Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This morning the streets were quiet, as the population of Nablus celebrates Eid, an Arabic word meaning 'festivity' and a three-day holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, a holiday for giving thanks and of festive remembrance.

That is probably why 'Elvis for Men', the local men's barber's, visible from our balcony, was open all night, only closing in the small hours this morning: for those last minute hair-cuts. Not being able to sleep, I wandered out onto said balcony, only to be surprised to see groups of men standing outside, whilst the lights blazed brightly inside, as another millimetre of hair was shorn from another head.

Interesting to note men's fashions here: short hair is obviously the norm, bald is obviously not beautiful here, but gel and pointy hair has reached this part of the world. Also 'in' are hipster trousers, held up with outrageously large belts, as are winkle-picker shoes, various multi-coloured T-shirts, tank-tops and sweatshirts, making the male population interchangeable with any other around the world.

For the women, more traditional dress, but also surprising is the level of flexibility and freedom 'allowed' within the traditional dress model: lots of make-up, big necklaces, stilletto heels, figure-hugging tops and tight jeans with highly-decorated blouses, with the hair, for the most part, covered over by the traditional garb.

The city's shops are closed today, as yesterday was a frenzy of last-minute shopping (much like our Christmas Eve) as people bought those urgent platters of cakes and pastries: as I mentioned before, sweets and sugared bites are very popular here, and the cake shops did a roaring trade.Ice-cream is highly original: in this heat you couldn't have Western-style ice-creams, and anyway dairy is not a big part of the diet. Instead, what looks to all intents and purposes like a two-scoop cone was actually a sneaky imitation made out of semolina, blocks of ice and colouring agents. I have never had to chew ice-cream before!

Today everyone spends time with their family, and offices and shops are shut. This makes it an ideal time for me to go out and take some photos of the Old City, and I want to capture on camera that 'Insurrection' perfume poster, whilst no-one is around to be offended.

In the middle of the night, whilst I was idly watching the line of men waiting for hair-cuts, there was a huge crash: the unmistakable sound of one car hitting another. All the men rushed out of the barber's, I leant over the balcony to try to see what had happened, but to no avail. I imagine one driver, high on excitement, or caffeine (Coca-Cola is also, unfortunately, very popular here) just took the bend too quickly and arrived in the side of someone else's car.

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