Palestine: Shimmering old city of Nablus rekindles Ramadan magic while remembering its martyrs
This Ramadan, the old city of Nablus in the northern West Bank seems determined to rekindle the magical atmosphere of the blessed month, in spite of the suffering endured by its people over the past few months, in which they have mourned the deaths of nearly 40 Nablus residents, most of whom were members of the Lion's Den - a local armed resistance group.
The steadfastness of the city has been showcased by the younger generation, who have worked hard to decorate and brighten the neighbourhoods and alleys of Nablus with sparkling fairy lights and lanterns, in a bid to bring pleasure to the hearts of locals, as well as the visitors who will come from far and wide.
Palestinians: Like the phoenix
Osama Hirzallah's brother Mohammad Hirzallah was a fighter in the Lion's Den. He was killed by Israeli forces last November. Hirzallah says to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition: "Nablus and her old city have been bleeding since the Israeli occupation forces began their criminal assassination operations against the resistance fighters."
"The old city of Nablus in the northern West Bank seems determined to rekindle the magical atmosphere of the blessed month, in spite of the suffering endured by its people over the past few months"
He adds: "They were, and still are, difficult days which will not be forgotten. But the Palestinian people, like the phoenix which rises victorious from under the rubble, have always been able to overcome their sorrows and embrace life. Therefore, we use every national and Islamic celebration to sow joy, even if that joy is incomplete.
"My brother, and the martyrs before and after him, willed for us to keep walking in their footsteps and continuing to defend Nablus and its old city, and we will abide by these commandments to the letter, so Nablus will remain an unbreakable shield."
Hirzallah continues: "This can't happen unless we make sure the old city, with its ancient history stretching back thousands of years, remains an appealing destination for visitors and all those who love Nablus. And that won't happen unless we take care of it, adorn its streets, and encourage citizens to visit, especially in the 'generous month'."
Following in their footsteps
He explains that in the past, during Ramadan, his brother and his friends used to "pay special attention to the old city – they'd wash the alleyways, remove debris, paint the walls and put up decorative lights […], and this is what we do to follow in their footsteps and ensure that, even if they are no longer here in body, their legacy remains."
The week before Ramadan, residents of Nablus's old city launched a campaign to clean up the old city. Nablus Municipality, the Nablus Chamber of Commerce, the Nablus Businessmen Forum, An-Najah University and others took part in the initiative. Afterwards, the North Electricity company (headquartered in Nablus) installed the wiring and put up the fairy lights and lanterns, ready for Ramadan.
Atmosphere of resistance
Activist Anwar Mahroum says: "Every year in the run-up to Ramadan this scene repeats, however, this year, the [difference] is the atmosphere of national resistance which is the prevailing feeling."
"Those who picked up weapons in the face of the occupation and gave up their lives for the homeland were volunteering from an early age in different activities to make their city appear its most beautiful and dazzling… whether by volunteering to clean the streets or by distributing food parcels to the needy"
Mahroum adds: "I don't want to remember one name and miss another, however, those who picked up weapons in the face of the occupation and gave up their lives for the homeland were volunteering from an early age in different activities to make their city appear its most beautiful and dazzling… whether by volunteering to clean the streets or by distributing food parcels to the needy or other tasks. And when the homeland called on them to defend against the occupation's aggression, they didn't hesitate for one second."
Mahroum also brought attention to the programme of events known as "As-Souq Nazel" – a series of evening customs and festivities which is a tradition going back many years, and in which Nablus has made a name for itself. "However, the political situation and developments on the ground might impose themselves, in which case we wouldn't be able to hold these evening events for Ramadan – not while blood is flowing."
Mouthwatering Ramadan specialities
Ahmed Qutub owns a sweet shop in the old city, which specialises in the Ramadan dessert qatayef – spongy stuffed pancakes with unsalted local sheep's cheese or crushed nuts and sugar, fried or baked and drenched in sugary syrup. In the run-up to Ramadan, Qutub prepared by making sure all his cooking equipment was in good shape and recruiting extra hands to help out for the month. He says: "Life is different in Ramadan […]; it's the month of goodness and blessings. Also, the demand for qatayef doubles – it's one of the most popular desserts you'll see on the tables of those fasting in Palestine – so we prepare ourselves well for this season."
But Qutub remarks that rising prices could mean some are forced to go without some of the customary foods and items they would buy during Ramadan.
Close by Qutub's shop, Ghazi Saleh has been labouring night and day to get his popular restaurant ready for the first night of Ramadan. Saleh serves fresh hummus and falafel, as well as a selection of drinks popular during Ramadan, including tamarind, carob and lemon juice.
Saleh says he has been waiting for Ramadan "on tenterhooks, to increase my acts of worship and obedience, as well as to earn a halal income by selling Ramadan food and drinks."
Qutub and Saleh both acknowledge that Ramadan will be a sombre time this year, as dozens of families grieve for their sons who have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces or miss those languishing in Israel's prisons. However, the special joy of Ramadan's arrival remains, they say.
In a related context, Maha Eid (a borrowed name) runs a well-known "home kitchen" food order business. She decided to provide free iftar meals on the first day of Ramadan to the martyrs' families in her village and the neighbouring villages in an attempt to stand in solidarity with them and ease their distress, even slightly.
"Our hearts are broken for those who sacrificed their lives for our homeland… our only consolation is that they are now in the gardens of paradise"
"Our hearts are broken for those who sacrificed their lives for our homeland… our only consolation is that they are now in the gardens of paradise.
"However, anguish now dwells with their families, who will miss them around the iftar table, and I have nothing to offer these people except a hearty meal for each family. In this way, I ask God to have mercy on the martyrs and to comfort their families."
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.
Translated by Rose Chacko
This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.
Have questions or comments? Email us at: email@example.com