Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 12: A trip to Jerash and our last meal in Amman

Jerash, Jordan

On our last day in Jordan, we took a minvan out to Jerash, an hour north of Amman. Again, it was a place with very old Roman ruins, but nevertheless a cool place to walk around in. And we met some fun girls who wanted to have selfies with us.

In the evening, after packing and going for a last bit of bazaar shopping, we met up with Rafik, and he took us out for dinner at a very nice place called Levant. We were so fed up with eating hummus and falafel every day that I was thrilled to eat some deliciously cooked lamb, kubeh and other Levantine specialities. And we had wine for the first time since we started travelling! It was a very nice evening in a really great place and we went for a walk and a quick drink on Rainbow street before Rafik drove us to the airport where our trip officially ended.

Can you believe it? That’s it. That’s the end of our 10 days in Jordan, Palestine & Israel that my mother and I tried to squeeze out the most experiences, places and impressions from. I think we did pretty well.

And hey, “Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” :)

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

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Amman, Jordan

Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 11: Amman – The Citadel, Darat al Funun and a little bit of dancing.

Amman, Jordan

On our second day in Amman, we went up to the Citadel, a nice spot to get an overview of the city and the Roman Theatre and the hills. It’s a touristy spot which apparently is one of “the oldest inhabited places” since they found evidence of occupation since the “pottery period” (that period started more than 10.000 years ago.) I’m not a big fan of old Roman ruins in general, they are very impressive and big and all, but they really look almost exactly the same wherever you see them so I tend to get bored after a while. But we went up to the citadel and took a walk anyway, we even entered their little museum with bugs and pots and a selection of random very old things. It was cute and we had fun.

On our way down from the hill, we passed by the very cool art space Darat al Funun that I had read about online. It had an interesting exhibition by the Palestinian artist and filmmaker Emily Jacir at the time and we had a walk and a nice lunch there. It’s not the biggest of art galleries, and many of the buildings were closed, but seeing some contemporary art was a nice little break from looking at old buildings and monuments.

We also stumbled upon a very nice little vegan cafe called Naqsh, where artists were just painting the walls and the owner was setting up the place for the season. It seems to be a cool community space and the owner told us they work on environmental conservation and art projects. Again, another one of many cool quirky places in Amman, and I felt like I could possibly live there at some point. (If only it was closer to the sea)

After exploring, we went to a shopping mall to have a look at the more “modern” part of Amman. And gosh was it modern. The prices in the mall were completely outrageous, and even Zara clothes were at double their original price. It was an interesting contrast to walk around the mall and look at people, they looked completely different from the people we had met in the old town. Posh kids with tight blouses and girls and boys holding hands. It was a fun experience.

After not really buying anything, we went to have dinner at a little restaurant just by our hotel and I was in contact with a friend of mine that I know from before, Rafik. He was going for a birthday party with some friends from his office and invited me over to join them. So after my mom had gone to bed because she said she was too tired, I went out and got to experience a bit of Amman by night. And in line with what we had seen in the mall, Amman by night was just like any big European city. The bars were full of people, and we found a nightclub where the girls were wearing high heels and short skirts, people were drinking, dancing and hugging, and even the music was the same as everywhere. We danced, we laughed, and when I sneaked in to the hotel again at 2am my mom woke up immediately. “How was it?” she asked. “Cool, we went to a disco and danced!” “Why didn’t you call me, I would have joined!” haha, she is the best.

And I’ll say it again, Amman is a cool city. And that’s especially true when you realize that it was just a Tuesday night. Too bad there’s no photographic evidence of that night happening.

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

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Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 10: Amman Meetings

Amman, Jordan

The buses that go from Jerusalem to King Hussein Bridge (to continue to Jordan) leave every day and are very conveniently located close to the Damascus gate. It was a breeze to walk over in the morning and hop on the van, and the ride took us less than two hours. We arrived at the border, two young female officers stepped on the bus and inspected us with their piercing little eyes, trying hard to look angry, and said “do you have any weapons?” we all looked at each other in confusion, and said no. That was that. We got through, had to step off the bus, into another bus that took us across no-mans-land, and then we got to the King Hussein Bridge border with Jordan. Since we now were crossing another border than the one we had exited through, we had to pay the 40JD each for Jordanian visas again. (You can’t get a double-entry on arrival visa in the airport, which is complete nonsense.. but hey.. the ways in which we make money from tourists, no?) It wasn’t the best of deals, but it saved us a lot of time compared to going back down to the south and the Eilat – Acaba border, and then having to make our way all the way back up to Amman again.

Once across the border, we found a taxi driver who took us for the standard fee of 25JD to our hotel. With the help of Google Maps and that awesome sim card we bought upon arrival to Jordan, we managed to help the driver find the place we had booked. The hotel was fresh and very conveniently located in the old town, walking distance from the Roman Theatre, the fruit bazaar and a lot of shops where we bought a lot of things we didn’t need but couldn’t resist owning.

We met some people while walking around and made some friends. One of them was 4 year old Mariam who was born in Aleppo just when the war in Syria started. Her family sent her together with her three sisters to their grandfather, Mohammed, who lives in Amman. Mariam doesn’t remember much of Syria anymore, but she knows Amman isn’t really her home, which is heart breaking. The current number of registered refugees in Jordan is almost 630,000 people according to the UNHCR. That’s almost every tenth person you will see in the street. It’s quite a lot.

There are more photos from Amman, but that’s for tomorrow!

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

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Amman, Jordan

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Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 9: Jerusalem pt2 – so many names for God, so little time.

Jerusalem

Back in Jerusalem we continued exploring the different religious sites and churches as well as some of the most iconic and holy Jewish and Muslim sites, the wailing wall and the Dome of the Rock. There are so many different christian denominations and other religions and so many ways to interpret the books and just so, so many ways to refer to an entity that just really seems to be the one same thing. It’s confusing and a demonstration of how we need to have our own thing, feel different, create our own groups and rules and means of control, and feel like our group is better than the other group. Identity. So many different names for what you refer to as God, yet you’re all just really saying more or less the same thing.

We started our second Jerusalem tour off at the Western Wall, or the Wailing Wall as it is often referred to. It is the wall closest to the Temple Mount and the most holy site for Jews apart from the Temple Mount itself. Jews come there to mourn the history of their people and to pray. We later continued up to the Temple Mount, which has limited visiting hours and restricted access for Jews, a very controversial place overall:

“In light of the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site as a Waqf, without interruption. As the site is part of the Old City, controlled by Israel since 1967, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over it, and it remains a major focal point of the Arab–Israeli conflict. In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslims.” According to all-knowing, all-seing, Wikipedia.

An interesting observation that we made at the Temple Mount was the big amount of kids running around and playing ball against the Dome of the Rock, one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture with great significance for Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. We were surprised nobody frowned upon the kids kicking the ball against the walls of the shrine but two girls sitting nearby, Eseel and Rania, explained that the Koran states that children should play near holy sites due to their positive energy and in order for them to establish a relationship with the site. If that’s the case, it’s a nice perspective and the children really seemed to have fun and enjoy playing up there.

We later met Ephream who was with a big group of Ethiopians at the beautiful Church of All Nations on the olive mount, next to the place where Jesus supposedly sat praying just before they took him away to be crucified. I got a nice portrait photo of him and we spoke a bit about the dream of Zion and Ethiopia and their beautiful white clothes.

All in all, it was a really nice day, we walked around, spoke to people, bought really nice coffee with cardamom and I took a lot of photos. Enjoy the contrasts below!

Jerusalem

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Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 8: Bethlehem – A town off limits for Baby Jesus.

The Separation wall

Next stop on our Palestine tour was Bethlehem. My mother wanted to visit the nativity church and the place where people believe Jesus was born. Mahmoud suggested that we also see the Banksy art on the wall and around – it was a great set up for both of us.

Outside the church, we met the very stylish Yasminn and Hiba from Nablus who were there to visit The Nativity Church as well, as it’s a holy place not only for Christians. We walked around to look at the different parts of the church and then we came back out and went to the wall. “Make Hummus not Walls” was written on the wall by graffiti artist Banksy, next to impressive pieces of art and statements by activists – but beyond the beauty and the creativity of it all – it was terrifying: A huge gate was cutting through the middle of what used to be a 15 minute straight drive from Jerusalem to Bethlehem – the ancient road was now obstructed by the wall, checkpoints, additional 40 minutes of detour travel and closed access for Palestinians.

We got on the bus for the road back, Mahmoud couldn’t drive us since he can’t cross the check point. “On the way from Jerusalem you had no problems, I know – there isn’t even a check point on the way here – but you will see on the way back to Israeli territory how different things will be” And it was different indeed, as all Palestinians were asked to get off the bus when we approached the check point. Elderly ladies, young people, young men in leather jackets. It was very cold, and they were all asked to stand in line outside of the bus while the “border control” teenagers calmly went about checking our passports and asking some people questions on where they had been and where they were going. It all took much longer than what was necessary and the Palestinian people were waiting outside all curled up – each holding on to their 400€ entry passes or legal working permits from their employers in Jerusalem. All of this so obviously just to make a disgusting point on who Israel thinks is worth more on a scale of deserving humane treatment. All just to show who’s the boss. All of it to nurture angry young Palestinians who will continue giving the Bibi team vague reasons to make sure status quo is maintained.

If baby Jesus was here, he would be crying his face off. Also, he wouldn’t have made it to Bethlehem. Modern day Apartheid is very much real.

Bethlehem

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The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

The Separation wall

Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 7: Hebron

Hebron, Palestine

It’s been a while since I posted anything on here, I know. With the Hebron photos next in line from our trip to Jordan, Palestine & Israel, I haven’t had the time or mind strength to really think about how to explain this place..

Hebron is the second largest city in the Palestinian territories, and a very holy place for both Muslims and Jews – the population of almost 500 000 Palestinians lives door to door with about 500 Jewish settlers. Or, rather, door to soldier – because parts of the old city in Hebron look almost like an outdoor prison, with 20% of the city under Israeli control, Palestinians having to go through security checks to go home, and the settlers doing all in their power to force the Palestinians away.

We took the bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem where we met a taxi driver who promised to take us around for the day – I knew I wanted to take my mother to Hebron and to see the recent Banksy art on the wall, my mother wanted to see the nativity church in Bethlehem – and the things I had pitched to her. We only had one day, so taking a taxi to all the spots of interest was the best option for us.

Being in the taxi was interesting in itself, Mahmoud told us about the pass that Palestinians needs in order to cross the check point back to Jerusalem. People get this pass to look for a job, or to go and pray at the dome of the rock in Jerusalem, the holiest place in the world for Muslims. The cost of the pass is 400€, it can be cancelled at any time, and it is not valid on Fridays. On pray day.

We entered Area “A” – Palestinian controlled area, and arrived in Hebron.

We took a walk around the old bazaar. I recognized a man I had met in 2010 which was pretty amazing. Same spot, same things for sale, time hadn’t done much for him. The old bazaar looked the same, only even emptier than last time. Already then people were complaining that no tourists came to Hebron anymore because they were afraid. People were giving up and moving out. There was a net above our heads, and trash scattered all over the net. Israeli flags were hanging from the windows. The settlers live upstairs and they throw their trash down at the market to make life hard for the Palestinians. Thus the net. Thus the bad business.

But we were there, the only tourists at the time. And people were very happy to see us. “Welcome to Hebron” they all said when passing us. Kids wanted selfies, and they wanted to have their picture taken while showing off. Jumping on an old mattress, running fast, fighting, laughing. Kids stuff.

When going back to the cab, we saw a boy climbing out from a window with a little ladder next to it. “Oh, that’s a home” Mahmoud said. “It’s just that the settlers have closed the front entrance since it’s Israeli controlled area – so the family has to go in and out through the window.” Just as he said that, the boy fell down the ladder hit himself against the car that was standing just in front of him. An old woman dressed in black came out through the window to get him as he was crying loudly. She was my grandmother’s age. I was imagining my grandmother having to climb in and out of her house through a window. And having to explain to her grandchildren why.

Thanks for the eye opener, Hebron. Again.

Hebron, Palestine

Hebron, Palestine

Hebron, Palestine

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Hebron, Palestine

Hebron, Palestine

Hebron, Palestine

Hebron, Palestine

Hebron, Palestine

Jordan, Palestine & Israel Part 6: Dinner and a walk in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Noam took us to his place and we had a very nice dinner with his family, (but first we made a stop on the way to buy some knafeh and tahini) I was happy to meet them again after so many years and the food that Noam’s mom had prepared was really delicious. After dinner, we drove down to the waterfront and took a walk in a very nice part of town, filled with street art and cosy bars. It was a bit sad that we only had such a short time in Tel Aviv, there’s really something about that city that I really like a lot.

Thanks again, Noam!

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

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Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv