Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’

Guide to the Global Village ~ Palestine Pavilion!

January 11th, 2012 8 comments

Oh, how I love the Palestine Pavilion. Since I don’t visit my husband’s country often, I get my Palestine fix wherever I can.

If you are unfamiliar with the Global Village, it’s a shopping and cultural extravaganza located outside Dubai. It runs during the winter months and represents 26 countries and two continents. To find out more, see my post Dubai’s Global Village ~ Where the World Comes together.

Granted, the Palestine Pavilion used to be bigger and better in the past. Sadly, the pottery vendor stopped coming several years back. Likewise, the thob (hand-embroidered caftan) seller from Jerusalem no longer comes.

Alas, nothing stays the same!

What most visitors to the GV don’t realize is that it’s a great expense for vendors to come and sell their wares here. A large sum is required to rent a stall. If vendors come from outside Dubai, they must stay in hotels and pay for daily transportation. Some vendors simply cannot turn over a profit. On top of that, it can be quite complicated for those from Gaza and the West Bank to get their goods to Dubai.

And yet. There are still Palestinian vendors who make it. Many of them sell foodstuff, like these jokesters below.

For me, a visit to the Palestine pavilion has become food-shopping event. This year I bought delicious olive oil from Palestine, homemade strawberry jam, sumac and zataar (spices), pomegranate syrup, pickled eggplant, nuts and seeds. Here’s the nut vendor who insisted to give me complimentary sweets when he found out my Palestinian ties.

And I tasted a lot of samples of cheese in pita bread. A lot.

I also bought maftool, the large couscous pictured below in jars (whole wheat and regular).  In the US, this is sold and labeled as “Israeli couscous.” However, please note that this type of large couscous is actually Palestinian, as Palestinians were making it by hand before the state of Israel was invented.

As usual, the Palestine Pavilion includes items carved out of olive wood “from the Holy Land.”—mostly rosary beads, nativity scenes, ornaments, crosses, etc. These are the typical items sold in Bethlehem and the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem.

 Meanwhile, vendors here still sell Palestinian embroidery, typically red cross-stich on black, but also other colors and variations. Over the years, I have bought many hand-stitched dresses for my daughter at the Global Village—the iconic Palestinian thob. One year I bought a thob for myself—every inch hand-stitched, straight from Jerusalem. I love that thob.

Below is a sample of what is for sale this year.

Not surprisingly, it seems there is a gradual trend toward machine-stitching. While there are hand-stitched pillow covers for sale here, it seems that the floor-length caftans are mostly (if not all) machine-stitched. Again, nothing stays the same!

One thing we do every year is load up on patriotic accessories for my children to wear on International Day at their school. (All the nationalities do it!) This year my kids bought t-shirts, hats and scarves from this stall.

Finally, I caught the Palestinian cultural show inside the pavilion. It was a dramatic stage performance with dance. Even though I understood  only a little of the dialogue, I enjoyed the music, dance and costumes.

If you’d like to know more about the Global Village see my posts: The Yemen Pavilion, The Iraq Pavilion, The Africa Pavilion, and The Turkey Pavilion.

What is your favorite thing to buy at the Global Village?

My Favorite Book by a Palestinian Writer

June 10th, 2011 Comments off

My favorite book by a Palestinian writer happens to be one of my favorite memoirs: IN SEARCH OF FATIMA by Ghada Karmi.

I first heard Karmi in a BBC radio interview, part of the series “Living in an Alien culture.” In her interview, she relates her lifelong quest for cultural identity–first as an Arab schoolgirl in London trying to assimilate, later as the wife of an Englishman, and finally as a Arab-English woman who returns to the Arab World as a physician and activist. I was riveted to Karmi’s story and to her beautifully written book.

Her memoir spans fifty years of Karmi’s life, from the 1940s through the 1990s. The story begins in Jerusalem where her family is driven from their home soon after the nakba (catastrophe) in 1948. Karmi, her two older siblings and her parents end up in London, where Karmi’s father takes a job with the BBC Arabic Service and where her mother lives as a tragically displaced refugee. Much of the book takes place in London, where the family longs for home and each family member copes in a different way.

Karmi copes by taking on an English identity, so much that she marries an Englishman whom she meets in medical school. However, soon the Six Day War of 1967 shocks the Arab World and creates great turmoil in Karmi’s life. Feeling alienated by the pro-Israel sentiment around her, she suffers an identity crisis which results in the end of her marriage.

Karmi’s story culminates in her return to Jerusalem in 1998, when at last she seeks to find her childhood home that she was forced to leave in 1948. This was the part of the book where I found myself glued to the page, staying up late in the night to see what would happen.

Those familiar with Palestinian history know that this is a common narrative: Palestinians driven into exile, attempts to resist, and a return to see (and mourn over) the family home. What’s different here is that the story is told by a woman, one from a well-to-do educated family. Also, Karmi uses exquisite detail to describe their unique privileged life in Jerusalem and their exile to London.

By weaving together Palestinian history with her personal family story, Karmi presents a Palestinian perspective that rarely reaches the mainstream. This memoir was published in 2002, but is as relevant as ever. I recommend it to anyone interested in memoir, cultural identity or the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Ghada Karmi is also the author of the book MARRIED TO ANOTHER MAN.

Heading to Mecca, Thinking of Jerusalem

April 19th, 2011 8 comments

As I prepare for my family’s upcoming Umrah trip, my mind keeps going back to another journey—our last trip as a family to the holy city of Jerusalem. It was April, 2008, and the trip had its own unique set of challenges and circumstances.

As it becomes increasingly difficult for families like ours—with Palestinian roots—to visit Jerusalem, my memories of this trip take on even more significance. Below is something I wrote after I took that trip.


Due to the political conflict, my family had put off a trip to Jerusalem for years. At last, we decided to do it. I would return to the Old City, so magical and meaningful to me, and my husband would visit his family after nearly a decade. Our children (ages 12, 9 and 6 at the time) were excited to see their father’s country, but scared to visit this place so associated with conflict and violence.

They had a rough idea of our family history: their mother, a girl from Washington State, travelled to Palestine and snatched up their father, a boy from Bethlehem. They fell in love and were married in Jerusalem.

Two decades and three kids later, we flew from our home in Dubai to Amman, Jordan and drove to the dreaded border. Living in the Middle East and being half-Palestinian, our children had gleaned the view that Israel was The Enemy. We coached them on how to behave at the border. Stay quiet and keep your political opinions to yourselves.

A soldier questioned us at length but chatted with our children. My nine-year-old daughter asked me if he were Israeli. I told her that he was. Eventually the Israeli soldier allowed us to enter.

As we drove through the Palestinian countryside, my daughter announced, “Some Israelis are nice.” My husband rolled his eyes, but I was secretly glad their first encounter wasn’t scary.

After a tour of Bethlehem, my husband’s hometown, we were impatient to get to Jerusalem. The journey now required passage through a military checkpoint and the infamous Wall of Separation, dividing Israel from the West Bank. I had seen photos, but its vertical cement slabs were much uglier and more daunting in real life.

To cross, we passed through metal detectors and stood in tedious lines in caged corridors. Afterwards, the bus ride to Jerusalem was solemn. When the ancient stone ramparts of the Old City came into view, we all took in its beauty. A wall of a different sort, these ramparts enclose the Old City and its four quarters – Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian.

With the worn cobblestones beneath our feet, we walked amongst the extraordinary mix of people that make up Jerusalem: monks, nuns, orthodox Jews, Muslim and Christian residents, as well as tourists and pilgrims of three faiths.

Our own pilgrimage was to the Dome of the Rock. Covered in intricate blue tiles, it’s the third holiest mosque in Islam. Around it, the Temple Mount is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. We discussed the significance of the mosque. My husband and I reminded our children that the mosque was where we were married, a fact our youngest son wouldn’t accept. “No way!” he said.

Yes, way.

We took multiple trips around Jerusalem that week. We made it to all four quarters and ate kanafe pastry at Al Jaffar & Sons Pasty shop. We toured the Old City, as well as the New City.

Our oldest son, almost 13 at the time, had a bagel and lox at The Holy Bagel, allowing him a tiny taste of the other side of this conflicted country. While walking along Ben Yehuda Street, he asked me, “So, these are the Israelis?”

I told him yes and asked him what he thought.

He said, “They look like us.”