The city is one of the most vibrant ones in the West Bank and there are plenty of things to do, if not necessarily along religious lines when compared to other parts of the West Bank. However, the West Bank is a surprisingly small place and Ramallah makes the perfect base from which to explore the rest of the area. Both Jenin and Hebron are 2-2.5 hours using the shared taxi service.
The city centre around Al-Manara Square is the perfect place from which to experience the Ramallah “vibe”, and an excellent place for people watching. The ice-cream parlours called “Rakoub” and “Baladna” are a good starting point as they are central and a good place to sample ice-cream made with arabic gum. For a great view of Ramallah, Jerusalem and even an Israeli Settlement, head to the Area D Hostel near the Central Bus Station. It is on the top floor or a building that overlooks the mosque.
Then there is the old city ” Ramallah al Tahta”, a 5-10 minute walk south from Al-Manara square. There are many beautifully restored old buildings as well the Al Kamanjati Centre music school.
The ‘hisbeh’ produce market is also a great place to visit, where fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices.
There are also several stores selling handicrafts from Palestinian villages which are very interesting to browse.
In the old city, several churches and mosques can be found that may be of interest to visitors. The Friends Schools, which are one of the oldest schools in the region, are also a must visit as there is one near the old city, and another in the entrance of the downtown coming from Jerusalem.
During the night, a good number of shops are still open, especially during the summer. A common habit of the citizens of the city is going out for a drink, dinner, or an ‘Argila’ (flavoured tobacco waterpipe or “Hookah”.) The cities various coffee shops, bars, and restaurants are a must see/visit. The nicer ones are often available closer the older city, and on the road going to Betunia, while some good ones can also be found outside the city center.
There is a Turkish bath in the twin-city of El-Bireh, a good destination for foreigners wanting to relax for the day.
The West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian Authority is also worth a visit. The Mukata’a is a two-block compound with a white tower that is lit up at night and visible from most parts of the city. It contains some government offices and conference rooms, as well as Yasser Arafat’s mausoleum next to the building where he was held under siege the Israeli Army in 2002.
Tomb of Arafat: Following the death of Yasser Arafat at age 75 in November 2004, he was buried on the grounds of the Mukataa, the compound that served as his headquarters in Ramallah. Three years later, an elaborate mausoleum opened on the site. The mausoleum is built according to a number of design principles that enhance the experience of any visitor who is aware of them. For example, the tomb is 11m wide 11m high, which indicated the date on which Arafat died, the 11 November. An honor guard stands watch at the memorial, which is open to visitors. The Mukataa (or Presidential Compound) continues to serve as a headquarters for the Palestinian Authority and contains local governmental offices.
The Ramallah Cultural Palace & Mahmoud Darwish’s Memorial: Completed in 2004, the eight year-long project was supported the Government of Japan and overseen the United Nations Development Program. Today, the complex is a landmark in Ramallah and a source of pride for the locals. The complex contains a 736 seat auditorium, exhibition galleries and conference facilities. It hosts all types of event ranging from Classical music and hip hop to business conferences and exhibitions. Adjacent on the left side is the Memorial of the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The building contains his grave and a museum devoted to Darwish. Born in 1941 in the village of Al Birwa in the Galilee, Darwish was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. Lots of his poetry tackled loss, dispossession and exile, portraying Palestine as a lost paradise. Darwish had published over 30 volumes of poetry, many of which have been translated into English and other languages.
Crusader Church of the Holy Family and Omari Mosque: At the heart of the old town of Al-Bireh are the remains of the Crusader Church of the Holy Family, which was possibly built in 1146 on top of an older Byzantine structure.
Dar Zahran Heritage Building: Attractive, historic building with a unique history. For 250 years, this building has been the property of the Ramallite Dar Zahran Jaghab family, serving as a family home, guest chamber “Al-Madafeh”, and the place of residence of Ramallah’s” Mukhtar” (leader). It includes an art gallery, a photo gallery of Ramallah from 1850 to 1979, a souvenir shop and a Fair Trade corner selling authentic Palestinian food products, embroidery, pottery, books, and jewelry. Visit Dar Zahran to experience a journey through centuries of Arab Christian life in Palestine. www.darzahran.org