Welcome to my place . . . Palestine

‘If you end up being invited to a Palestinian home for dinner, you have hit the jackpot’

Brona (left) and Grainne watching the sunrise over the Dead Sea.

Brona (left) and Grainne watching the sunrise over the Dead Sea.

 

Brona Ní Uigin from Monaghan and Grainne Ní Thiarnain from Sligo, both law graduates from NUI Galway, lived in Palestine for several years doing legal and humanitarian work and working on economic development projects.

Who might come to Palestine?
In all our years in Palestine, we’ve been lucky to have a wide variety of friends who have come to visit. There really is something for everyone in Palestine – it is steeped in history, dense with natural beauty and humming with cultural talent so there is never a dull moment. World-famous hiking trails, vibrant nightlife in the bars of Bethlehem and Ramallah, and hidden gems offering mouth-watering Palestinian cuisine all make a week in Palestine almost too short.

Where do you always bring people to when they visit Palestine?
No trip to Palestine is complete without seeing the more desolate realities of life there. Perhaps nowhere shows the ugly face of the conflict more than Hebron Old City. Take a tour with former Israeli soldiers, Breaking the Silence, on Shuhada street (closed to most Palestinians) and prepare to be shocked and disturbed. It’s somewhere that needs to be seen to be believed.

Tours of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem can be joined just next to “The Wall” in the West Bank (Israel considers it a security barrier against terrorism, but Palestinians see it as a racial segregation or apartheid wall) and the now-famous Banksy Hotel. Tours are also available from local guides from the camp and offer another eye-opening experience. Sadly, this camp has recently been declared “the most tear-gassed place on earth”.

The top things to do there that don’t cost any money are . . .
Doing a night hike in the desert to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and truly spectacular.

Simply taking a walk through the old city of Bethlehem or east Jerusalem is breathtaking and gives you a sense of the religious and historical significance of both cities. Take a couple of hours to walk through the cobbled streets, wander between the market stalls and soak up the bustling atmosphere.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Palestine?
Palestinians are as passionate about their hospitality as they are about their food. If you end up being invited to a Palestinian home for dinner (which is possible even on a short trip to Palestine), you have hit the jackpot. You will be greeted with a feast of salads, breads and dips followed by a traditional Palestinian main dish. One of the best and most popular dishes is maqlouba, which is an upside-down rice casserole mixed with spices, cooked cauliflowers, potatoes, eggplant and chicken.

A trip to the beautiful Hosh al Yasmin (outdoor ecofarm-come-restaurant) near Bethlehem is a must-see. The owner, Mazen, brews his own local wine and the local favourite – Arak – and also has delicious homemade Palestinians dishes on offer. Sip this while taking in the spectacular sunset over the surrounding hills.

What should people take home that might be of benefit?
Stories from the Palestinians. Palestine is an amazing place with a vibrant culture and people, but it is also full of heartache and hardship. Take the time to talk to the locals to educate yourself.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live overseas, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We would love to hear from you

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