Each year millions of foreign tourists come to visit Palestine. According to Ma’an website, in 2010 an estimated 2.7 million tourists came here, with an estimated 600,000 staying in West Bank hotels in 2012. The type of foreigner in Palestine varies from tourists who just want to visit for 1 or 2 days, to foreigners who live and work here permanently.
If you are thinking of coming to Palestine, rest assured that most Palestinians are accustomed to seeing and meeting foreigners, and will welcome you to their country. When walking down the street, even if you have been here for 2 or 3 months, you will hear “welcome to Palestine” from the locals, who enjoy practicing their English with you. If you know even a little bit of Arabic, you can pleasantly surprise the locals by replying to them.
In Palestinian towns and cities that are of interest you will find good, cheap transport links, mainly using the yellow “service” cars, with 7 or 8 seats. You will also find hotels and hostels in these places, or you may even be randomly welcomed into a Palestinian’s family home to stay, as Palestinians are particularly hospitable. Palestine is geared up for tourists and you will be greatly welcomed here.
There are various motivation for tourists and travelers to include Palestine on their journey. Generally these motives fall into two categories, to experience the culture and landscape of Palestine, and to experience what day to day life is like for Palestinians.
The fascinating history of the region of Palestine spans over thousands of years. This includes the city of Jericho, which is believed to be the oldest city in the world, dating back 11,000 years. Other well-known places such as Bethlehem, Hebron and Jerusalem are of interest for the type of person who wants to experience classic tourist sites and take photos of iconic landmarks. Travelers will also see the incredible landscapes of Palestine, such as the arid rolling hills heading down towards the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordon beyond, or the dramatic olive filled valleys between Ramallah and Nablus.
The other main reason travelers want to come to Palestine is to get a greater understanding of the political conflict that has lasted over 70 years. To witness the effects of the Israeli Occupation first hand creates a personal experience of what is happening on the ground in Palestine. Palestinians are usually very open about the experiences of how their lives have been affected by the Israeli Occupation, and this gives another perspective of the conflict that you do not otherwise hear about. This helps create awareness of the situation among the international community, which many believe is the first step towards peace in the region.
Finally, tourists and volunteers come to Palestine to immerse themselves in Arabic culture and learn Arabic. The Middle Eastern culture is so different from Western culture, it’s interesting to experience this change, and what better place to do it than the “Middle of the Middle East”. There are so many volunteering opportunities to get involved with in different cities around Palestine.