The Trip of A Lifetime: Visiting Jordan, Palestine and France Before Starting University
Norah Nowarah | Whitby, Canada From left to right: Jordan, Palestine, France Yes, I was sitting in a taxicab crying a couple of weeks ago. Was it because university would start the following week or because we were heading back to Canada after spending more than two months in my homeland, Palestine? Most likely both. But all jokes aside, it had finally dawned on me that I may not see my family members in Palestine again for at least two years, as it was becoming more difficult for my family of seven to travel the older we get. In short, the trip there was amazing. Allow me to recap the highlights of our trip! Both on our way to Palestine and back, we had an 8-hour layover in Paris. We took this opportunity to explore the city of love (which was stunning). We visited the most famous attractions, including the Eiffel tower, La Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe. It is truly a beautiful country and its citizens were very kind to my family and I. This was actually my third time going to Paris, however, I was younger during my previous trips and cannot recall much of it. So, I was lucky enough to be able to renew those memories this year. Some pictures I took when I was in Paris When we first arrived, I couldn’t stop taking pictures. We arrived in Jordan after Paris, and from Jordan, we took a taxicab to Palestine (about a 3 to 4-hour drive from the Jordanian border). As Palestinians (who hold a Palestinian passport), we could not get to Palestine through the Israeli airport in Tel Aviv (in my opinion, a way to discourage citizenship). The sunset was breathtaking! I thought I would have been so drained from not being able to sleep the whole trip, but the energy was beaming off me. We witnessed the sunrise while driving to Palestine, and I was blown away. The cities were so different from what I am used to seeing every day in Canada (much older and historic too). Jericho (pictured below), is indeed one of the oldest city in the world “dating back 11,000 years” ("The World's 20 Oldest Cities"). When we got there, the ‘Salams’ (or ‘hellos’) began. Most of the first month was spent simply with family. The ‘sahra’ (Arabic for ‘late gathering’) took place at our house every night during our stay. Uncles, aunts, cousins were all gathered on our porch from 7 PM – 2 AM. People coming and going, kids bouncing everywhere, and tea and coffee served almost every hour. My uncles were always debating politics and religion, which I found so interesting as I wanted to understand the views average Palestinians hold amidst facing occupation. No matter the time, I felt life and energy all around me. There was always something so magical about all this, and I already miss it. We also went to several restaurants, cafes, and had numerous trips at night with family and friends. As I had recently graduated high school, I threw a huge graduation party too. As for the second month, we spent it traveling the country. We visited several cities, including Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, Rawabi, and Bethlehem (also in images below). In each city, we visited their landmarks and bought several souvenirs. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the holy city, Jerusalem, as Palestinians required visas from Israel to visit their own city (the irony), and the application process takes about a month. As we were restricted in time, we simply could not visit it. However, we most definitely plan on visiting the city the next time we visit Palestine, as that experience is like no other. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed the time we spent in the cities we went to, creating memories at every corner. Some pictures from the various cities we visited I also tried to document every sign of occupation I could find (some images below). While traveling to the cities mentioned, there were numerous checkpoints, occupation walls, Israeli army trunks and soldiers carrying huge guns. This is the unfortunate reality for the Palestinians—no freedom, no liberty, and no justice. What I admire about them is their resilience to any force which attempts to restrain them, they continue to put a smile on their face and enjoy what little they have. For these reasons, I felt obligated to share what that feels like with the world. One encounter I had with a kind man from Hebron really impacted me during this trip, as he stopped my sisters and I after hearing us speak English and said “Welcome! Tell them (Americans and Canadians) that we are not evil! We are peaceful! We only want peace!” It really hurt me because that is the reality of how Palestinians are portrayed, even though they are illegally occupied, and their freedom is restricted every day. Examples of checkpoints On our way back to Canada from Palestine, we decided to spend a week in Jordan. Jordan is scattered with historic, archeological remains (from the Roman Theatre to the Citadel). In Amman, we visited many of them, as well as the new and modern attractions the city has to offer (i.e. The Boulevard Mall). We stayed at a resort at the Dead Sea for a day, which is known to be “Earth’s lowest elevation on land” ("10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Dead Sea"). Due to this low elevation, it was extremely hot. It felt as though you entered a sauna and could not escape. Roman Theatre, Riding a Camel, and a wonderful view of the Dead sea In addition, we visited some family friends who live in Amman, as well as the Jabal el-Hussein Refugee Camp (comprised of Palestinian refugees who were displaced by Israel in 1948). My father wanted to give back to the locals as he felt as though it was his duty. He also wanted us to understand first-hand the impact occupation has had on our people. This camp is one of ten Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan with nearly 30,000 refugees ("Palestinian Refugee Camps"). The whole experience was overwhelming and reminded me of just how lucky we were to live in a developed country such as Canada because their situation was heart-breaking. Kids who looked as young as five were trying to sell us paper towels through the car windows and people lived in the smallest homes I have seen (i.e. a family of five in a house about the size of two rooms). It was truly an eye-opening experience. Overall, this trip was an incredible experience, and I learned so much about the culture and history of my homeland. Thankfully, I am fortunate enough to be able to travel across the world to see my family, as some Palestinians are not. I would take any chance to revisit in a heartbeat. Works cited: "10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Dead Sea". Twistedsifter, 2012, https://twistedsifter.com/2012/06/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-dead-sea/. "The World's 20 Oldest Cities". The Telegraph, 2017, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/galleries/The- worlds-20-oldest-cities/1old-jericho/. Accessed 17 Oct 2019. "Palestinian Refugee Camps". En.Wikipedia.Org, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_refugee_camps.