Ramallah/رام الله

 

 

 

 

Overview:

Ramallah in many ways acts as the focal point for foreigners in the West Bank. In contrast with more culturally conservative cities or villages in the West Bank, Ramallah has a vibrant night-life and music scene. Most sites in Ramallah are easily walkable and the staff at most restaurants, cafes, and bars speak English.

Due to the “high-class” reputation that Ramallah has adopted in recent years alongside the expansion of the tourist economy, prices have risen drastically in Ramallah compared to most other places in the West Bank. Most restaurants, cafes, and bars are well beyond the budget of an average Palestinian family. 

While it is important to remember that the lifestyle represented by most of the people in Ramallah does not reflect the greater Palestinian population, that does not mean you should not visit. Ramallah is a nice place to go for a change of pace; but my number one recommendation is that you should first visit Hebron, or a refugee camp, or a bedouin community—because these more accurately depict the reality of Palestinian life under Occupation. 



Tourist Sites:

  • Walking/Hiking/Cycling Tours: Moe leads tours of Ramallah city, the Al-Amari refugee camp, as well as cycling and hiking tours throughout the West Bank (these range in different levels of difficulty).
    • You can contact Moe directly for tour information, times, and prices at moe.zarour.tours@gmail.com or on WhatsApp +972595954446
  • Yasser Arafat Museum: you can visit this elaborate historical museum which is full of detailed histories and important artifacts and which I would personally recommend (as a history nerd) that you leave 3-4 hours if you wish to take in the museum in its entirety. You can also visit Yasser Arafat’s tomb which is guarded 24/7. 
  • Dar Zahran Cultural Heritage Center: a beautiful home from the Ottoman period which shares cultural information through an in-depth look at the family which has resided in this home for over a century (no entry fee). The owner is a kind Christian Palestinian man who sits down for a chat and coffee or tea with every person/group that comes through. There are rotating art exhibits, a personal collection of family artifacts, and a small gift store. 
  • Mahmoud Darwish Museum: hosting a museum commemorating some of Darwish’s famous poems (he is considered the National Poet), as well as his tomb, and a beautiful garden. The museum is small with most of the exhibit done only in Arabic so without a translator you will not understand much; however, I think the gardens alone are worth the visit on a beautiful day. 
  • Palestine Museum: an amazing cultural and historical museum that rotates exhibits and hosts temporary exhibits and is located at the Birzeit University, which is an easy “service taxi” ride outside of Ramallah. 
  • BabyFist: this clothing brand is a new cultural hotspot in Ramallah as it sells clothing designed to empower women. They operate under a unique business model in which 10% of proceeds fund women’s empowerment campaigns in the West Bank and their clothes are produced in Gaza (which is a deficit to them in terms of transport logistics and costs but works to support Gaza’s stifled economy).
    • BabyFist apparel is also sold in Bethlehem (at Bab idDeir Gallery close to the Nativity Church) and Jerusalem (at Yabous Cultural Center in East Jerusalem). 
  • Day Trip Ideas:
    • Birzeit: 10 minutes from Ramallah. A small village with a cute Old City and a great restaurant. It neighbors the famous Birzeit University which hosts the Palestine Museum.
      • Falafel Republic: Worth the trip to Birzeit for the food at Falafel Republic alone. Delicious traditional Palestinian food, in a cozy environment, with friendly staff.
    • Nabi Saleh: 20 minutes from Ramallah. A village famous for its weekly non-violent protests culminating in the story of one of the villagers, Ahed Tamimi, who slapped a soldier after attacks against her family and whose trial and jail-time was highly publicized. 
    • Taybeh:  20 minutes from Ramallah. Home to the first Palestinian Brewery and Winery, Taybeh also hosts a historic Old-City and Christian-Palestinian community. 
    • Rawabi: 30 minutes from Ramallah. As the first man-made city in Palestine, this city offers a view of the 1% in Palestine (including ATVs and zip-lines). Since the founder of the city contracted Israeli firms instead of hiring Palestinian workers it provoked controversy. Its extravagance also poses a painful juxtaposition compared to the nearby refugee camps and villages suffering settler violence. 


Restaurants & Cafes

Restaurants:

  • $$$ SnowBar Restaurant:  on top of being a bar with a pool, SnowBar also has some delicious food including some western staples like spaghetti bolognese (note that Snowbar opens around April/May and closes around October since it is an outdoor restaurant). 
  • $$$ Garage: in addition to being a popular bar, Garage also has a restaurant with delicious food.
  • $$$ Azka Denya: good breakfast and coffee, relatively fancy.
  • $$$ Fuego: Spanish/Mexican food with a full bar, located close to Berlin Bar and the Ramallah City Hall. 
  • $$$  Vintage Cafe: western style food with great breakfast (inc. pancakes and french toast), lunch, dinner (inc. wok and shushi). Located across the street from Ramallah City Hall. A nice place to work—you can order a drink and work for as long as you like. 
  • $$$ Azure:  restaurant and bar with delicious traditional Palestinian food and good service. 
  • $$  3 Ramallah: Palestinian dishes, salads, and sandwiches. A nice place to work—essentially an apartment turned into a restaurant providing a homey feel with a very kind host/chef.
  • $$ Zeit ou Zaatar: very close to the central bus/service station and Area D Hostel, good for a quick bite to eat and open on Fridays.
  • $$ Bhar: barbecue restaurant with the best burgers in Ramallah. Also serves steaks, chicken wings, etc. Located parallel to Garage and Radio. 
  • $$ Firefly Burger:  part of a Middle Eastern burger chain it is one of the famous burger spots in Ramallah about a 10 minute walk from the bus station on Rukab Street. 
  • $ Abu Shosha: traditional palestinian rice dishes, 20 shekels per dish. 
  • $ Abu Hamam: traditional palestinian rice dishes, 20 shekels per dish. 
  • $ Zwadeh: a women’s cooperative that prepares traditional food each day and prices range from 20-30 shekels per dish depending on the item (proceeds go to supporting disadvantaged Palestinian women’s university tuitions). 
  • $ Bounjour: located at Dowar (circle) Sa’a, it is the most famous shwarma location in Ramallah. 
  • $ Judy Kitchen (جودي): prepares one meal per day, unique dishes hard to find at other restaurants, about 25 shekels per meal. 
  • Nafisa Sweet Shop: roundabout near Al Huda Gas Station. 

Cafes:

  • Aleppo cafe: cards playing shisha, lively environment, very student based clientele,
  • Avenue Cafe: good place for studying with two separate rooms, one for studying and another area for hanging out. 
  • Beit Ardi: good food and drinks with beautiful decor and nice outdoor seating.
  • Tarawe’a: good shakshuka and breakfast/lunch dishes, and a nice place to study. 
  • Sufi Cafe: great atmosphere with comfortable seating, good drinks, and located close to the Ramallah Municipality on AL Sahel Street. 
  • Stars and Bucks Cafe: the Palestinian version of Starbucks, also a good place to sit and do work, located at Manara Circle (dowar). 

Bars/Clubs/Events:

Bars/Clubs:

  • Ramallah Nightlife: a Facebook page that collects the major events happening in Ramallah and posts them for you so it is easier to see what is going on in a given week. 
  • Snow Bar:  outdoor restaurant and bar, beautiful location with a pool, pricey and very busy, good idea to call ahead on weekends to make sure there is space and check on the hours of the pool. Only open in the warm season (spring-fall). 
  • Radio: located next to Garage, with more of a club feel, a dance floor, and usually quite loud. Often a cover charge on busy (weekend) nights with live music (often rap or house music). 
  • Garage: a bar with outdoor and indoor seating that is very crowded on the weekends and is a good place to sit for a beer, but gets quite loud on Thursdays. 
  • Berlin:  Across from the City Hall building, close to Radio and Garage Bars, Berlin has a pub feel with darker lighting, but gets quite loud and crowded on weekends. The owner expanded in 2018 to include an upper floor so now there is significantly more space. 
  •  Level 5: an expensive bar that serves the upper-upper class of Ramallah. 
  •  Sangria’s: has an garden where you can sit outside, and is one of the best bars in Ramallah, with regular events. 
  • La Grotta: owner is a musician and often has informal live music and singers. 
  • Station 101: personally my favorite bar in Ramallah, also serving food, with spacious outdoor and indoor seating, comfortable chairs and typically not get too loud. Check their page for live music and events. 
  • Kookh: bar and restaurant that is located close to Carmel Hotel. 
  • Al Riad: restaurant during the day, bar at night, sometimes with events. Located behind Al Huda Gas Station in Ramallah Taht. 

Event Venues:

  • Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center:  regularly holds lectures, public discussions, movie screenings, and other events that are open to the public, great place to meet people and engage in a thought-provoking event. 
  • French-German Cultural Center: regularly holds a variety of events, about a 5-10 minute walk from the central bus station.
  • Gallery One: an interesting art gallery opened in 2014, showcasing local and diaspora artists, located above Garage (restaurant/bar).
  • Zawyeh Gallery: another art gallery opened in 2013 focusing on thematic displays of Palestinian artists. 
  • Ramallah Cultural Palace: the largest venue in Ramallah, the Palace, regularly holds exhibitions and performances, reference their website for a schedule of events.
  • Ramallah City Hall: the site of the smaller event hall (about 200 seats), there are regularly performances at this location. There is also a beautiful fountain and garden area with a cafe where you can enjoy the nice weather.  
  • Palestine Arts Center: hosts festivals and offers music classes. 

Places to Stay:

  • If you are looking for a longer-term living arrangement: check out this page for frequent postings of open rental leases and sublets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Secrets.Jerusalem.Ramallah/ 
  • Area D Hostel: located directly adjacent to the Central Bus Station in Ramallah, Area D offers convenience at a well-staffed, well-equipped, and clean hostel (65/70 Shekels).
  • Habibi Hostel: Habibi functions as more of a Guest House than a hostel with very good reviews (60 shekels).

Volunteer or Study Arabic: