Welcome to Occupied Palestine: Random Observations on Food, Music, Patriarchy and Soap

November 7, 2013 by cosmoakacitizensmith

steel-tipped rubber bullets, teargas, checkpoints and so on. However, it is not always the case. In Ramallah and Nablus, I’ve walked the streets and melted into the souks or markets in endless, winding back alleys. Here, people are friendly and curious about visitors. They’re engaged in all the usual kind of things people do the world over. This includes checking out the latest fashions, buying food for the week, catching up on the gossip, wondering who’s going to win Arabs Got Talent, offloading hooky goods on the stalls and so on.

It probably comes as no surprise that me and the other volunteers have mostly been living off falafels, hummus and pitta. You can fill the pitta to you heart’s content with zingy salads and pickles at places like this:


This is knafet. A local specialty of Nablus that is basically fried cheese with darkened sugary top like creme brulee. It’s like sounds like two pleasures combined that shouldn’t be – but it works!


In Palestine, tea with sage in it is very popular: 


I set up in the street one afternoon and play a gig in Nablus city centre. In minutes I’m surrounded by 50 – 60 onlookers who dance and sing along, even though they don’t know the words! Some even film the proceedings on their phones. The strange thing was they were all men. No women stopped. Mike, one of the volunteers who was with me, noticed this and asked someone about it. “Well, if the women stop and start smiling, the men will think they are smiling at them. So they don’t stop.” However, I did a show for kids at the Balata refugee camp and the smaller girls stopped and listened as well as the boys.


In Nablus, this young man stopped and had a jam with me playing beatbox harmonica – wow!


Nablus also has a soap making tradition going back to the 10th century. Apparently queen Elizabeth was very fond of it, but I’m not sure which Queen Elizabeth!



Life goes on, even in an occupied warzone.


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