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Palestine FlagRamallah, Palestine

Capital of the Occupied West Bank

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Location

Ramallah, the administrative capital of the West Bank, is located about 16 lm north of Jerusalem, at an altitude of 900m (2925 ft) above sea level, on the crest of the West Bank mountain range. Lacking either the historical or religious significance of other West Bank towns, and well known for its cool climate and pollution-free air, Ramallah has become the commercial heart of modern Palestine. This is the home of Palestine's first nightclub, its only brewery and many of its finest restaurants. It is also a cultural amd media centre. Since 1994 Palestine TV has broadcast from here.

Climate

The altitude moderates the climate. Summer is much cooler here than in the surrounding region. Winter sees several snow storms per year, making for treacherous driving up and down the steep hills and winding roads. Before 1967 Ramallah was popular as a summer resort for Arabs from Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf Region.

History

During the twelfth century, French Crusaders built a fort here. The remains of the Crusader tower, known as Al-Tira, still exist in the old section of town, northwest of the center of the modern city. The Crusaders also built a small church here. It was later converted into a Mosque. Today the New Mosque, built in 1960, stands on this site, next to the Jerusalem road. There are also a few remaining fragments from the earlier Hellenic and Byzantine periods.

Al-Bireh, Ramallah's twin sity, was founded around 3500 BC by the Canaanites. Legend says Mary and Joseph stopped in Al-Bireh on their way to home to Nazareth after becoming separated from 12 year old Jesus in the crowd. They returned to Jerusalem to find Him praying in the Temple. A crusader Church known as the Church of the Holy Family was built here to mark the event. Unfortunately, this wonderful story cannot be substantiated by anything in the Bible. Al-Bireh was the centre of an administrative district in Crusader times. The Crusader Church, destroyed by Salah Al-din in 1187, is now only a ruin.

Modern Ramallah, built on the site of the old Canaanite village, is thought to have been settled in approximately 1550 by Christians fleeing from what is now Jordan. Although one of the least militant towns in the West Bank, Ramallah has had its share of resistance to Israel's occupation. In December 1995 it was transferred to PNA (Palestinian National Authority) jurisdiction. Since then it has been invaded, reoccupied and placed under 24/7 curfew by the Israel Defence Force (IDF) on several occasions.

Before the 2nd Intifada started, Ramallah was an ideal base from which to explore the West Bank. Now that the Israeli checkpoints, settler roads, and the Wall have cut the city off from the surrounding countryside and neighbouring villages, this is no longer the case.

Shopping

Ramallah is a good place to shop for gold jewellery. There are many well-stocked shops in the downtown core. The prices are lower than those in Jerusalem or Bethlehem, because there are very few tourists. Prices are based on weight, so ask for the price of gold per gram. Some shop keepers can be persuaded to bargain a bit if one is purchasing more than one item. Sometimes one can get a discount if purchasing in cash (US$, Euros, Israeli Shekels and Jordanian Dinar are accepted at various establishments). It is always a good idea to do some comparison shopping before you decide to buy.

Ramallah has some good restaurants. During our stay, the best Pizza in the region was served at a tiny restaurant called Angelos. Angelo's Restaurant is located on Rukab Street and is open every day from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Rukab's Ice Cream Parlour on the main street is another favourite place.

embroidered purses For excellent examples of local embroidery, visit the Palestinian Embroidery Workshop at the Catholic Melkite Center. The Center began in 1988 as a response to the desperate need of families at the outbreak of the first Intifada. it was soon employing over 400 women. The Center provides materials and patterns to women in the surrounding villages. These women had suddenly been forced to become breadwinners, as their husbands, fathers and sons were imprisoned, disabled, deported. Since the outbreak of the second Intifada, difficulty in getting the products out of the West Bank has cut sales, thereby reducing the number of workers to 300 very part-time. Sunbula, at St Andrew's Scottish Church in Jerusalem, sells these products which are brought out by foreign volunteers.

For the tourist, there is little else of interest in Ramallah and its neighbouring town of Al-Bira other than the small folklore museum run by the Inash al-Usra Society (call 02-240-1123/240-2876 or email usra@palnet.com to arrange a visit).

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Photos of Ramallah

To view any photo at full size, click on the photo with the right mouse button.
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Ramallah residential neighbourhood

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Ramallah residential neighbourhood

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Ramallah residential neighbourhood

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Ramallah residential neighbourhood

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Ramallah residential neighbourhood

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Ramallah downtown

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Ramallah downtown

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Ramallah downtown

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Ramallah downtown

To see photos of
Ramallah under Israeli occupation in April 2002,
click on the link.

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Click the links to see the other pages in the Palestine section.

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Patti

This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

Contact me at: patti.primeau@sympatico.ca

This site was edited using Nvu and Style Master.

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