“Don’t Be Fooled by the Hat!”

No, sir, do not. For I am an a Occupied* citizen just like you. The hat is just protecting me from the heat. 

There is something special and relieving the moment the bus opens the door and your foot touches the ground. It is special because you have just arrived to Jerusalem. It is relieving -sometimes- because you have just arrived Jerusalem without any trouble from the Occupiers* and without punching the guy who kept pushing you out of the way so he can go first. 

Leaving the bus stop, you can see the Damscus gate, but before that, if you are with little children, you will be stopping to look at the hundreds of toys lying on the sidewalks to be sold. 

“How much is this?” My mother asked in Arabic, pointing at the toy kitchen utensils I used to pay little attention to when I was a child (I was more into race cars, Barbie, Ken, and teddy bears). 

“10. 15, I mean,” the salesperson, who looked about sixteen told us. 

As any Arab, here does my mother go with the bargaining. “10 is enough.”

“I can’t do that. The owner won’t let me,” he says. 

“I’m sure he will.” 

The sixteen-year-old salesperson stopped to call on the owner, who immediately began speaking in English.

“They aren’t not foreigners; they are Arab. Don’t be fooled by the hat!” the sixteen-year-old salesman yells. I think that is the highlighted quote of the trip for me this year (last year, it was “Where’s visa?”).  The hat he was talking about was mine. Apparently, I look like a French tourist with my hat and sunglasses. 

It was an hour till the call for afternoon prayer, so my mother and I entered the old city of Jerusalem to walk around. That city does wonders to me. I like seeing the old stores, however small they are. I like the smell of fresh bread and falafel. I don’t normally like the man at the vegetable stand yelling, but I liked it here. I like watching the sweet store worker making katayef. I like remembering the gesture of a man from our town who invited us to his home in the old city a few years ago, but we had things to do and couldn’t go. I like seeing certain names spraypainted on walls because they reminded me of people close to heart and to keep them in my prayers. I like going to the Dome of the Rock, and as much as it never changes, I like standing in front of it and taking a picture. I like walking through the old city, discovering different streets and different homes. 

 I don’t like that I have to get ‘permission’ to visit a place that is so close. That’s a whole other story. (Refer to post “Where’s _____?”).

When the time for afternoon prayer came, we went to the Dome of the Rock to pray. As always and as many people put it, it was “magical”! 

Leaving there was not so. You can’t help but run into people, shoving some out of your way, saying hello to others, stopping at some shops, and you remain in these types of situations until you find an empty street and walk through there. Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the street, most likely you’ll be lost for a while till you find someone to ask where to go now. 

The night before this trip, one of my best friends told me to try the falafel that is sold right in front of the Damscus Gate. “The best falafel ever!” she told me. My mother walked around looking for a nice restaraunt, and come on, who doesn’t like a nice restaraunt? To be honest, it’s nice and fancy to go to one sometimes, but a lot of the times, I would just like to get some food and sit in a nice area outside. If only I could send her some! When we couldn’t find a restaraunt we wanted, I told my mother about the falafel shop, and well, my little idea of a nice eat-out kind of day came to life.

I stuffed my hat into my handbag and waited for the prayer to call as my little sister sang at the top of her lungs. Once the maghrib prayer called on Muslims to break their fast for the day, we sat on a bench facing old buildings, munching our falafel sandwiches as the sky went dark only to be lit by city lights from below and stars from above. Now, this is what I call a nice ending to a great trip. 

 

 

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