How to Avoid Getting Lost In Hebron, Palestine : As you do whenever you visit a new city, you download the Google Map of Hebron or West Bank before your flight departs. Before you leave you notice that the map is a little sparsely populated compared to cities like Cairo and Rabat. When you arrive at the men’s dorm you take a closer look and realize that there are few of the usual markers: supermarkets, restaurants, pharmacies etc. You look for a nearby grocery store to pick up some food, clicking on one gives you pictures of the storefront which reveals that the store in fact sells microwaves and refrigerators, not groceries. Another store you click on gives you a picture of a car with the hood pulled up to reveal the engine and a selfie of a Palestinian man.
For whatever reason Google Maps wasn’t much of an option in Hebron. Adding to visitors struggles with geographical awareness is that street addresses aren’t really a thing in Hebron. Streets have names, Ein Sarah, El-Salam, etc. But exact addresses and numbers don’t exist, meaning you can’t simply give an address to your taxi driver.
This may be a slight hurdle to overcome, but it’s not a big one. People have been traveling for centuries without the aid of Google Maps, if they can do it so can you. One simple tip to keep your bearings is to establish a base from which you know how to get home. The Excellence Center is a good spot to remember, it’s right next to the Hussein Ben Ali Stadium which everyone in the city knows of, and it’s a short walk from the men’s dorm and the city center. Moreover, everyone in town, including all the taxi drivers, know where the Excellence Center is, so if you’re ever lost just ask for directions to the center and whoever you’re talking to will point you in the right direction.
Even if it lacks exact addresses and markers Google Maps is equipped with GPS and is still very useful. Perhaps you noticed while you were at your apartment that your GPS location was parallel to a pizza shop listed on Google Maps. Whenever you go out for a walk on the streets and get disoriented, you can just look at your GPS location and make your way back to the pizza shop.
Another tip, which is useful no matter where you travel, is to have a phone on your person in case of emergencies or getting lost. Depending on your provider, that could mean setting up a travel plan on your phone or it could mean buying one of the cheap Nokia throwaway phones that can be found on every street corner of Hebron. The staff at the Excellence Center will be happy to give you their phone numbers and will answer day or night in case of emergencies.
Finally, if you choose (as you should) to explore the Old City you’ll likely find yourself discombobulated in the labyrinth or narrow passageways and alleys. Just remember, the Old City is relatively small, so there is no way you can end up say, on the other end of the city. Where ever you pop out you’ll find people who will be more than happy to direct you to your destination. If all else fails GPS your location, hail a taxi to the Excellence Center, or call the staff for directions.
Navigating a new city is always challenging and Hebron is no exception. But the few simple tips listed above and keep you oriented and make sure that you find your way back home after an afternoon of exploring.