Dear, dear readers, I would like to give my parents a quick summary of official events I have attended for fun since I got to the West Bank just over six weeks ago: two beer festivals, a music festival and a wedding.
SHEPHERD’S BEER FESTIVAL, BIRZEIT
At the end of August I was taken by some gorgeous Palestinians to a historical and hipster university town near Ramallah. If hearsay is to be believed, the Republic of Falafel serves the best food in the old town.
The lead singer whizzed us briefly through some of the local geography. Arab villages here have names to recall my native Somerset’s Mudford Sock, Nempnett Thrubwell and Queen Camel. Legend has it a fling between a man from MusMus (lit:SuckSuck) and a woman from Abu Snan (lit:Father of Teeth) was shortlived.
Birzeit University PAS programme hosts many Arabic students, including those on their year abroad from Cambridge. Birzeit municipal building hoists a Palestinian flag next to an EU one, poignantly juxtaposed for my post-Brexit visit.
Favourite factoid of the evening: registration plates with a final “99” used to belong to secret police or Palestinian Authority high-ups. And maybe they still do!
PALESTINE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC FESTIVAL, BEIT SAHOUR
Punters and performers mingled at this well-lit little fest. Shisha at the very least was consumed by many attendees, and in the liberal crowd same-sex couples could be seen dancing openly. I’m a fan of Dam and their live performance was croud-rousing.
A single measure of spirits here is ~120ml, I say merely as information.
Stop-off for breakfast next day was at Zuwadeh deli in Beit Jala, where I stocked up on sushi-making supplies and drank several cappuccinos.
I had a lift from a NGO worker from Ramallah to Bethlehem. On the way there we had to stick to Area C but returning we had no Palestinians in the car so took the faster, settler route, remembering only as we hit the checkpoint to nix Dam Rap’s blaring Who’s the terrorist?
On the way back a young man took exception to the following outfit and with wild gesticulations demanded to know what this was. His opinion was that it was b*******.
The skirt may have clashed with the cityscape-patterned tights I paired it with. Red espadrille wedges could have been a touch much.
This is the only street harassment I have received in the West Bank, and I dress with more ‘modesty’ than many of the local Nabulsi and Ramallan girls.
‘the largest gathering of foreigners in the West Bank’.
Oktoberfest is hosted by Taybeh brewery, who provide visitors with family-friendly fun in the sunlit hours and raucous dancing after nightfall. Pork sausages, local cabernet sauvignon and merlot and three types of ale are on sale.
Traditional and alternative music is played. There’s a climbing wall. The brewery is open to the public.
MY PROFESSOR’S BROTHER’S WEDDING PARTY HENNA NIGHT, TULKARM
Wedding guests here sometimes comingle and sometimes are segregated by sex. At this party, the night before the wedding itself, the groom’s female relations and neighbours, as well as all his sister’s foreign students, gathered under the vines and lemon trees of his yard to dance and eat. On the other side of the garden wall a stage with professional disco lighting and sound system was set up to host a traditional wedding singer and then a band.
Perhaps you have seen fancy baby boy suits and outfits at a Middle Eastern souq and wondered when they are worn. They are worn at this wedding. Outrageously frilly pink little girls enjoy dancing with us foreigners very much. Our teacher’s aunt kindly but not unusually accommodated the eight of us who stayed for the second night of wedding celebrations.
Food was ouzi (like the gun); a national dish of Iraq made from rice and minced lamb and cashews. It was served with a hunk of flank and vegetable and yoghurt sauces. As is traditional, soda (off-brand coca-cola) and sweets are handed to guests. Arabic coffee is served just before guests leave.
Tulkarm looks v pleasant, with many old houses. The main square (below) was hosting a very amateur Evil Knieval impersonator as I left. I was glad my glimpse did not last long enough to witness his eventual downfall.
By the way I am happy and well and you don’t need to worry about me.