Palestinian Young Diaspora of KTH 2023 Delegation Embarks on their Journey to Palestine, starting in Amman
Reem Abouchleih, 2023 KTH Delegation
Day 1: The Arrival
The 2023 Know Thy Heritage Journey began on July 27 as we, the delegates, trickled into the hotel lobby, beaming with excitement for our soon-to-be memorable yet uncertain journey ahead – the 11th journey KTH has overseen. As I approached the hotel lobby, my heart raced with a blend of excitement and nervousness. But any apprehension I had was instantly dispelled when a group of delegates who had arrived prior waved me over to them. Our members of the KTH Young Palestinian Diaspora were a vibrant tapestry of diversity, representing nations from across the world – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Honduras, the United States and more.
Despite our different interests and backgrounds, striking up conversations with one another was effortless as Palestinian brothers and sisters reunited after many years of separation. We found ourselves excitedly sharing stories and experiences, discovering common threads that united us despite our disparate origins – with some of us even recognizing each other’s family names. Despite some of us having been there many times and some of us having this be our first trip, we were all eager to embark on a transformative journey.
The Founder, President and CEO of Know Thy Heritage, Sir Rateb Rabie, and 2023 delegation group leader, Reem E., graced us with their presence, offering warm greetings and inquiries about our flights and our excitement to “explore and serve Palestine”, affirming our purpose and mission on this journey.
We then headed to dinner, featuring a variety of authentic Palestinian cuisine: hummus, mutabal, kabse, zeytoon, labneh, and much more. As the conversation continued over dinner, it was evident that this journey would be nothing short of life-changing. The delegates then said their goodbyes and headed to their rooms to get ready for the second day of preparing for our Palestine journey.
Day 2: Our First Day in Amman, Jordan
We began our second day bright and early at 7 a.m. Though many of us felt jetlagged, our bubbling excitement and boundless energy compensated for any trace of weariness.
We then headed to the KTH Orientation, where the delegates gathered in eager anticipation to learn more about the remarkable journey that awaited us. As we entered the venue, we were greeted with a display of tea, coffee and za’atar croissants. We embarked on an introductory session, encircling a table, where our ‘small talk’ conversations soon transformed into meaningful connections. One by one, we introduced ourselves, each sharing about our lives – our passions, our professions, the places we called home and the cherished ties we had with Palestine, where our families resided. Through this orientation, we honed our public speaking skills, empowering each delegate to become a storyteller in their own right.
With eloquence and passion, Sir Rateb Rabie unveiled the grandeur of what lay ahead – a transformative pilgrimage to Palestine, describing experiences that awaited us and the profound impact they would have on our lives.
In the wake of this enlightening orientation, we felt a newfound confidence, soaring with excitement for the journey that awaited us the day after. Armed with knowledge and a shared sense of purpose, we knew that we were prepared to embark on an unforgettable pilgrimage of cultural immersion and personal and professional growth in the land of our ancestors.
Our day in Amman then commenced with a captivating tour that traversed between the “old Amman” and the modernized Arab cityscape, adorned with breathtaking Jordanian-Palestinian limestone architecture. The ancient Roman Theatre stood as a stoic witness to centuries of Arab history, a symbol of the region’s enduring cultural legacy.
Yet, the day held a profound lesson and experience that touched our hearts in a way we had not anticipated – the Al Hannouneh Society for Popular Culture. This organization dedicates itself to the preservation and dissemination of Palestinian culture, encompassing dance, food, and the essence of identity, both for Palestinians and those embracing the heritage from beyond the borders.
Stepping off the bus, we were greeted with open arms and kind words, enveloped in the warm embrace of a community that exuded love and acceptance. Despite knowing each other for only a brief period, the sense of belonging was palpable. Our visit to the Al Hannouneh Society introduced us to the exquisite artistry of embroidered thobes (Palestinian abayas), garments that spoke volumes of the time and dedication invested by our ancestors in preserving their heritage and fighting oppression. Through the seemingly “simple” act of clothing, we were offered a glimpse into the historical journey of our forebears, as well as the significance of certain patterns and colors based on different regions, something that took many delegates by surprise.
As the Al Hannouneh society members effortlessly performed the zaffé, a traditional Palestinian wedding march, we watched in awe at their coordination and dedication, knowing that we were witnesses to a tradition passed down through generations.
We were then treated to an authentic culinary feast: koosa w wara enab (stuffed squash and grape leaves), musakhan, mansaf, and salata. Each dish evoked cherished memories of our grandmother’s cooking and served as an ode to the rich heritage we would delve deeper into in just two days.
The day culminated in the graceful art of dabke. Many of us were novices, but despite this, the patience and guidance of the society members made us feel at ease and humbled, as we embraced this beautiful and meaningful dance form. We gave a heartfelt thank you to the Al Hannouneh Society, knowing that they had eased us into our Palestine journey, setting the stage for what would come the following day.
As the day ended, we said our goodbyes and performed a final dabke. Our delegation then boarded the bus and returned to the hotel, hearts brimming with gratitude and excitement, for the remarkable next day of traveling to Palestine and the incredible experiences that awaited us.
The beginning of this journey was no ordinary undertaking; it was a profound exploration of our heritage, culture and shared humanity. With the support of Know Thy Heritage, we embark on a pilgrimage that would forever shape our perspectives and bond us as a global Palestinian community of delegates united in a common quest – to know and embrace our heritage and to serve and explore Palestine.