During September through November, my daughters and I spent three months abroad in Palestine. It wasn’t anything I’ve ever done before, but I was appreciative of the opportunity and excited about the adventure. It would be Zaynab’s first time ever visiting there. During this past year, she traveled around the world to many amazing new places. While in Palestine, we stayed with my in-laws living in Jenin for majority of the time. Every couple of weeks or so, we’d get the opportunity to visit my sister living closer to Jerusalem, an hour and a half away. Exploring the old city of Jerusalem is one of my favorite things to do, so I was incredibly eager to share that experience with Z for the first time. Adventure awaits!
Bus to Jerusalem
From my family’s town of Beit Hanina, we hopped onto the bus to Jerusalem. It was Zaynab’s first time ever riding on a bus. She was so happy to be holding her little bus tickets. She held them during the entire bus ride, careful not to drop them.
Of the seven gates, our preferred entrance into the old city of Jerusalem is through the Damascus Gate. On Fridays it’s bustling with kiosks and people.
My very first stop is at a falafel and shawarma shop that stands between the fork in the road. Shawarma is seasoned meat (chicken, beef, or lamb) that’s cooked on a spit. Wrapped in pita or lavash and filled with tomatoes, pickles, and tahini sauce. This place sells my absolute fave shawarma in the whole world.
Exploring by foot
The old pathways and walkways of the city can be very narrow at times and bumpy almost always. A stroller isn’t the best option to get around, so Z explored on foot along with me.
What to choose, what to choose? Huge trays of syrupy handmade sweets are served up fresh daily in the souk. The sweet aromas fill the air and draw you to their stands.
One of the beautiful sites of the old town is seeing the Palestinian and Israeli residents as well as hoards of tourists from around the world, harmoniously walk these paths. I love these floors!
Jerusalem is known for selling the best tasting kaa’ik bread. This popular Palestinian bread is made in an elongated “O” shape and heavily sprinkled with sesame seeds. Inside is light and airy. It’s best eaten with fresh falafel.
Z really enjoyed snacking on this while we continued our walk.
The very first time I ever had this fresh squeezed lemonade with fresh mint was in Jerusalem. It’s very refreshing and my girls are just as obsessed with it as I am.
It’s the perfect thirst quencher after a falafel or shawarma sandwhich.
Entering Sacred Space
When visiting Jerusalem, one simply cannot miss exploring the beautiful Dome of the Rock mosque. Exquisite details and architecture make it a wonderful place to take pictures. The surrounding olive trees are just as lovely.
I was very sentimental to share this moment with Zaynab. One day, she too will visit with her children.
The steps leading up to the mosque are quite large. It was amusing to watch Z take them on.
I think she saw the huge gold dome and was thinking, “oooh, shiny!”
Mother and Daughter
I caught up to Z just in time to reach the top of the steps with her.
A huge thank you to my sister, Affnan, for capturing these special images of me and Z.
We met up with my mom once we reached the top. It was so sweet to see Zaynab run up to her beloved grandmother.
My mother was born and raised in Beit Hanina, Palestine and would regularly visit Jerusalem.
I loved seeing the two generations creating their own special memories together.
After offering my prayers, I explored the inside of the two mosques, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa, with my girls.
I loved how angelic Zaynab looked!
The popular Palestinian street food, sfeeha, was just right to keep us going through our day long adventure of exploring Jerusalem.
It’s essentially a ground beef pizza made with either tomato sauce or tahini sauce. Zaynab loved it dipped in plain yogurt.
If you’ve ever been to a souk, you know that spice stands are one of the most aromatic and exciting places to encounter.
Zaynab enjoyed the bright mounds that smelled of thyme, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, sumac, and plenty of other wonderful scents. I’m sure she would have loved to dig her hands in those piles!
Our favorite shop! With these gummies certified Kosher, we get the green light to indulge our sweet tooth on an array of sweet candies.
So many colors! Gives a whole new meaning to “eye candy”. Zaynab enjoyed a few gummi bears while I devoured more than I’d like to admit of the sour worms!
(Please use caution offering any gummi or chewy candy to toddlers. Zaynab has a full set of teeth and I was always in attendance while she ate her treat.)
It was a long day for both of us. Zaynab had a blast exploring Jerusalem that enticed all her senses. Though she may not remember that day, I will always cherish those memories of her first visit to Jerusalem.
A souk, or marketplace, is a wonderful place to explore full of interesting sites, sounds, tastes, textures and aromas.