Know Thy Heritage Leadership Initiative Day 4: Nablus New And Old

By Selena K.

On our second day in Palestine, the KTH delegation spent time in Nablus, where we learned about its rich history through a walking tour of the old city, heard about the city’s future when meeting with the council women, indulged in the famous knafeh and more.

As our bus approached the city, it was evident that it was the weekend just by the bustling traffic and how busy the narrow streets were. We started our morning by strolling through the old city, which has a commercial and residential district. We saw old and young shopkeepers set up for the day, with shops ranging from tea, produce, goldfish and plentiful antiques. Truly anything you can imagine is available for purchase. We spent time going into the White Mosque, An-Nimer Palace, and seeing the clock tower. We then found ourselves at Al Aqsa Sweets, where we got to see the complete process and the making of the famous Nablusi Knafeh and enjoy a slice, something most of us have been anticipating for a while. After our sweet treat, we relaxed in the garden of the Sheikh Qasim coffee shop and caffeinated ourselves with tea and Turkish coffee.

Next, we were fortunate enough to meet with three councilwomen at the Nablus municipality. They shared what challenges Nablus is facing with the financial crisis and the occupation, as well as some upcoming positive improvements they are looking forward to. Like updating roads and a new urban planning project that will be revamping an old power station to a community hub with a technology incubator for youth and space for outdoor activities. It was great to also hear there are plans to rehab parts of the old town to make it more livable again, and it was encouraging to know that they are focused on both restoring the old while building the new.

We couldn’t leave the old town without going to the 151-year-old Touqan Soap Factory, home of the original olive oil soap. We learned that only three ingredients are used to make the soap and the process of drying, cutting and packaging for sale.

Our final stops of the day were at Paltel, where we got to meet with many leaders from across the company and hear about the current state of Palestine’s telecommunications and engage in an active conversation with them about the impact and challenges of the occupation along with some local NGO leaders and representatives. Finally, we visited Mount Gerizim and learned about the Samaritan religion and community.

Nablus checked all the boxes in terms of community, culture, yummy food and good conversations. Four of this year’s delegates and members of the Palestinian diaspora have roots in Nablus, and it truly felt like a homecoming being able to walk the same streets as our family once did or still do. It was hopeful to hear about the revitalization of the city and special to see strong women leaders on the council. We can’t wait to see what day 5 brings!