A packed few days for yours ambassadressy the last week of Oct, bookended by exams. My wonderful stentorian aunt came with her delightful traveling buddy and somehow squeezed seeing nearly all of the Holy Land into a week.
‘It will grow back, it will grow back’, she whispered when she saw my hair.
For two days in the middle of their stay I joined them, taking two nights’ residence at the Post Hostel, which was a very good hostel. We buzzed round the Old City of Jerusalem on a half day guided tour; Jewish Cemetery, Christian Cemetery, Russian Church, German Church, Coenaculum, David’s Tomb, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Wailing Wall, Dome of the Rock, Armenian Quarter, Mount of Olives…
Then we went to float in the Dead Sea (my short post on the experience here).
On to Nablus with my guests the next day: to the Samaritans, then Sebastia (the ancient Roman and Byzantine capital) for sunset. Hookah at Lemon wa Naanaa. In the morning, the Nablus Old City; the Ottoman clock tower surviving its Haifan twin, the Great Mosque of Nablus, knafeh, a soap factory, the souq – without a burnt out car and armed police to salute us this time.
Sebastia’s ruins – a Temple of Baal built for Jezebel, a Byzantine church, an amphitheatre, all amidst olive groves – are completely unsigned. The site, a 40₪ taxi ride from Nablus, was calm and nearly empty. A camel in the car park waited for a coachload of Danish tourists. At Maghreb calls to prayer from villages in the valley reached us. The sunset was peaceful, presented over nearby mountains. There’s a good view of the farmland, suffused with illegal settlements.
I filled my boots with Palestinian souvenirs at the gift shop, unaware until Lemon wa Na3na3 that I’d left my phone at the till. Upon return to the hotel, the receptionist told me it was on its way by taxi. Like the lift my visitors and I were offered from the Samaritan village to their hotel and the Jordanian taxi driver who sent my postcards for me, the return of my phone (and of anything left in taxis) is another example of the enormous hospitality and generosity shown to tourists [perhaps especially lone female tourists who speak basic Arabic] in the Levant.
And then they was away again, my aunt loaded with a suitcaseful of Middle Eastern trifles to present (on my behalf) to my cousins at Christmas, which I’ll be in Palestine for. I bet my cousins weren’t expecting to get anything. I win Christmas this year!
I was so happy to see my dear Aunt and I really look forward to my next batch of guests! Come and see me!