I now class Ramallah as my second home. To think I was only supposed to spending 4 days there, I spent the majority of my time living there.
I booked Hostel in Ramallah for one night, waiting for a permit to arrive. The hostel was very kind to provide detailed instructions on how to get to the hostel. I took a shuttle bus to Damascus Gate, then a coach to Ramallah then a taxi to the hostel. Usually, I try and walk to my accommodation as long as it is pretty central, but the tired soul within me said just get a taxi.
My first day in Ramallah resulted in a frantic ‘what is happening’, a tired and hungry Shehla resulted in meeting with someone in the team who showed me around. I then sat at a restaurant and ate Palestinian bread and white cheese. I found it challenging to find places that accept card payment. My next stop was to find coffee (and cake). I walked all around central Ramallah and found ‘Brunch’ where I asked a million questions ‘Is there wi-fi’, ‘do you serve coffee’,’ can I pay by card?’, ‘Cake, is there any cake?’. A resounding yes, apart from the cake. I just needed somewhere to gather my thoughts, remain calm and focus. 10 minutes later there was Khalid, the owner who reached out and asked what cake I would like. I was already overwhelmed but couldn’t put into words how amazing the Palestinian hospitality is.
The next day I delivered some workshops and then watched the sunset from an office window. I knew there were some hidden gems to view and the next day I was shown some local hotspots. I took a few snaps at the Nelson Mandela statue, there are two in the world one in South Africa and the second in Ramallah, Palestine.
I enjoyed some local cuisine, when travelling I usually struggle to find food I can have. Not in Palestine, as everything is halal.
The best thing I could have been introduced to is Kunafa, as someone who has a sweet tooth I usually go for crepes. I’ve been swayed and have to admit I ate this every day (what calories?).
The best thing about travelling with locals is you are introduced to those not so touristy places. I was able to experience the best ice-cream places, Kunafa (again and again), cafes and so much more. The hospitality in Palestine is like no other, I can’t thank the people I worked with enough, those I met along the way and to business owners who may have noticed my hungry face and threw in a biscuit or two.
As I didn’t have my usual cameras with me, there was less pressure about chasing the perfect image. Instead, I took as much time as I could with locals, learning about history and fully embracing myself.
Before leaving I did think, how would I survive as an introvert (who speaks for a living) without my cameras as it was something I had to focus on. Lesson to myself, you can survive and embrace travel again.