Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Chapter 20 West Bank Eid

We're off for the week and despite big plans: (cue deep cinema voice and stirring theme tune) "One week...One West Bank city a day" we've so far just been to Ramallah.

I do love Ramallah though. It's got a much more relaxed and cosmopolitan vibe than Nablus. There's loads of cool little places as well where you can sit and have coffee or a meal.

The day before Eid we went down to do some work in my favourite spot (Ziryab). About halfway through our salads (we have a general rule of anything but hummos and falafel sandwiches outside of Nablus) there was a sudden explosion of noise made up of drums, trumpets and cymbals.

What could this hullabaloo be? We ran to the balcony and were treated to potentially the most organized thing I have seen since arriving in Palestine.

A huge, uber long procession of what we assumed to be scouts were marching down the main street leading off from Manarah Square. Uniformed kids of all ages, genuinely from about 6 years old, with all manner of drums and brass instruments were marching in near perfect unison in celebration of Eid.

The drummers were great. Their long drumsticks attached to their wrists by a cord were being flicked around effortlessly to bang on their huge drums. This included behind the back hits and side switching which all looked very cool.

It took easily 15 minutes for the procession to pass us and the streets were lined with onlookers taking pictures and videos.

Dedicated water boys and girls were running through the ranks making sure everyone was keeping well hydrated. Their red faces were indication of how far they had marched already. It didn't look like they were going to be stopping any time soon either.

Walking back in the early evening the square was chock-a-block with people hanging around, doing last minute Eid shopping and men selling their wares.

Public transportation over the Eid days was surprisingly available. Despite having been worried that we might be stranded there was very little problem in finding services (serveeses) trundling people around between the various cities.

For Eid lunch, I went to Jerusalem to spend time with some family members I'd never met before.

Now, there are two main check points when heading out of Nablus which ordinarily are not manned. However when our servees pulled to a stop I was awoken from my nap to see a long line of cars ahead of us.

There was a general murmur of discontentment in the car.

"Uffff... they always do this, it's just because it's Eid."

"Yallah shabab (boys) get your passports out."

It took us ages to get to the checkpoint as the soldiers were asking to see ID papers from almost all of the cars passing through.

Sure enough, when our servees pulled up the soldier asked to see papers from around half of the young men in the car.

The passports were taken and a few phone calls made before they were given back and we went on our way.

I didn't think much of it as you do sometimes find the checkpoint manned. However when the second checkpoint was also manned and we found ourselves in yet another long queue of cars I began to see what my co-serveesers were talking about.

We reach Ramallah and I change cars for one bound to Jerusalem's Kalandia checkpoint. Manarah Square is deserted - a sight I have never seen before and one in stark contrast to the night before.

West Bank cars are not allowed into Jerusalem so we get dropped off at the checkpoint and cross it on foot.

We line up at the pedestrian section of the checkpoint and pass one by one through a turnstile which is stopped after every few people.

We go through, pass our bags through an X ray machine and walk through the airport style metal detector before showing our passports to the ladies seated inside.

I somehow manage to get lost in the maze of turnstiles leading on from that and find myself back outside of Jerusalem.

I queue up again and somewhat sheepishly re-present my passport to the girls who look at me in surprise.

They don't speak English and, through a series of gestures, I explain to them what happened.

They guffaw jovially at my foolishness and usher me through to where I am meant to be going.

Eid lunch with the family was great and with a (very) full belly I begin the three hour journey back to Nablus.

Leaving Jerusalem there is no checkpoint stopping and I get to Ramallah quickly and find a servees to Nablus.

On the way back there are, again, a series of long queues leading to checkpoints where passports are checked. We see a few young men who had been taken from their cars for extra questioning.

Cars on both sides of the road were being checked and as we slowly make our way past the check point there is much conversation between our driver and those coming up on the opposite side.

"What are they looking for?" A fellow servees driver.

"I don't know. I asked but they didn't tell me." Both laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement.

"Everything ok up there?" Another car driven by a man with his wife and daughters in the car.

"Ah, you'll be ok. You've got no men with you."

"Yes, I've gotten ridden of them all" he joked.

The check points back into Nablus are still manned but we are not stopped and the ride home continues unhindered.

Nablus is also quite quiet compared to the day before and the shops are only just beginning to open up after having been closed all day.

I meet my colleagues for a sheesha. They have spent the day with a Palestinian friend at his village. Welcomed warmly by his family, they watched a goat being slaughtered in the traditional way and were fed enough to pop while being showered with hospitality.

Just another West Bank Eid.

* A big thank you to Ellen for her well captured photos

No comments:

Post a Comment