• Population: 3.8 million (UN, 2005)
  • Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem
  • Area: Palestinian Ministry of Information cites 5,970 sq km (2,305 sq miles) for West Bank territories and 365 sq km (141 sq miles) for Gaza
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Jordan dinar = 1,000 fils, 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorot

    The Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA) form two non-contiguous territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Oftentimes, people take PA as synonymous to Israel, but it all depends on your politics. In essence, much of what the outside world knows about the Palestinian Territory is much less than we ought to care for, overshadowed mainly by its anti-Israeli propaganda. Safe to say, the news that leaks out about the bordering regions are not exactly of birds, flowers, and bees, but of its constant struggles, like the Israeli-Arab conflict. Tourism is best avoided for reasons concerning security, at least then at a sensitive time.

    Albeit security environment in the West Bank remarkably improved and settled down since 2007, nowhere can political situations change as quickly, for in 2009, Israel bombarded PA yet again. Having said much of that, amidst its sensationalism and this Palestinian Martyrdom Philosophy that has something to do with 72 virgins, the generally unchartered territory has tremendous potential as a cutting edge travel destination, sans the political temperament. While it is true that some Muslim fundamentalists are major haters, the Palestinians are not just a bunch of people who hates on Israel, or the rest of the world. Essentially, the PA with the Israel proper is very much a part of the Holy Land. Nonetheless, the conflict renders travel impractical with some risks for first timers here in the Palestinian Territories because of siege, closure, culture, and religion. There are undeniably so many obstacles, but tourists have plenty of reasons to travel to the region.

    A side typically unseen is the rebellious side of the Palestinian Territory goes against the grain of what is commonly perceived in the hopes of showing the positive side of Islam, such as its new-found beer culture. The tiny region is also the chain that links the trade between Asia and Africa But a question remains- a question of millions. In a land where homosexuality is a definite no-no, why do straight men hold hands? These and more are cultural events that are usually witnessed by locals and the few intrepid who brave the Middle East. Are you one of them?


    The two distant locations of the PA, the Gaza Strip (31 25 N, 34 20 E) and West Bank (32 00 N, 35 15 E), create hefty inconvenience to tourism and local living due to border and security issues. Palestine basically refers to the land along the East coast of the Mediterranean Sea from the Gaza, and west, bordering the Jordan River. It is quoted in the bible as the Promised Land, the “land that flows with milk and honey”. Neither milk nor honey really flows here as it is mostly sand-covered, except for the flow of the Jordan River, Mediterranean, and Dead Sea lying at its borders.

    Despite this, land is arable and is a great natural resource for the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is an area of 360 km2 and the landlocked West Bank, 5,860 km2. There are two valleys that run north and south in the Gaza along the Mediterranean and the West Bank along Jordan River. In between, flat to rolling fertile plains, as well as small mountain ranges which Palestinians utilize as sheep pastures. The lot of vegetation is in the west but, to the Dead Sea in the east, the land becomes barren and shrouded in dunes. The highest point in the generally flat Gaza is the Abu ‘Awdah at 105 metres, and the Tall Asur at 1,022 metres in the West Bank.


    Both the regions of the Palestinian Territories experience a temperate climate which, in essence, has 2 seasons- a cold/wet winter and a hot/dry summer. The wet season begins mid-September through to mid-March, while the rest of the year suffers the hot and dry season. Precipitation adapts to altitude, of course. In this case, precipitation decreases with altitude, on a regular or daily basis.


    The Palestinians are 4.1million too much for its small territory, that it’s such a pity most of them are scattered and displaced all over the Middle-East unwanted and stateless. Broken down, that is around 1.6 million Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and 2.5 million at the larger West Bank. The United Nations lists around 2 million Palestinian refugees. The lot of the population here are Palestinian Arabs, and, for that reason, the official language is ARABIC. At the same time HEBREW is also spoken by a huge Palestinian demographic. ENGLISH is basically the region’s language to relate to the world, and there is a substantial amount of English speakers here.


    And as strips of land along the Middle East and North African trade routes, the Palestinian Territory sponsored the Muslim Faith, especially along the Gaza with 99.3% of population under its belt. Only the 0.7% population practices Christianity, and these mostly are the Israelis in settlement areas within the PA borders, who never waver in their belief that this is God’s gift to them. With deep understanding of the dangers they face by living in settlements, they however are pleasantly enjoying Palestinian beer and other types of alcohol, which Muslim fundamentalists are strictly against. From this, it can be concluded that the culture in the PA is determined by the restrictions and acceptable practices and way of living their Muslim faith allows them. So for the non-Muslim travelers, the Jewish resident would mostly go an extra mile to make the trip as fascinating and comfortable as can be, but not all Palestinians are serious spoilsports, you know.


    Nonetheless, in the midst of political conflict and religious tension, there, in fact, exists a positive side of Islam. The outside world’s perception of uninterrupted war is mostly a figment of the imagination that we allow. Banking on the fact that most have not been here, there is a vibrant and colourful culture that only locals and brave travellers stand witness to, both rich and quirky cultural practices. As the Promised Land during the biblical times, Gaza has had an implausibly turbulent history, where, in the main, everybody desires a piece of this blessed land. And as such, there are places to enjoy in what seems a green zone to the rest of the world.

    Religious and archaeological sites vital to all the world’s history are to be found here within the Palestinian Territories, even those biblical places like Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, and the Jerusalem, the east at least. Note that tours do not simply include checkpoints. A religious tour of the PA would have the traveler head across to the crusader church of Askar, the site where Jesus met the Samaritan woman, as well as the site of Jacob’s well. The archaeological site of Tel Hatzor (Gaza) is not just one of the magnificent historical sites, but certainly one of the safest places to visit. Then get to know the people at the small town just nearby called Hatzor HaGlilit, a town with less more or less 2,000 inhabitants.

    Hatzor Ashdod, also in Gaza is another ideal place for a quiet mingling with the locals of a kibbutz or collective community with less than 1,000 settlers, in a nice nature setting. Not far anyway is the fifth largest city in Israel, the city of Ashdod itself with its semi-modern attractions of a developed city, which, as depicted in Nicolas Poussin’s The Plague of Ashdod, was smitten with plagues of mice and boils for capturing the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites. Top-rated are the cruise and beach activities, in addition to the Ashdod-Sea Fortress, an archaeological site on the Mediterranean coast. Baal Hazor also offers unparalleled landscape scenarios.

    When all is done, a visit to the fearless Taybeh Brewery for a taste of the first Palestinian beer company produced from the only brewery in the West Bank region, where drinking is actually prohibited (hats off!). Taybeh is a Christian village in the Palestinian Territories where, in contrast to most other places, there is a lot more breathing space to do things such as drinking, which is more than allowed. Beer produced from this brewery is now exported to Germany and Japan.


    And beer is certainly a good company for Palestinian food. The cuisine in the Palestinian Territories is diverse without overstating, and this is mostly explained by its geographical make-up of two separates strips of territories. The cuisine of the West Bank is close to Jordanian. It is partially-Levantine but unique. Galilee also possesses a variation of the cuisine here, and is a correlated with Lebanese cuisine, while Gaza’s isolation and contact with Africa resulted to a gastronomy that is traditionally Egyptian and typically less known in the other regions of the PA.

    Palestinian cuisine belongs to the larger Levantine cuisines. It is less renowned than its counterparts in Lebanon and Syria. But just because the cuisine is not well-known does not mean it’s bad and blah. If truth be told, the falafel and shawarma are more fragrant, fresh and flavourful. Grilled meats like lamb and shish tawouk or marinated chicken cubes are the main course, but the traditional stuff such as maklouba (rice with lamb, nuts, and vegetable), mussakhan (chicken, sumac, and onions on flat bread), bamiah (lamb stew with okra), and qidreh (spiced rice and lamb). The main course is never without dip-appetizers or mazza like mouttabal, baba ganoush, and hummus – a common food tradition in the middle-east.

    In stark contrast to the meat-dominant cuisine of the Palestine, the Gaza staple is fish, while khubz is the traditional everyday-bread, which not only provides the perfect base for the spiced and full-bodied dishes, but also as an edible spoon or ladle. Vegetarians are not left behind, although the Palestinians love their meat. For some who might get sick of meat, the tasty rice-lentil-caramelized onion dish called mujuddarah will cleanse your palate of the meat taste.

    When it comes to desserts, Palestinians are happy and content. Celebrated desserts are quintessential Mediterranean delights bakhlava, halwa, and kanafeh that originated right here in the 1400’s. Kanafeh is a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and salty owing from the honey, cheese, pistachios and the pastry it is baked in. A true favourite in the Arab World, kanafeh or nablusi is best made in Nablus of the West Bank, and is made more special by the regions specific use of white-brined cheese. As hospitable as Palestinians are, the traveller will never be hungry.

    Understand though that being here deep in the Palestinian Territory means playing your cards right. Most will suggest being pro-Palestinian and not offending religious practices to help ease of travel. For instance, drinking alcohol can be done mostly with a Christian bunch. At the present time, the Palestinian is represented to be peaceful, save for the bordering areas around the Gaza, where conditions are extremely uncertain. It always pays to check current political situations around these parts.

    Josh Boorman


    Backpacking Addictz



    Twitter: @backpackaddictz

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    Joshua Boorman

    Joshua Boorman

    Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
    Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
    Joshua Boorman

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