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Notes on the Geography of The West Bank: Nablus

Although Ramalla is the capital of the West Bank, it's a new city--a product of the 20th century.  The only old Palestinian city north of Jerusalem is Nablus, built in the trough between two mountainous hills. It's not a great location, and floods have sometimes swept through, most recently in the 1930s. Like San Francisco and its earthquakes, this hazard hasn't had much impact on the determination of Nabulsis to rebuild.

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The West Bank: Nablus picture 1

Nablus has a theater, as you'd expect of a self-respecting second-century Roman colony--full name, Flavia Neapolis. It's in poor shape, a sorry contrast to the carefully restored theater at Beit She'an, hardly 25 miles away but in Israel.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 2

Unlike Bethlehem and Hebron, the streets of Nablus still bear some resemblance to the grid laid down by the Romans. Upon it, the masons have gone to work with their arches and domes.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 3

Hebron and Bethlehem don't have such tunneled streets, let alone grids.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 4

Some of the passageways are phenomenally narrow.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 5

An anarchist triumph: a newer building moves into the tunnel and leaves barely enough space for a car to squeeze through.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 6

Basic services are often poor.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 7

Nablus doesn't have any supermarkets with carts to steal, so this one must have come from Israel.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 8

Throughout the West Bank, playgrounds are non-existent: streets serve.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 9

There's been some superficial heritage restoration, for example replacing asphalt with stone.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 10

Rehabilitation is less spectacular than in Hebron or Bethlehem, but efforts are being made.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 11

The new market in the old city.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 12

A new roof: such a structure was contemplated for Hebron but raised such a storm of protest from heritage-faithful architects that the idea was shelved.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 13

A relic bit of Roman paving.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 14

A patient tin-smith.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 15

The competition.

The West Bank: Nablus picture 16

Butcher block.


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