When I first heard that some friends of mine were heading to Palestine, I remember being quite surprised – with all the negative news coverage around, I had assumed it was a dangerous place to be, certainly not advisable for travelling around! However, as their awe-inspiring stories and photos showed when they returned, it was the experience of a lifetime, and one I desperately wanted to share.
My chance has finally come around and I am signed up to do a very similar trip to what they did very soon, a mixture of touring, volunteering, education and sightseeing – a Zyara to Palestine. The trip will take in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Lydd, Ramla, Haifa, Nazareth, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem, Deir Istiya, Ramallah, Birzeit, Bethlehem, Hebron, Beit Ommar and Jericho (although this is flexible and the itinerary is subject to change!)
I had planned to do plenty of research beforehand so that I was not just an ignorant spectator travelling through, but an informed witness with an opinion, however in the end I have decided to leave the reading for after the trip, and go with an open mind, able to absorb everything I see and hear without the shadows of preconception.
I have bought a new camera to capture the once-in-a-lifetime trip – a semi-pro Sony DSC-HX200V which I hope I can get up to speed with quickly! I will also be buying a replacement holdall with wheels on one end rather than using a suitcase (my last one was pretty trashed after being carted around Jordan and then India!)
So now, with a week to go, all that is left is to pack… I am trying to pack light but the pile seems to be unnecessarily large! Some thin long-sleeve tops (short sleeves and vest tops are apparently ok in most places, but there are some conservative areas where respect needs to be shown) along with a mixture of jeans, combat trousers, long and knee-length skirts. A bandana, sunglasses, scarf, day-bag/backpack, first aid kit, credit cards and suncream are obvious necessities, I’ve also got a thin trekking towel and sarong, and a cheap sleeping bag which I can leave behind when I return (some places we stay in hotels, but others will be on the floors/sofas of local people’s homes!) Apparently a good insect repellant is a must, as the mosquitos are relentless, and of course all the camera and Blackberry chargers and 2 pin socket adapters. I’ve opted for trainers rather than walking shoes as they will be lighter to carry and we are not doing any intense hiking, these will join the flip-flops. I’ve also been advised to take a swimming costume for swimming in the sea, although with the thin blood I have developed living in the Middle East, I’m not sure I’ll brave those chilly waters!! With this in mind, I’ll also be taking cardigans and pashminas as the evenings can be fairly cool.
Of course I can’t do the packing without the bag, so will have to put it off for another day (only 6 of them left now though!!) in the meantime I need to make sure I unlock my phone for roaming – rest assured that I will be tweeting our adventures everyday (and blogging a substantial post and pictures on my return)! Wish me luck!!