Rediscovering Roots

First trip to Jerusalem in 13 years. First time I'm documenting it. Rediscovering and immersing myself in the beautiful & conflicted country that has made me who I am. Jerusalem, Palestine through the lens of Samah Assad and her Nikon D3100.


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Ma’a Salama, Goodbye - View of our village Beit Hanina behind our home in East Jerusalem right as the skies begin to dim to night. Unfortunately, tonight is my last night in this breathtaking country — my home. And as much as it hurts me to say goodbye, I’ve promised myself it’s only for now, which makes it a bit easier to leave this place.
One month is not enough time to capture Palestine’s beauty, and one thing is for sure — I will never again let 13 years pass before my next visit. Inshallah I will be back within the year to continue rediscovering my roots and take you all through my journey once again. 
Although I will be settled back into the U.S. by Monday night, I will continue to post photos from my trip afterward as there are hundreds I have yet to share. Within the next few days I also plan on writing up a reflection of my trip — how the country’s changed since my last visit, people/places/events I’ve witnessed, what I’ve learned and what my vacation has confirmed for me.
I wanted to thank everyone who has reblogged, liked, or shared my work so far in any way, as well as followed me on my trip! Al-hamdullah I’ve gotten a lot of feedback and support, which I greatly appreciate from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to continuing this blog…peace! :)

Ma’a Salama, Goodbye - View of our village Beit Hanina behind our home in East Jerusalem right as the skies begin to dim to night. Unfortunately, tonight is my last night in this breathtaking country — my home. And as much as it hurts me to say goodbye, I’ve promised myself it’s only for now, which makes it a bit easier to leave this place.

One month is not enough time to capture Palestine’s beauty, and one thing is for sure — I will never again let 13 years pass before my next visit. Inshallah I will be back within the year to continue rediscovering my roots and take you all through my journey once again. 

Although I will be settled back into the U.S. by Monday night, I will continue to post photos from my trip afterward as there are hundreds I have yet to share. Within the next few days I also plan on writing up a reflection of my trip — how the country’s changed since my last visit, people/places/events I’ve witnessed, what I’ve learned and what my vacation has confirmed for me.

I wanted to thank everyone who has reblogged, liked, or shared my work so far in any way, as well as followed me on my trip! Al-hamdullah I’ve gotten a lot of feedback and support, which I greatly appreciate from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to continuing this blog…peace! :)

World’s Best Knafeh — Nablus is praised for its mouth-watering cuisine, and specifically, it’s pegged as home to the best knafeh in the world. In 2009, Nablus set the Guinness record for the world’s largest knafeh, weighing in at 1,350 kg. So we couldn’t leave without grabbing a bite of the popular Middle Eastern pastry.

We stopped by Abu Zanat, a small pastry restaurant hidden in a cozy, cave-like nook. Made from flaky filo dough mixed with syrup and orange blossom water, the sweet, cheese-filled treat had a crispy crust topped with pine nuts, contrasting the soft, cheesy center. To say the knafeh was heavenly would be an understatement. By far the best I’ve ever had.

At the restaurant, we met a couple from Sweden that told us they were visiting Nablus to experience the Middle Eastern and culinary culture. I learned that people are willing to travel countless miles to taste the world-best, authentic dessert. We drove more than an hour and a half from Beit Hanina to experience it, and I’m so glad we did. 

Ancient Nablus — Almost 2,000 years old, the city of Nablus, Palestine may have an aged exterior, but within the city is a busy commercial and cultural center flooded with restaurants, markets and malls.

Nablus is renowned as a city at the height of Palestinian culture, more so than others, because of its high class cuisine and flourishing, traditional marketplace. 

Top photos show the ancient city’s unique exterior and streets, as the main roads lead to the very mountains the city is situated on. Nablus’ markets weave under the hills, almost as if the stores are underground. Shown in the last photo, rows of shoes along with hanging clothes and scarves are displayed in an “underground” market. I noticed that many who run these stands are children no older than 10 years old. 

Sky of Nablus — Sama Nablus (Sky of Nablus), a park that rests on a high hill of Nablus, Palestine, overlooks almost the entire mountainous city. 

The breathtaking view shown a magnificent city, and at a height I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around. The city sits on top of Mount Ebal (3,084 feet) and Mount Gerizim (2,849 feet) — hills so colossal that when you stretch your arms up, it feels like you’re able to touch the indigo-lit sky. 

Rows upon rows of homes piled like dominoes, tucked underneath and atop each other within the mountains’ crevices. Buildings sat on uneven, slanted land, but stood so firmly as if the harshest winds couldn’t shake them. Mosques peeked through green forests in which winding roads snaked through effortlessly.

And to physically be above it all — to see the skies of Nablus float over the city? Euphoria.

Hued — Never have I seen more colorful streets than those of Bethlehem, Palestine. Simple things like the architecture, windows, vendors’ merchandise, garage doors — all brightly hued, contrasting one another, with a luster that matches the city’s light atmosphere and welcoming people. 

Hide and Seek — A Palestinian child peers out of his house window in the village of Beit Hanina, Palestine. I noticed he was discreetly gazing — half of his body hidden by the window with his head poking out — at passersby on the street, kids kicking a soccer ball on the sidewalk, crowds of people pouring into the falafel shop next door.
When he saw me raise my camera to snap a photo of him, he quickly submerged in the darkness of his home. I began to walk away but something told me to look back. When I did, the boy had re-emerged outside of the window, stared in my direction and flashed me a big smirk. 

Hide and Seek — A Palestinian child peers out of his house window in the village of Beit Hanina, Palestine. I noticed he was discreetly gazing — half of his body hidden by the window with his head poking out — at passersby on the street, kids kicking a soccer ball on the sidewalk, crowds of people pouring into the falafel shop next door.

When he saw me raise my camera to snap a photo of him, he quickly submerged in the darkness of his home. I began to walk away but something told me to look back. When I did, the boy had re-emerged outside of the window, stared in my direction and flashed me a big smirk. 

Dabke Dance —A group of Palestinian dancers perform dabke, a traditional Arab folk dance, at my family member’s wedding in Ramallah, Palestine. Well-known in the city for performing at Arab weddings and special occasions, the dancers wore Palestinian flag-themed outfits and stepped to patriotic Palestinian songs. The dancer with the microphone hyped up attendees by continuously urging the crowd to “Clap for Palestine!”

According to an Arab folklore, the stomping line dance originated in the Levant region where roofs were built of wood, straw and dirt thousands of years ago. To compact the roof evenly, it had to be stomped on, and Arabs began creating rhythmic songs while stomping to make the work more fun.

Dabke is a large part of Arab culture and represents the unity of people through rhythm and music. It’s considered a form of artistic expression and pride of one’s country through dance.

(Video captured with iPhone.)

Mohammed Assaf: The Pride of Palestine —

Hundreds and hundreds of Palestinians flooded the streets of Ramallah, Palestine to watch Mohammed Assaf be crowned 2013’s Arab Idol on a big screen TV in the marketplace.

The streets were completely filled that many straddled the rooftops of homes, shops and restaurants to catch the finale. Cheers and chants of “Assaf! Assaf!” and “Long Live Palestine!” pierced the air. Many young men and women waved Palestinian flags outside of their cars as they blared Assaf’s Arab Idol performances from their speakers.

Assaf, a 23-year-old Gaza Strip refugee camp native, has been a symbol of Palestinian solidarity and peace, from his initial hardships to his final victory. He has unified Palestinians in an occupied country and brought awareness to their struggles through supporting the Palestinian cause with his music. 

Assaf helped put Palestine — a country that has time and time again been dismissed as occupied, meaningless land — back on the map, proving we are a true race and country. The hope, pride and strength of the Palestinians that he carries echoes through his voice.

And we all feel it in our hearts. 

Day to Night - Today, I watched the sun melt into the sea. A photo compilation of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Palestine captured from mid-day to sundown.

So beautiful how the sun may have been setting and calling for the night, but at times, it lit the sky up as if it were rising in the morning. 

Damascus Gate - Bab al-Amud, also referred to as Damascus Gate, serves as the main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem, including its homes of worship and bustling Arab bazaar. Built in the 1500s, Bab al-Amud is Arabic for “Gate of the Column,” signifying the tall pillar that stood in the gate’s plaza during the Byzantine and Roman period.