looking for a slower pace, you should consider visiting one of the many neighboring towns and villages such as Jifna, Taybeh, Beit Zeit and Burham. Immerse yourselves in the nature overlooking the beautiful landscapes and enjoy a BBQs and great sunsets with friends and family.
Might not be the ideal time but for the adventurous few, a hike in Wadi Qelt is a great experience. The walk wanders along an ancient Roman aqueduct fed by three springs. There are plenty of places to take a rest in the shade and a dip in the cool waters. While the Wadi does have both biblical and historical significance, it is the beautiful landscape and serene atmosphere that make this the perfect way to spend a day! Another attraction for family and kids is the Palestinian Equestrians Club which was founded back in 1997 under the patronage of the H.E. the late President Yaser Arafat. The Club is dedicated to teaching people of all ages and from all walks of life the principles and skills of good horsemanship. It is part of a large recreational complex that includes a botanical garden, a youth hostel, playing fields and a bird watching station which is quite popular during the bird migration seasons in March –April. The scene at the club is lively and contemporary as Palestinians and foreign residents of all ages and walks of life meet and mingle.
While off the beaten track of most foreign visitors, the northern West Bank does have lots to offer for locals. Also knows as the Fertile triangle, the best time to visit the northern West bank is in spring when everything is in full blossom. With that said, there are still lots of attraction to experience all year round. In Nablus for example, you can tour the Old City and explore its six quarters then pamper yourself to a scrub and massage at one of the famous Turkish Baths in the area. No trip to Nablus would be complete without a taste of the local sweets. Not far from the famous Jaco’s Well in Nablus, lie the ruins of Tel Balata which was recently renovated by the Ministry of tourism and re-opened to visitors. Another key stop in the area is the ancient town and site of Sebastiya. Today, the old town of Sebastiya has been rehabilitated and also includes a small guesthouse and visitor information center.
Jenin is also gradually growing and becoming more of a destination especially for the locals. One of the main attractions is the Haddad tourist village which houses a museum, several pools, a hotel and a children’s theme park. Other kids theme parks such as Mega Land in Tulkarem offer great day breaks for kids and families.
Bethlehem is our main destination for foreign visitors, and while it remains marginalized and rarely visited by locals, the town does have lots to offer to its visitors. Start by enjoying a walk through Bethlehem’s Old city from Al Madbasseh and make your way to Manger Square and visit the Church of Nativity and surrounding areas. Bethlehem is also home to quite a few museums and cultural centers which are worth a visit.
No far from Bethlehem lie the villages of Battir and Artas. The former, famous its beautiful landscape and eco-museums has a history dating back over 4,000 years. While summer is not the best time for a hike, it is important to note that Battir offer an amazing nature hike (best in spring or autumn). Artas on the other hand is famous for its Annual Lettuce festival. Also, the area around the Solomon’s pool is gradually being transformed into a visitor attraction. Besides the Bethlehem convention palace which regularly hosts cultural events, there is the newly opened Murad Fortress which showcases a museum, a restaurant and regular folklore shows in the evening.
On behalf of the team at VisitPalestine.ps, we hope that this piece shed some light on some of the activities available throughout Palestine.
Wishing you all a great summer…
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