Difference between revisions of "Ramallah"
Revision as of 16:09, 20 October 2009
Ramallah (Arabic رام الله) is a small city (population, approximately 57,000) in the Palestinian Territories, located within the West Bank region, some 15 km (10 miles) north of Jerusalem. Since the inception of the Palestinian National Authority, Ramallah has acted as the de facto capital city of the Palestinian administration.
The major challenge to reaching Ramallah exists not at the town's physical entrance, but at the check point one must cross to get into Israel, as one must first travel through Israel proper before entering the Palestinian territories. The Israeli border guards frown upon visitors who choose to enter any city in the West Bank, unless done for pilgramages (which won't work as an excuse for visitors to Ramallah, as there are no nearby religious sites of much significance). Therefore, it is advisable for travelers to not mention planned visits to West Bank cities if Israeli officials ask about their travel itinerary.
Ramallah is in an Area A zone of the West Bank, therefore you must pass through an Israeli checkpoint before entering the city. At the main checkpoint from Jerusalem, it is simple to enter without being stopped. Most foreign passport holders (not of Palestinian origin) should not have trouble exiting through the checkpoint back to Jerusalem. Once through the checkpoint, it is a short drive to downtown Ramallah. Bear in mind that it is illegal for Israelis to enter Ramallah, under Israeli law.
There is no train service or train stations in Ramallah and the rest cities of the west bank.
Heading north from Jerusalem on road 60#, you will arrive to Ramallah very fast. You will have to pass two Israeli checkpoints on the way: A-Ram and Kalandia.
From the Damascus gate you can find taxis to Ramallah for approximately 80-100NIS depending on your bargaining skills. You can also take a taxi to Qalandia checkpoint and walk through, picking up another taxi on the other side. It costs about 30 NIS from Qalandia to Ramallah centre.
The best connection from Jerusalem to Ramallah is the #18 Sherut/service taxi. It departs close to Damascus Gate on Nablus Rd. It is very cheap (6.50 NIS) and will take you all the way to Ramallah's central square of al-Manara.
It is easy to find a taxi to get around Ramallah (for 10 NIS fixed charge, or the amount specified by the fare-meter). Car rentals are also available, but seldom needed. As the city center is relatively small, it is not hard to walk to most destinations downtown (including the old city.) Service shuttles (shared taxis) are also available from downtown to most suburbs and to the outskirts of the city at relatively low prices (2,5 NIS inside the city and up to 6 NIS to nearby towns and villages).
The city is one of the most vibrant ones in the West Bank. In Ramallah, a few historic and religious sites are present. However, the downtown streets are a must see during the day, as the city is often really congested. The 'hisbeh' produce market is also a great place to visit, where fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices.
In the old city, several churches and mosques can be found that may be of interest to visitors. The Friends Schools, which are one of the oldest schools in the region, are also a must visit as there is one near the old city, and another in the entrance of the downtown coming from Jerusalem.
During the night, a good number of shops are still open, especially during the summer. A common habit of the citizens of the city is going out for a drink, dinner, or a 'Argila' (flavoured tobacco waterpipe.) The cities various coffee shops, bars, and restaurants are a must see/visit. The nicer ones are often available closer the older city, and on the road going to Betunia, while some good ones can also be found outside the city center.
There is a turkish bath in the twin-city of El-Bireh, a good destination for foreigners wanting to relax for the day.
The West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian Authority is also worth a visit. The Mukata'a is a two-block compound with a white tower that is lit up at night and visible from most parts of the city. It contains some government offices and conference rooms, as well as Yasser Arafat's mausoleum next to the building where he was held under seige by the Israeli Army in 2002.
Tourism, in the traditional sense, is almost non-existant in Ramallah compared to other cities in the region. If you are visting Ramallah, it is probable that you are doing so for political, business, and/or humanitarian reasons - expect to have lots of staring, curious (but always friendly) eyes looking at you as you walk though town. The city's active nightlife and its relatively liberal culture makes it a hot destination for visitors from other cities including Jersualem during the weeknights and weekends.
While there, it is easy to make small talk with the locals. Unless you are firmly anti-Israeli occupation, it is advisable that you do more listening than actual talking yourself, however. For the most part, Palestinians are glad to share their problems and plight to any western vistitors. However, do not force any topic.
Ramallah is the home of the Friends School in Palestine. The school has two campuses, one for grades 1-6 and is located near the old city. The other is for grades 7-12 and is located near the old police station destroyed by an Israeli air strike. The schools are famous for their international learning environment, intensive english language focus, and liberal learning atmosphere. The schools are private and have a number of notable Palestinian alumni.
The city also has a number of public and private schools that serve a good number of the West Bank youth population. Private schools with specific religious affiliations can also be found.
In the twin city of El-Bireh, there is also a school for the blind that also serves as a vocational center.
Birzeit University, which is in the neighboring town of Birzeit, is one of Palestine's leading educational institutions. The University offers a large number of study options and at different levels for students. It also has several links with international institutions, and often has a number of international students attending it. The city also has branches for Al-Quds Open University, which offers continuing education opportunities to many Palestinians. The PAS (Palestinian and Arab Studies) program is popular with internationals visiting or working in the West Bank who want to learn Arabic and take classes on the history and politics of Palestine.
There are a number of vocational training centers in the city, neighboring towns, and refugee camps.
jobs in Ramallah http://www.jobs.ps
Ramallah is a vibrant Palestinian business hub, especially as most international agencies and governmental offices are located in the city. However, with the immigration of Palestinians from other cities in the West Bank to Ramallah, there is a highly competitve job market.
Salaries in Ramallah are relatively higher than those in other West Bank cities due to the expensive lifestyle of the city.
Major working opportunities in Ramallah include information technology, pharmaceuticals, development cooperation, and the public sector. Restaurant and coffee shop jobs are also available, mainly during the summer. Agricultural jobs are minimal in the city, but a few can be sought in neighboring villages. one of the best resources for jobs in Ramallah is http://www.jobs.ps ,jobs.ps offers hundreds of jobs available in Ramallah,in addition to the career tools
The markets are highly penetrated by 'pirated' and 'fake' products. Therefore, it is advised that one is cautious when shopping in Ramallah, if the brand is of importance to shoppers. The city center has diverse markets and centers to shop for cloths, shoes, food, souvenirs, cosmetics, and others. Prices are moderate, but relatively expensive compared to other West Bank cities. More expensive and upscale shops are available in the Plaza shopping center in El-Bireh suburb of Balou'.
Eating should be no problem in Ramallah, regardless of the budget of visitors. There are a huge number of falafel and shawerma places on all of the main streets.
One good place to visit is the "Nazareth Restaurant" at the end of the main street, which is popular for locals and serves really great (but hummousey) falafel.
The Arabic variety of ice-cream in many places in Ramallah is worth trying - a very different and more gooey and sticky version of what is available in the west. Regular ice cream can be found everywhere also. Try "Rukab's" and "Baladna" ice cream shops on the main street.
You can also have a delicious dish of fresh fish or other seafood dishes at "Fish and Chips" resturanet located in the old city. You can choose your favourite fresh fish from Palestine Fishery and ask the chef to prepare that fish for you in the way you like. They also prepare very delicious fish sandwiches at resonable prices.
For those who want more American/Western food, there is a "Checkers" fast-food joint in the mini-mall and on the main street. There is also "Chicago Cheese Steak" on Manara Square. Try "Tomasso's" pizza for a nice pizza dine-in or take-out.
Ramallah offers a wide variety of coffeeshops ranging from the local low-scale ones serving Arabic Coffee for 2 NIS, to those fancy places serving the same item for 10 - 15 NIS. Try the Arabic drinks (arabic coffee, mint tea, sahleb, etc ), cappucinos and lattes, and fresh juices and cocktails at the numerous cafes around downtown and in the suburbs. Also try "European" and "Karameh" on main street.
A filling falafel or hummous pita sandwich with a drink should run you around 6 NIS (1.5 U$D) from any of the common downtown restaurants. At nicer restaurants, such a combination will run you a bit more. Make sure you order from Express Pizza (free delivery 2966566 ) voted best pizza in the city, with the best selection of pizza in palestine
A large Shawerma, Kebab, or Chicken sandwich goes for around 10 (2.5 U$D) in most restaurants. A hamburger, fries, and a drink go for around 15-25 NIS depending on the restaurant.
The city has a number of upscale restaurants. A nice steak or seafood dish will cost around 80 NIS (20 U$D). "Darna", "Angelo's", "Chinese House Restaurant", and "Pollo-Loco" are all nice options for upscale dining.
Although predominately Muslim, Ramallah's large restaurants usually serve alcohol. Expect a selection of imported beers (Heineken, Corona, etc.), spirits, and perhaps red or white wine. Do not display public intoxication, as at best, it is rude and inconsiderate to your Muslim hosts. At worst, it could be dangerous.
Popular local places to get served alcohol are Zan's, Zryiab, Stones, Angelo's, and Sangria's. They all serve food as well and the local Palestinian beer "Taybeh" (which can challenge most european beers).
Most neighborhoods, particularly tradionally Christian ones have a couple of stores that sell beer, wine and spirits.
Waterpipes are very common in Ramallah coffe shops and restaurants. The term 'Argila' is often used in Ramallah to describe the waterpipes, while 'Shishah' is also used at some places. Depending on the location and type of restaurant of cafe, the price of smoking a nice and soothing tobacco waterpipe costs anywhere between 8-30 NIS (2-8 U$D.) The cheapest places do have an unwritten men-only rule, however.
Cigarettes can be bought from most grocery shops and supermarkets. Most international brands can be found, in addition to locally produced ones. A pack of imported cigarettes costs around 15 NIS (4 U$D.)
Some older downtown hotel go for around 100-150 NIS (US$20-35).
Around 50 U$D will get you a nice room.
Generally speaking, Ramallah is safe for non-Israeli foreigners. The Palestinian residents are usually quite happy to have foreign nationals visit them. Theft is relatively rare, although do not interpret that statement as an OK to let your guard down.
Bear in mind that Ramallah has been under military occupation since 1967, and thus the city (As well as the rest of the West Bank) should be regarded as a conflict zone. Usually, Ramallah is relatively stable. However, at times the Israeli military enters the city, and there is sometimes trouble. This usually only happens in the dead of night, and they disappear before anyone realizes that they were there. However, the Israeli military occasionally enters Ramallah bluntly, and in large numbers. If this should happen while you are staying in Ramallah, do what the majority of Palestinians do, and stay inside, under cover. STAY OUT OF THE STREETS, and away from any soldiers or military vehicles. Do not assume that just because you are a foreign national that you are safe from being targeted.