Picture: looking towards the Mediterranean from my balcony.
A good method of getting student accommodation in Nablus is to ask anyone who has been to Nablus for contact details of locals who can help. A poor method, as of 2015-2017, is to ask the university accommodation officer.
It is usual for students in Nablus to pay about 40-60 Jordanian Dinar (200-300₪ ) for a shared room in a flat or 95-190 dinar (500-1000₪ ) for a studio apartment. A room to oneself should not cost more than 130 dinar/700₪ . Rent is monthly, and there is not usually a contract. Water, gas and internet are often included and electricity the responsibility of the tenant. The initial price does not need to be taken at face value – haggling over rent is normal here.
Flats have an electricity meter on the ground floor or in the basement which is topped up by insertion of a card. The card is loaded at some supermarkets or at the electric company (NEDCO) offices. There is an HQ in Ras al-‘Ayn; taxi drivers will know where the NEDCO – sharika tawziy’a kahriba’ ash-shamaal – building is. The card can be inserted into the meter twice – when the electricity runs out a small amount is left on the card for a second top up.
25₪ per person is enough for a month’s electric in the summer, plus an admin fee (0.5₪/day).
The rooftop water tanks are filled every couple of weeks. The size and number of tanks determine just how prudent you should be, but it’s not unusual to run out, especially if you run a washing machine and/or take long showers. If you’re in a well-equipped place your water will be heated by solar panel.
Gas is delivered by a small and wiry but immensely strong gas bottle delivery man. A local gas delivery company number is essential. Neighbours or landlords should have one. A bottle costs ~50₪ and there may be a 5₪ delivery/installation fee.
Talking to shopkeepers, students and people on the street as much as possible about your need for a places to stay is still the best method for a foreign student alone in Nablus.
As for me, a fellow student and I clubbed together to hunt, using our hostel as a base. On our first day she found posters advertising lets for female students, which was helpful.
I texted one of them asking if we could see the place. They were not forthcoming about the rent, and if my Arabic had been better I would have demanded to know in advance.
A few texts along, the unnamed landlord agreed to meet us outside the university gate in a red car. With sizeable trepidation we set out. The thrill that accompanies the unknown was with us, or with me, anyhow.
Sure enough, a red car was waiting outside the gate, engine running, window down. An unremarkably-featured man texted in the driver’s seat. ‘Hi’, I said in Arabic. ‘We’re here’. He looked taken aback, if not scared. Perhaps he hadn’t understood my foreign accent. I handed him my phone with the ‘I’m outside the university in a red car’ text on screen to remove his fear and doubt and he nodded nervously. ‘This is the university gate’, he offered, but did not suggest we get in. He handed back my phone and in the time it took me to turn to my buddy he’d made good his escape with a screech of tires.
I was no longer so anxious about being predated upon by a stranger in a foreign country, but I was unsettled by how much I had terrified this man. About this time, my friend pointed out the other red car idling a few metres down the street. Mohammed the owner was friendly in showing us a two-room flat, but unhelpful about providing storage (‘I guess we could move the hooks from the room with the wardrobe to the room with no storage’ ‘or new hooks? or a new wardrobe?’ ‘no’). When we left his sister gave us a lemon.
The secretary of our programme was contacted by a student who knew of Palestinian students seeking a room, and he helped two other year abroaders find rooms.
In the end, we found our recently refurbished top floor flat with large private balcony and all mod-cons through the uncle of my mum’s hairdresser’s assistant’s daughter’s husband’s colleague, for which I am grateful to my mother.
Good luck, househunters.