Tourism in West Bank, Palestine : The fastest growing tourist destination in world for 2017 is none other than Palestine, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which reports that in 2017 Palestine is on track to see a 57.8% rise in international tourism. This may seem surprising, media reports around the world tend to focus on the violence and ongoing occupation that has marred the lives of Palestinians for years. Nevertheless, visitors to West Bank, Palestine will see why so many have decided to make the once-in-a-lifetime journey. Here are some of the highlights that Palestine has to offer.
Undoubtedly the biggest attraction in Palestine is its historic capital Jerusalem. Al-Quds in Arabic, the city is holy to all three major Abrahamic religions, the holiest city in the world in Judaism and Christianity and third holiest (after Mecca and Medina) in Islam. The old city in East Jerusalem undoubtedly holds the most sights for history and religion lovers. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses what is believed by Christians to be the sight of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and his tomb, the Western Wall is the last remnant of the Second Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, and the Dome of the Rock on top of the Temple Mount is the site where Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven following his Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. One can easily see ‘the big three’ in one day and still have time in their journey to climb the Mount of Olives which gives a great view of the old city.
For those religiously inclined, Palestine holds numerous sights from Biblical times. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is centered around the Church of the Nativity, the oldest Church in the Holy Land built by the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, in 339 AD. The spot where Jesus is said to have been born is marked with white marble and usually surrounded by pilgrims. Interestingly the church itself hosts a collection of murals from congregations around the world each depicting the birth of Jesus reflected in their own culture. Jericho, believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world, is the site of the Old Testament battle in which the Israelites destroyed the city walls by blowing on a ram’s horn, although archeologists will tell you that they have not found evidence of such an event. The Mount of Temptation, where Jesus was said to have been tempted by the devil, is next to the archeological ruins, and is home to a monastery. Finally, in Hebron, the Ibrahim Mosque marks the tombs of some of the earliest monotheists: Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, along with their wives.
If you’re interested in more contemporary events there are plenty of sites which will give you an insight into the present conflict. In Bethlehem, the separation barrier which blocks Palestinians from Israel along the pre-1967 borders, encompasses the conflict in a nutshell. The wall itself is the source of much controversy and complaints from the Palestinians yet what you’ll probably notice most is the street art decorating it with messages of peace. Much of the art is quite well done, including that of the famous artist Banksy who has a gift shop and hotel nearby. In nearby Ramallah, the de facto political capital of Palestine, Yasser Arafat’s tomb lies in a mausoleum which is open to the public. The recently opened Palestine Museum in Ramallah will also give a good overview of the conflict, the history of Palestine, and the local culture.
Finally, maybe you just want to relax and not think too much on your vacation. If that’s the case then there is still plenty to do in Palestine. Although Palestine is landlocked you can still catch some sun and salt by visiting the Dead Sea outside of Jericho. The Dead Sea not only lies at the lowest point on earth, it also is also the saltiest large water body on the planet. Its unique properties make it nearly impossible for you to ‘swim’ in the traditional sense, but floating will relax you in a way that normal water cannot. If you’ve yet to travel to the Middle East, the souks, or traditional markets, you’ll find in Jerusalem, Old Hebron, and Bethlehem are a must see. Local crafts, spices, and keffiyehs are all displayed to be purchased. Haggling is a must. Lastly, Palestine is not cut off from the modern world. Ramallah is home to numerous Mexican restaurants and bars for a night out.
630,000 people are on track to visit West Bank, Palestine this year, they must know something! Join them and find out why Palestine is the fastest growing tourist destination in the world.