Marhaba! That’s ‘hello’ in Arabic, also known as مرحبا (according to Google Translate)

Ashley and I are once again in Amman, Jordan, after spending the last week in and around Ramallah in the West Bank. We were volunteering at the Birzeit University Archaeological Library organizing books and papers–it was alphabetization the likes of which this world has never seen…

Working with local students!
Apparently the theme of the day was 'pink'
Finished alphabetizing off prints

We also spent time in the area around Ramallah, including a visit to Jericho and to the Taybeh Brewing Company, the only Palestinian-brewed beer and the only Middle Eastern brewery to employ a woman. The annual Taybeh Oktoberfest provides a chance for tourists and locals to mingle and for artisans to sell handmade products, an important event and a chance to stimulate the economy in a town with an over 50% unemployment rate. We highly recommend visiting the brewery for Oktoberfest, which will be October 2-3 this year.

We also experienced a little of life in the Jalazon refugee camp, where some 15,000 people have been living in 1.5 square kilometers of space since 1948. Throughout the West Bank, the people we met were vibrant and hospitable, and Ashley and I enjoyed our stay very much.

The streets of Jalazon

After the work was done, we visited Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity.

Outside the Church of the Nativity

We crossed the wall into Jerusalem the next day. It was eerie to see the wall and the arduous process Palestinians had to go through to get through checkpoints. The colorful graffiti and protestations for peace on the Palestinian side reminded me of another famous wall… Sometimes the lessons of history are forgotten far too easily.

Graffiti on the Palestinian side of the wall

Once in the Old City, we stayed at the Austrian Hospice (that’s actually what it’s called) with some of the team members from Doron Ben-Ami, an excavation run by the Israeli Antiquities Authority where students from the University of Vienna travel to assist. We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, al-Aqsa, the Dome of the Rock, and the Western wall, and went to a great Ramadan concert/party at the Damascus gate.

The Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall
Doron Ben-Ami
Fire-breathing party at the Damascus Gate!

Then we met up with fellow USC archaeology alum, Aaron! He showed us around his site, Ramat Rahel, which was an ancient administrative center. Aaron has been at Ramat Rahel for three summers, and this is the excavation’s last year, so it was a bittersweet site tour.

Fighting On at Ramat Rahel!

After an excruciatingly long border crossing, we ended up back in Amman, where we’re briefly resting before heading out to see the Dead Sea and, of course, Petra. Ashley and I are both sick (ick), but we’re embracing the experience anyway. Tomorrow we’re going to a hammam (Turkish bath) to be pampered and scrubbed and massaged until we are clean and glowing. This won’t last long, since we’re heading out to the Dead Sea later in the day… but those few minutes of cleanliness will be glorious.

~Sarah H and Ashley S


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