Ramallah is a fascinating urban centre for all visitors interested in political and social issues, since many institutions of Palestinian government and non-governmental organizations and diplomatic missions are based here. An effervescent cultural scene contributes to Ramallah’s truly unique atmosphere. Today, Ramallah is seen as the cultural and political centre ofPalestine.
With its lively town center, museums, art galleries, theatres, parks, a booming restaurant scene and a bustling nightlife, Ramallah is a fast-growing cosmopolitan town.
Berot – Al-Bireh
Ramallah’s twin-city, al-Bireh, was first built by the Canaanites around 3500 BC. According to Christian tradition, Joseph and Mary rested in al-Bireh on their way fromJerusalemtoGalileewhen they discovered that Jesus was missing. A Crusader church, known as the church of the Holy family, marks the spot where they stopped.
Ein Kenya Nature Reserve
A beautiful nature reserve 7-km northwest of Ramallah, EinKenyais named after its natural springs. A variety of wild plants, birds, and animals make EinKenyaa great place for walks, picnics and hiking.
Located at the southern entrance of al-Bireh, Tell al-Nasbah is an important Bronze Age site. Visible ruins include a gate dating back to the ninth century BC, a massive wall, the remains of a Byzantine church, and an Ottoman Khan. Tell al-Nasbah is believed to be the site where Saul was crowned king.
Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE)
This association organizes tours to sites of archeological and historical interest as well as urban and rural areas in theWest Bankand Gaza Strip. The main focus is on the daily life of Palestinians, the customary alternative tourism approach. Individuals can join PACE tours offered on its weekly calendar.
Address: Near the al-Ain Mosque. Tel: 02-240 7610, http://www.planet.edu/pace
Beitin is an ancient village located on the outskirts of al Bireh. Habitation in Beitin dates back to prehistoric times, and excavations have uncovered flint tools, pottery and animal bones dating back to the 5th century BC.
An old tower, known as thetowerofBeitinis believed to be the site where Abraham, on his way fromHebrontoNablus, built an altar. It is also believed to be the site where Jacob dreamt of a ladder reaching up to Heaven.
Beitin was a prosperous town during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. The remains of a Hellenistic tower and a Byzantine monastery are still visible.
Nebi Samwil – Prophet Samuel
Located 120km southwest of Ramallah, Nabi Samwil is the traditional site of Prophet Samuel’s Tomb. Holy to Christians, Muslims, and Jews, the site consists of a large turreted building and a cellar with the cloth-covered tomb of Samuel. The mountain top village, also called Nabi Samuel, is built around a mosque whose minaret offers an extensive view of the hills ofJerusalem.
Located a few kilometers north of Nabi Samwil, the picturesque village of al-Jib is the site of the Biblical city ofGibeon. In the seventh century,Gibeonwas a prosperous wine-producing city. Excavations in the area have uncovered 63 wine cellars, each capable of storing 42 large barrels of wine. Other interesting excavations include a well-preserved ancient water system.
Located 20 km north of Ramallah, Birzeit’s fame is due toBirzeitUniversity. Founded in 1924, Birzeit is the largest and most important university in theWest Bank.
Located near Birzeit, Jifna is a small scenic village that was once an important Roman-Byzantine city. Previously known as Gophna of Josephus, Jifna was a regional capital during the first century AD.
Today, Jifna is a popular summer resort, offering a variety of fine out-door restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
Taybeh is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as Ophra and, in the New Testament, as Ephraim. Today, the villagers are particularly proud of the Christian tradition that identifies Taybeh (Ephraim) as the place where Jesus chose to stay with his disciples on the night before his Passion (John 11:54). The villagers even claim to have perpetuated Christianity from its early roots here.
The al-Khader church, originally Byzantine, then rebuilt by the Crusaders, was abandoned at the end of the Crusader occupation.
The Taybeh Beer Brewing Company is the only beer company in the Middle East. Taybeh beer (taybeh means “delicious” in Arabic) is a high quality natural beer, and is found in all Palestinian cafés serving alcohol.
Wadi Natuf & Shaquba Caves
The Shaquba Cave lies east of the presentvillageofShaquba, in the western part ofJerusalemhills, approximately 20 kmnorth westof Ramallah.
Shaquba cave is one of the largest prehistoric caves inPalestine, located on the right bank of Wadi en-Natuf.
The discovery an cgaracterisation of the Natugian culture at Shuqba cave marked a major step forward in understanding early human history in the region, and much work throughout south west Asia stemmed from them.