Sunday, 20 June 2010

I Saw Ramallah

The minara douwar - the main roundabout in Ramallah. It has undergone a variety of changes, most of which are very ugly.

The last time I was in Ramallah was 10 years ago. My newly married cousin lived in a beautiful apartment, working for some ministry and drove a Peugeot. My memory of the city itself is vague, and descriptions my friend's gave me as the years passed still could not give me a clear image of what it resembled. All I can recall was her pretty apartment, and how much she enjoyed life there.
An old building from 1924 set for demolition

Old buildings under demolition
One of Ramallah's oldest trees - deceased naturally. My guide made sure he got the municipality to examine the way it died.

Ten years later, I'm on a 15 NIS service ride that takes me to Ramallah. After exploring most of the city on foot, with a guide who also happens to be one of Palestine's most accomplished and popular writers, I've developed an idea of what Ramallah looks like and my feelings towards it. My guide, Ziad Jayyousi, not only photographs parts of the city with me, he knows every corner and every story.
The Al-Hambra Palace was a popular destination amongst honeymooners when they were finally able to enter Ramallah.
Yasser Arafat's grave

Palestine needs a Ramallah, but not quite in the sense that it is. You see Ramallah is the Tel Aviv of the West Bank, except its Jaffa is slowly being destroyed and its coast is missing. Owners of property dating back to the 1920s and earlier are selling off the land and making room for bulldozers (no not Israeli ones) that destroy and then provide space for tall buildings. These two cities share many other similarities: one is old but becoming new again, the other is new and replaced a near by city to make it look like it was always inhabited. Another similarity? Foreigners. Ramallah is a hub of NGOs and Westerners doing "research", researching what I don't quite know or care, while Tel Aviv is a mix of every Jewish person from anywhere in the world recruited by Israel to come and settle. The main difference? Ramallah does not have an overwhelming identity crisis or a McDonald's, which is ever so prevalent in all of Israel but mostly in Tel Aviv.
The oldest market in Ramallah.
*The title of this post is from Mourid Barghouti's novel I Saw Ramallah.

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