August 8th, 2014

All is safe in Nablus. Occasionally we here gunshots in the distance, but, as I’ve mentioned before, they’re far from here, restricted to the demonstrations at the checkpoints. Even so, Tessa, Giulia, and I spent the day inside our flat. We really needed a couple days to rest after such a hectic week. Yesterday we slept in til noon, and only went out to buy knafeh from the souk. That’s where the best knafeh in town was supposedly located, and we saw the truth of our recommendation upon arrival; the line was out the door, and the server was working nonstop to keep pace. Cut a piece, slide it onto a plate, cut, slide, cut slide. By the time we got a slice, there was no room to sit, so we leaned against the wall and took our first bite. For those of you who haven’t yet had the fortune to taste knafeh: it’s a pastry made of semolina and baked white cheese, then drizzled with syrup while still hot. It actually tastes like happiness.

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And looks like it too.

The day the protests were happening, we literally didn’t leave the flat until nighttime. But after dark, our neighbors came down to take us to a party, our first one in Palestine. Ahmad and his mom drove us to this restaurant… but then Ahmad left. I was confused, but just followed his mother down an alleyway and up the stairs to second story.

I have to give some background information before I continue. In Nablus, the most conservative city in Palestine, we get away without wearing headscarves… but just barely. Nobody, not even men, can walk around in shorts and a tank top. Most women have not only scarves, but sleeves to their wrists and pants to their ankles. So it was a shock for me to walk into this secret showroom and watch as a roomful of Palestinian women (literally) let down their hair. Not only did they take off their scarves, but their overcoats, too; and underneath those coats were dresses that would put clubbers in America to shame. We’re talking thigh-length, strapless, sequined, form-fitting, it’s-time-to-go-crazy-at-the-club costumes. And tons of makeup, and tattoos! But they didn’t just undress and start a conversation. Oh no. These girls got on the dance floor, and started rocking out to some Middle Eastern electronic dance music. You don’t know the meaning of bass until you’ve heard the traditional hard beat of a doumbek amplified with four different synthesizers.

I was feeling pretty energized, but hadn’t yet hit the dance floor. Honestly, I felt a little embarrassed of dancing to music I don’t really know. Not that the music wasn’t beautiful – it was – but these girls had their own style of dance that went with it. They twisted their wrists and rocked their hips, moving to the music in a graceful, trance-like, but still edgy and dance-able sort of way… that is, until “Gangnam Style” started blaring over the speakers. Then I was right there with them, and we were all dancing to this ridiculous song the same way an American would.

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