25 March 2017
Today we would embark on our journey to Nablus. I was excited to finally see our sister city but sad to live the culturally and historically rich city of Amman. After a last minute, frantic race to scrape up enough Dinars to pay for our hotel (since the hotel credit card machine broke) all nine of us piled into two vans headed north to the Israel Jordanian border. Luckily our hotel was on the northern end of Amman, so our drive through the hectic Saturday morning traffic would be short.
When we left the city we were greeted with rolling hills of olive trees, grape vines, and goat herds. The landscape, minus the goat herds, with its eucalyptus trees, dry scrubby foliage and occasionally littered highways, reminded me of my birthplace in Southern California.
At the border we unloaded from the vans, payed our Jordanian exit tax, and loaded back into a bus for the half mile ride across the Allenby bridge into Israel. Despite the short distance the ride took about 45 minutes, so I had a lot of time to talk with the woman behind me who was helping me learn a bit of Arabic.
When we got to the Israeli side, we did some Yoga in the immigration office as we waited for about an hour to get clearance to come to the West Bank for two weeks. We were quite a spectacle but I guess thats the American, and especially Boulderite, way.
When we were finally cleared to go to the West Bank we hopped on a bus that took us to Jericho and then in Jericho we took two vans, called serveeces, to Nablus. It was about an hour of hills and farms and goats until we got to the outskirts of Nablus. (I should mention that what I called hills, they called mountains, or jabals, but compared to our mountains in Boulder, they are definitely hills to me.) The outskirts of Nablus were made up of olive farms and cinderblock houses and lots of trash. I remember someone warning me about the trash but I was still taken aback by the mounds of it on the side of the road. It seems that one of the consequences of occupation is the inability to properly finance trash companies.
Nablus seemed like a bustling metropolis with taxis and serveeces buzzing around with little regard for traffic lanes, and yet no car accidents. It was hard to believe that this city was smaller than Boulder, because as I looked around at the densely built city, with tall apartments and other buildings lining the hills surrounding the city center, it reminded me more of Los Angeles than of a small town. However, I would soon discover that Nablus is a city that looks big with all of it’s tall buildings and bustling city streets, but has a small hometown feel, with the endless hospitality and warmth of it’s people.
That evening after we were settled into our rooms at the Yasmeen Hotel, we had dinner with the deputy major and other city officials from the municipality. The food was exquisite: vegetables and lamb in tomato sauce, stuffed zucchinis, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli and many other delicious dishes that I couldn’t name. But better then the food was the company. We sat and talked and laughed with never an awkward moment, as if they were long lost family and we had finally come home.