The Middle East lies at one of the planets junctures, those crossing in a Westerly fashion through the Egyptian Sinai aims to eventually arrive at the gateway to Africa, and it is Iran which aims to begin dissolving into the Asian continent in the East.
It may be a small geographical pocket of this vast landscape which offers the traveller a chance to sample some unique cultural delights. The Occupied Palestinian territories are home to a population of 4.5 million people and are one of the few states or countries in the world to possess fractured borders. The history of the region delves back deep into the vast spectrum of time, however it may be numerous events during the last 100 years which have moulded the region’s modern geographical appearance into 2 entities; in the forms of The Gaza Strip and The West Bank.
Zoom into a map of the Middle East and encounter Israel and Palestine, and the famous city of Jerusalem, a historical centrepiece which may attract a diversity of crowds. Lying around 10 kilometres to the south however is its sleepier yet equally as significant counterpart, Bethlehem. The Hebrew bible recognises the area as the City of David, where the King of Israel was anointed, while the New Testament a provenance of Christian morality and theology considers Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
The city lies within The West Bank, and along with Jerusalem, is nestled snugly amongst the stunning terrain of the Judean Mountains. To travel here one needs to pass a checkpoint and through the towering walls of the separation barrier. What lies beyond however, may be a world of flavourful culture waiting to be uncovered.
Once inside The West Bank one may encounter many forms of artwork along the route of the imposing separation wall. The famous covert artist, who has appropriated the pseudonym Banksy, has depicted 9 powerful imageswhich have drawn international attention with their ability to cross linguistic and cultural bridges. The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, regarded as the spot where Jesus Christ was born. And while in this vicinity, stay for a few days and sample some of the rich hospitality of the Palestinian culture.
The locals pride themselves on their intimate connection to the land, each other and their food. Palestinian cuisine may be considered part of the Levantine culinary family tree, however a majority of dishes served up here possess their own identity, distinguishing them from they’re surrounding Middle Eastern neighbours.
Travellers may sample the vast spectrum of Palestinian delicacies, which cater to every taste. A local favourite is Maqluba, a dish with Eggplant and Lamb. It combines layers of meat, vegetables and rice which are all cooked together in a pot and served by flipping it on its head. Maqluba in Arabic (مقلوبة ) literally translates to ‘upside down’. Join the locals as they perform the popular dance known as the Dabke. There are many variations which radiate throughout the Middle East, however In Palestine it is Al-Shamaliyya which may be considered the most famous.
The Dabke is a line dance led by a Lawweeh. He is characterised by skill and light
footedness which is prominent throughout his performance. The seasoned display is often complemented musically by the Oud, a unfretted guitar type instrument with a pear shaped body. Its player seems to possess a capability to instantly transport the listener to a far off Arabic land, while he magically picks out notes with his trimmed eagle feather.
The Palestinians seem to have an infectious ability to emancipate the spirit of this culture through many mediums; food and dancing are just a few examples of the cultural richness which characterises their hospitality.
What’s more one may discover it all around as it radiates from this tiny pocket of the Middle East to many countries around the world.
What part of Palestinian culture might one most like to experience?