Friday, 23 March 2007

Nablus Old City

Thursday mid-day: Nablus is one of the oldest cities in the world and its Old City is a wonderful expression of architecture and history. Houses are built on and around vaulted tunnels in a distinctive style. Sadly, the modern era is represented by destroyed houses and martyrs memorials - both testifying to the violent struggle for control of Nablus by the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We wanted to see the heart of the old city - its houses and its industry. A grandmother made us welcome in her home with her three grandchildren who were sitting in the window recess as she prepared a large bag of acuba (a green flower vegetable). She made us mint tea and told us factually about the traumas she had endured - losing sons and having the Israeli army smash her pictures on a recent visit. A surprising lack of hatred or passion - just a hope and longing that things would get better soon.

In a sweet factory we saw how the chick peas are roasted and covered in a sweet powder - delicious. Toffee also extruded and wrapped.

In the tahini facory we heard an explanation of the process of separating shells from the sesame seeds so that they could be roasted and ground.

The hammam (baths) were not operating but were still warm and steamy. It was good because that meant we could all take a look. The hot stones were comforting and we'd all liked to have had a proper session in such a richly decorated and historic place.

Of course the real industry is the shops. You can buy almost anything from spices, vegetables and meat to furniture. We bought a few herbs from the shopkeepers who all welcomed us and explained about the origin and use of their products.

Archway in Nablus Old City with shoppers and vegetables

Such a lively place but obviously in need of an economic upturn because there are so many areas neglected.

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