Bearing Witness

Tour of my favourite Middle Eastern cities

To finish my time in the Middle East I decided to do a tour of my favourite cities, starting in Beirut and going through Damascus, Jerusalem and finally back to Nablus to say goodbye to the many wonderful people I meet while I was there.

Beirut made the list for different reasons than the rest of the cities, where as the other cities on the tour where there because of their dramatic histories and difference from anything I had seen before – Beirut made for it’s similarities to my home town Sydney. Great bars, good restaurants, fantastic climate and fine women. I spent five days in total in Beirut and only did the tourist thing on the fist day – Jitta Grotto and the cable  car. The other four days where spent relaxing during day and parting at night. I even got to play a short set on the last night in a bar in Hamra, I had befriend the DJ there through our mutual love of hip hop. He mainly play house, but told me if I got there early enough on my last night, ie before to many people turned up, he would bring in some hip hop and we could play back to back. As I only new some of the music he brought and was playing on CD decks for only the second time my mixes where a bit ruff – but it was great fun.

I then return to Damascus for a couple of days, I walked the souqs, visited the Hammam and ate fantastic ice cream covered in nuts – mmm nuts. I also need to make a correction to my last post on Damascus, apparently it is not the oldest constantly inhabited city in the world – Jericho in the West Bank holds that honor. But none the less Damascus is still my favourite city in the Middle East, wondrous.

Next stop was Jerusalem where I spent most of time in the old city. I returned to  Dome of the rock, had diner at Papa Andres with it’s superb s of the old city and took a day trip to the Dead Sea, Jericho and Masada – the only day I got my camera out the whole ten days of the tour. I also visited Yad Vashem the Holocaust Museum, which has a comprehensive history of the Holocaust and moving tribute to it’s victims. I also went to the Museum on the Seam – an art gallery on the green line that used to divide Jerusalem before th six day war in 1967. It is run by a group called coexistence, however there where no paintings by Palestinian artists, perhaps that’s what Israeli’s think coexistence is – complete domination.

However my time in Jerusalem was soured by being assaulted by undercover Israel Police, my only crime was wearing a Palestinian  koufeya. They approached me saying something in Hebrew, the only word I understood was Fatah as they pointed to my koufeya. They then surrounded me and one of the five guys tried to put his hands into my pocket. As they had failed to show me any ID at this stage I though I was been mugged and resisted. They then pinned me up against a wall – slamming my head  into the wall in the process. They then showed me thier police ID quickly and when I stated I had not seen it properly I was told I had and the guy who had me pinned against the wall drove his forearm further into my throat. After being thoroughly search and my passport checked. I was told “next time I wanted a souvenir to buy a fucking t-shirt”, when I responded by telling him “buying a  koufeya was not a crime”, he open his jacket showing me his pistol and placed his hand on it and stated “it is to me”. I Don’t know how Palestinians live with this brutality and worse on daily basis.

Then finally back to Nablus, which while the city it’s self was not my favourite city in the Middle East, it was where I made the most friends and had some of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It was great to catch up with my friends and have familiar faces around again, as much of the last month had been spent travailing by myself. I will miss Nablus the most out of all the places I visited on this trip and insharlla I will return one day to celebrate an independent Palestinian state, so long over due.

View of the Dead Sea From Masada

View of the Dead Sea From Masada

Just floating around

Just floating around

Sunset over the ruins at Jericho

Sunset over the ruins at Jericho

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February 4, 2009 Posted by | My Travels | , , , | Leave a comment

Lebanon

I have just spent just over a week  in Lebanon and it has been great ! I started my time there in Tripoli after cutting cross county from Crac Des Chevaliers in Syria.

Tripoli was cool, although my knee was playing up, so I spent the first day smoking akila, drinking tea and reading. On the second day I explored the Souqs which are considered the best in Lebanon, and I would agree. There are four main Souqs, the Souq al-Sayyaghinand or the Gold  Souq, the Souq al-Attarinor the Medieval Souq and Souq al-Haraj and Souq an-Nahhassinor or the Brass Souqs. I then visited the Citadel of Raymond De Saint-Gilles, which was originally a Crusader fortress. The most impressive part of the Citadel was the imposing entrance with it’s moat and three gateways – one Crusader- AD 11oo, one Mamluk – AD 1280 and one Ottoman – AD 1516. Apart from the entrances the other  feature of the Citadel is the spectacular view of Tripoli it gives you, as it is set on the hill above Tripoli’s old town. I then ventured into the new part of town – Tripoli like much of Lebanon, has a split personality. The newer part of town is very prosperous and resembles a very western and modern city, however the old part is definitely less prosperous and has buildings, such as the Citadel, which date back to AD 1100.

 From there I went down south to stay with a friends family near Nabitia. I had a fantastic time exploring the south, with my tour guide Mattie. I saw Tyre and it’s ancient ruins, both Roman and Byzantine and Sidon’s and it’s wonderfully well preserved 13th century Crusader Sea Castle. However the highlight of my time in the south, as it was in Nablus, was the people I meet and who welcome me into their home so warmly. I would like to thank Mattie my tour guide and friend and his family for a wonderful three days.

I then head north to Beirut and visited Jitta grotto the most amazing caves I have ever seen and rode the cable car to the hills above Beirut. Before spending several days just soaking up the atmosphere of Beirut, which is one cool city. I mainly hung out in Hamra district with it’s many cool bars, great restaurants and fine women.

Sunset over Tripoli

Sunset over Tripoli

Downtown Nebitia

Downtown Nabitia

Sea Castle at Sidon

Sea Castle at Sidon

Roman ruins at Tyre

Roman ruins at Tyre

February 4, 2009 Posted by | My Travels | , , , , | Leave a comment