Ramallah is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank of Israel just 15 km (10 miles) north of Jerusalem. It currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and is a cultural center for the Palestinian people.
Modern Ramallah was founded mid-16th century by the Haddadins, a Jordanian tribe of brothers who were descendants of Christian Arabs. As the story goes, one brother, Sabra Haddadin, was hosting the Emir of the time, Ibn Kaysoom, who was head of a powerful Muslim clan in the region. While there, Sabra’s wife gave birth to a girl. According to custom, the Emir proposed marriage between his own youngest son and the newborn baby girl when they both came of age. Sabra believed the proposal was a joke as Muslim-Christian marriages were not customary, so they agreed to the betrothal. When the time came for the Emir to demand the Haddadins fulfill their agreement, they refused. This resulted in a bloody feud between the families. The Haddadins fled and settled in the hills of Ramallah, where only a few Muslim families lived at the time. Although the town today has a Muslim majority, Ramallah retains its title as a historically Christian Palestinian town.
The town today
Although most of Ramallah’s residents are Muslim, the town maintains a more lax atmosphere in terms of its customs. While it is common in Muslim towns to ban alcohol and western movies, in Ramallah, the alcohol flows freely, the town’s movie theaters are packed, and street cafes are a popular place to pass the time. Ramallah is undoubtedly the cultural capital of the West Bank with a highly educated and fashion-forward population. It is also the center of Palestinian feminism; the city’s women frequently attend university rather than marrying young, and several cafes are run exclusively by women and are used to fund local feminist movements.
The best way to experience Ramallah is with one of these top private tour. Solo travel can be a bit trickier as it is not so easy to get in and out of the city from Israel. On tours, a knowledgeable guide leads you through the area while providing information about the town and insights.
Getting to Ramallah
Tourists with passports from outside of the Middle East have no restrictions entering or exiting Ramallah. Be sure to have your visa-stamped passport with you. Even though you will likely not need your passport to enter Ramallah, you will need it and your visa to enter back into Israel. Once through the checkpoint, it is a quick drive to Ramallah. Israelis and Israeli passport holders are not permitted to enter Ramallah under any circumstances.
From Jerusalem, the best route to Ramallah is bus 218 or 219 departing from the Nablus Road station close to the Damascus Gate. This will take you all the way to the bus station near the central square of al-Manara. It is also possible to take a taxi from Damascus Gate.