10 things I wish I knew before going to Palestine

Rubina Cheruvalath 15 September 2020 972 views 5 min. read

What comes to your mind when thinking of Palestine? Apart from the persisting Israel-Palestine conflict, is there something else that this small Arab country is famous for? Yes, of course, there are some interesting Biblical sites to visit. But why travel to Palestine and what this tiny Middle Eastern country got to offer, you might think. Well, the answer is "a lot". Keeping apart the immediate political issues, the State of Palestine is a great tourist destination with friendly locals, delicious cuisine, a wide range of nature trails, and other fascinating activities. In this blog, you will get to know about the amazing things about Palestine and important things to know about Palestine before your travel. Here are some fascinating things about Palestine that ought to make your travel planning clearer and easy.

1. Decide where you want to travel - West Bank or Gaza?

mosque in jerusalem

The State of Palestine is divided into two distinct regions- the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Although geographically separated from West Bank by Israeli territory, the Gaza region comes under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian administration. But, if you are looking into a pleasure trip and explore Palestine, then you can only think about travelling to West Bank. The Gaza Strip is an area under political turmoil, and hence, travel to this region is banned with restrictions only with a few exceptions. You should either be on humanitarian, diplomatic, or journalism purposes to enter Gaza. But, West Bank, on the other hand, has plenty to offer for the adventurous traveller!

2. Be careful while spending in the West Bank

palestine street

To be frank, travelling to Palestine is quite an expensive affair. There are plenty of shops selling food, artefacts, clothing, and much more; all over the place. But, except for falafel, the staple food, everything else is pretty costly in the place. West Bank is not considered a budget backpacking destination at all. A dorm or hotel room could cost you anything above 12 USD. Street food like falafel and shawarma are rather cheap. However, if you wish to eat at a non-fast food restaurant, then it could cost you anything above 8 to 10 USD. Even a bottle of water costs almost 1 USD here! Costly travel is one of the potential drawbacks of things about Palestine.

3. There are amazing Christian monasteries to visit

christian monastery

Palestine is a Muslim religious country, with a majority of the population being of the Islamic religion. However, one of the important things to know about Palestine is about the Christian Monasteries that are located in this place. These Greek Orthodox monasteries are mostly either carved or built on a cliff. They are located in important Biblical sites and are imbibed with salient religious sentiments. Nonetheless, whether you are religious or not, the architectural expertise is sure to influence you in a good way.

4. Palestinians have a Mediterranean culture

mediterranean sea

Before 1948, Israel, the coastal region, was a part of Palestine. However, after the separation, Palestine lost its capacity to be near the coastal area. As a result, Palestinians cannot enjoy the coast anymore. Nevertheless, they have still kept some of their Mediterranean cultures intact and is an indication of where is Palestine in terms of holding strong to heritage. This includes their love for the Mediterranean diet that includes seafood, rice, and olive oil. Also, Palestinians have a balanced social life and enjoy all their meals by sharing them with loved ones at the same table. 

5. Palestinians are very hospitable and friendly

palestine children

You will be amazed at how friendly the people in Palestine are. Unlike the common belief that foreigners are seldom welcomed here, things are rather different as the people are always willing to help, be it to find your way to the bus station, sharing a taxi, or guiding you to the best shops in the souk. You can find guides here who communicate freely in English. However, a large percentage of the population is not familiar with any other language except Arabic. So, make sure to learn a few basic Arabic words as they may come in handy while communicating with the locals.

6. The winter in Palestine is very cold

tourist womanSummer in the Middle East

is hot and humid. Palestine is no different in this case. However, do not get fooled into the notion that the country is hot throughout the year; because it is not! Winter in Palestine is cold, and the temperature can go down to 10 °C or lesser. You may find it rather difficult to deal with the winter because of the lack of a central heating system in buildings. Buildings in colder countries have a heating system inbuilt in Palestine infrastructure. This owes to the fact that these countries primarily have a cooler temperature almost all the time.

7. The West Bank is mostly green with fertile mountains

beita nablus

It turns out that the West Bank is a dreamy place to visit. With the lush greenery, meadows of olive trees and thyme, and the fertile mountainous region, the state of West Bank is no less than a peaceful destination for the peace seeker. The rural parts of West Bank, especially in the northern part of the country, around Jenin is a green location and a prime highlight of the country. Nonetheless, the southern part of West Bank around Jericho is rather a desert.

8. Don't forget to visit the microbreweries in West Bank

alcohol barley

Given the number of Christian Biblical sites in the region, it comes as no surprise that there is a big Christian community based in Palestine. The finest and oldest Palestinian beer, Taybeh, is produced in a microbrewery located in the village of Taybeh, which is home to a big Christian community. You can easily access Taybeh from Ramallah by a 25-minute bus ride. Visitors can take a tour of the microbrewery and can also taste a few of the beers while here.

9. Life in Palestine is different from what you think

palestine war

Conflict may be a constant part of everyday life in Gaza and the West Bank. However, this shouldn't be a hindrance to planning your travel to Palestine. If you are still thinking about why travel to Palestine, then we say you need to reconsider the content that media projects for tourists. The Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank have been set up for more than 60 years now. This has now become a city neighbourhood with houses, paved roads, shops, and busy life. The important things to know about Palestine is that tourists can even stay at the houses in this camp!

10. Palestinian cuisine is one of the best in the world

palestinian traditional dish

When thinking of why travel to Palestine, you might wonder whether food there could be anything beyond falafel and shawarma. You are wrong, as there is much to explore in Palestinian cuisine beyond falafel and shawarma. You can find restaurants serving traditional Arabic food in almost all nook and corner of Palestine. Some of the most popular traditional food in Palestine are Maqluba (rice with eggplant, chicken, and cauliflower), Baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), and the Musakhan (roasted chicken with lots of onions). Knafeh is a popular sweet in the middle eastern region and is said to have originated from Palestine. So, don't forget to give the famous knafeh a try, while here.

Travel to Palestine comes with its share of doubts, queries, and questions. So, here are a few of the most common FAQs that people come across while deciding to make a travel to Palestine.

Where is Palestine?

aerial view of palestinian city

Palestine is an area in the eastern Mediterranean region and comprises parts of modern Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza strip and West Bank.

Is it safe to travel to Palestine?

police officer

Palestine is a safe, friendly, and interesting place to visit. Nonetheless, always make sure to follow the Palestinian ethical code while travelling.

How to get into Palestine?

palestinian city

There are no direct flights to Gaza or the West Bank. You will have to pass through the checkpoints at the territories controlled by the Israeli Military to get into Palestine.

Can you drink alcohol while in Palestine?

alcohol drinksIs alcohol allowed in Palestine

? Predominantly being a Muslim country, you cannot buy or consume alcohol in some parts of the country. However, cities like Ramallah and Bethlehem have plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants selling alcohol.

What to wear while travelling in Palestine?

palestinan night

The dress code is pretty relaxed in the Palestinian areas. You don't have to overly dress up from head to toe while travelling in Palestine. Nevertheless, you are expected to wear modest clothes and not expose too much skin. All that being said, Palestine is an interesting place to visit and explore. However, like in any other country, you might have to remain vigilant and alert for thefts at all times. All that being said, it is good for tourists to keep reminding themselves constantly where is Palestine in terms of security and accordingly make travel plans!

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