Travelling and staying overnight in Nablus in the West Bank gave me a completely different vibe between the two days. I had never felt those ends of the specturm before as much as I did there. I arrived on a Friday, the Muslim weekly holiday and not many things were open. Venturing out of a messy hostel into the increasingly desolate old city, more and more posters of martyrs started appearing on the walls, among the closed livestock market with its lingering odours of slaughter. There were one or two people around, and not wanting to draw too much attention - this was, afterall, clearly intifada territory - I quickly took my opportunity to snap a photo of one such wall.
There were other signs of the sort of vibe I am describing here that one gets in an unsettled area. The boisterous boys, and the hardened stars from a few middle-aged Muslim men in a nearby park that I visited. I was also offered hashish, by a boy not much older than 13 or 14. I settled in for the evening at the hostel, talking with an English volunteer who regaled me stories of Israeli raids in the city
that occur from time to time. The infamous Balata Refugee Camp is nearby, so I suspected ongoing operations by IDF were what she might have been talking about. By this stage I had decided to keep heading south to Jericho, to cross back over the border to Jordan (that story can wait until next time).
The next day offered a wholly different face to Nablus. Walking into the city to exhange some money, I soon found myself a now bustling downtown quater, and ended up going back into the merchants market of old city. I was greeted warmly everywhere I went, and nobody hesitated to help me find my way. I bought small gifts, chatted with younger shopkeepers who had rudimentary English, and wandered without anxiety thoughout the same parts of the souk I had been in less than 24 hours earlier. Even at the bus station upon departure people were eager to look at my map of Nablus, which I gave to one of the drivers standing idly around. I faced the typical wait on a Palestinian bus before it finally departed, but couldn't help think while waiting how a desolate, uneasy city one day can be come a bustling, friendly town the next.
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