Ramallah (Arabic رام الله Rāmallāh) is a small city (population, approximately 57,000) in the Palestinian Territories, located within the West Bank region, some 15 km (10 miles) north of Jerusalem. Since the inception of the Palestinian National Authority, Ramallah has acted as the de facto capital city of the Palestinian administration.
Ramallah is known for its religiously relaxed atmosphere—alcohol flows freely and movie theaters are well attended—and the cafes along its main streets. Ramallah is, without question, the cultural capital of the West Bank, with a highly educated and fashionable population. It is also the hub of Palestinian feminist activity; the city’s women frequently attend university rather than marry early, and several cafes run exclusively by women are used to fund local feminist organizations.
While there, it is easy to make small talk with the locals. Unless you are firmly anti-Israeli occupation, it is advisable that you do more listening than actual talking yourself, however. For the most part, Palestinians are glad to share their problems and plight to any western visitors.
On the way back, if you have an Israeli visa stamp or visa paper with your passport from when you arrived in Israel, then just stay on the bus as it arrives at Kalandia. (Many passengers will get off here to go through a different security check.) A couple of border guards with huge guns will come on to the bus to check passenger ID documents. They will probably speak English well and may ask some questions about where you are from (even though they can read it on your passport).
By busThere is on Al-Nahder St. that serves buses from/to Nablus, and probably other destinations north. There are at least three other bus stations in the city which also serve various destinations. Nevertheless, they are all pretty close to each other.
From Jerusalem the best connection to Ramallah is bus/sherut/serves 218 (and sometimes 219). It departs from the Nablus Road station close to Damascus Gate on Nablus Rd (aka Derech Shchem) and will take you all the way to before mentioned bus station near the central square of al-Manara. The price is ₪10-20, and it takes around 45 minutes.
From Bethlehem take a shared taxi (Sherut/serviis) from the Bethlehem bus station at Manger St. in the center. The trip takes 45 min all the way around Jerusalem and costs ₪20.
From Jericho take a shared taxi (Sherut/serviis) from the central roundabout with the garden in the middle. The taxis are waiting on the western side of the roundabout. To increase your "luck", you can also wait at the roundabout out of the city with the mosque. Even hitchhiking from there makes sense. The trip to Ramallah takes less than an hour for less than ₪15. The exact price is listed in the tourist information on the central roundabout in Jericho centre.
From Nablus the trip is ₪10.5 and it takes about an hour. Ask around from which bus station in Nablus the correct (big) bus starts.
It is worth asking the drivers before you get on to double-check the bus is going to the right destination. You might be surprised how many of them can speak basic English. There are two main types of buses. There are small ones with about 20 seats, and biggers ones that look more like coaches and are much more comfortable. They all cost the same, and there is usually a rush of passengers pushing their way onto the buses.
By taxiFrom Jerusalem's Damascus Gate you can find taxis to Ramallah for approximately ₪80-100 depending on your bargaining skills. You can also take a taxi to Kalandia checkpoint and walk through, picking up another taxi on the other side. It costs about ₪30 from Kalandia to Ramallah centre.
By carHeading north from Jerusalem on road #60, you will arrive to Ramallah very quickly. You will have to pass one Israeli checkpoint on the way: Kalandia.
By planeThere is no airport with scheduled passenger flights in the West Bank, so the only nearby passenger airports are Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, then heading towards Jerusalem or Queen Alia in Amman then heading towards Allenby Bridge aka King Hussein Bridge and passing through it - Visa on arrival for Israel is available for most common nationalities. Ovda Airport near Eilat also sees international flights, but the connection from there to Ramallah is not all that straightforward and more time-consuming.
It is easy to find a taxi to get around Ramallah (for ₪10 fixed charge, or the amount specified by the fare-meter). Car rentals are also available, but seldom needed. As the city center is relatively small, it is not hard to walk to most destinations downtown (including the old city.) Service shuttles (shared taxis) are also available from downtown to most suburbs and to the outskirts of the city at relatively low prices (₪2.5 inside the city and up to ₪6 to nearby towns and villages). Make sure to confirm a price before getting into a taxi.
- Hisbeh produce market, see below.
Old CityWhile not resembling any 'Medina'-style old city, several churches and mosques can be found that may be of interest to visitors.
The Friends SchoolsOne 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.
Yasser Arafat's mausoleumThe mausoleum is the only part of the Mukata'a two-block complex tourists can visit. You will be asked by the armed guards at the gate to leave any bags (large or small) with them but they will allow you to take your camera with you to visit the tomb. Inside you will find a couple of soldiers standing guard over the tomb. This seems to be a ceremonial guard and they will not object to your taking photos inside there, even of yourself or others next to the marble gravestone. Next to the mausoleum is the museum building where Arafat was held under siege by the Israeli Army in 2002. The museum is interesting in a way that it displays the Palestinian, sometimes a little questionable but interesting view of the difficult past.
The West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian AuthorityThe 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 the above mentioned Yasser Arafat's mausoleum.
Dar Zahran Heritage BuildingA protected and family-owned building and one of the top sights in Ramallah, displaying the history and art of Ramallah's past and present. A nice and helpful host takes care of the place with over 200 years of history. It is also a hotel and you can buy souvenirs.
Al TirehA fortress from the 12th century.
Join a protestMany international visitors to Ramallah come to get taxi rides to see the protests in the neighboring villages (like Nabi Saleh and the world famous Bil'in protests) against Israel's separation barrier. Hostel in Ramallah has different tours, twice per week they organize trip to one of the protests and hebron city.
Turkish bathA good destination for foreigners wanting to relax for the day..
LearnRamallah is the home of the Friends School in the Palestinian Territories. The school has two campuses, one for grades 1-6 and is located near the old city. The other is for grades 7-12 and is located near the old police station destroyed by an Israeli air strike. The schools are famous for their international learning environment, intensive English language focus, and liberal learning atmosphere. The schools are private and have a number of notable Palestinian alumni.
The city also has a number of public and private schools that serve a good number of the West Bank youth population. Private schools with specific religious affiliations can also be found.
In the twin city of El-Bireh, there is also a school for the blind that also serves as a vocational center.
Birzeit University, which is in the neighboring town of Birzeit, is one of the Palestinian Authority's leading educational institutions. The University offers a large number of study options and at different levels for students. It also has several links with international institutions, and often has a number of international students attending it. The PAS (Palestinian and Arab Studies) program is popular with internationals visiting or working in the West Bank who want to learn Arabic and take classes on the history and politics of the Palestinian Authority.
The city also has branches for Al-Quds Open University, which offers continuing education opportunities to many Palestinians.
There are a number of vocational training centers in the city, neighboring towns, and refugee camps.
WorkRamallah is a vibrant Palestinian business hub, especially as most international agencies and governmental offices are located in the city. However, with the immigration of Palestinians from other cities in the West Bank to Ramallah, there is a highly competitive job market and many Palestinians, especially young men come to the city seeking work.
The most popular career portal In Ramallah and Palestine is Jobs in Palestine .here you can find most jobs advertised by INGOs,NGOs,and local companies
Major working opportunities in Ramallah include information technology, pharmaceuticals, development cooperation, and the public sector. Restaurant and coffee shop jobs are also available, mainly during the summer. Agricultural jobs are minimal in the city, but a few can be sought in neighboring villages.
For foreigners, work opportunities tend to include consultancies in certain private sector markets - IT is most common. The vast majority of foreigners working in Ramallah are doing development or humanitarian work. A significant number are focused on human rights and advocacy. A number of UN agencies work directly in the West Bank and many, such as the UNDP, maintain office in Ramallah.
Volunteering opportunities are common in small and medium sized Palestinian NGOs as well as some international NGOs. Volunteering is an excellent way to get to understand an organisation and the field they operate in. Most local NGOs will appreciate foreign volunteers, particularly if they have good written English skills, enabling them to support fundraising work. Volunteers are often paid small sums to cover basic travel costs but this varies. If you are planning to volunteer, have enough money to support yourself as Ramallah is not a cheap place to live. you could also volunteer in some new small projects as the first youth hostel in the city (HOSTEL in RAMALLAH) and through the hostel there are some other projects as an organic farm or refuge camps http://hostelinramallah.com
You will never find everything under one roof, but for a basket of common necessities, you will need to visit a baker, grocer, butcher, pharmacy and mini-market. Ramallah city centre, despite the development and growth of some new stores retains a small-town feel due to the protections for tenants that mean many shops have been in the same location for decades (rent agreed at the outset cannot be increased, so in many cases is only a few USD per year).
Hisbeh produce marketA great place to visit. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices. Produce is a mixture of Palestinian, Israeli and imported goods.
address: Al masion areaTraditional palestinian handcraft can be found here.
Butchers in Ramallah normally sell meat (Beef/Lamb) or chicken. If they sell both, they are separated and attended by different people. One of the best butchers is on Tireh Street about 1km from Al-Manara. The butcher will cut the meat to your specification and will mince it for you while you wait for no extra charge. If you ask for barbeque meat, you will also get a mix of coriandar, garlic and spices ready for BBQ.
The bakery on Al-Quds street where the buses emerge from the bus station is one of the best in town. The staple is 'kmaaj' or pitta bread. A bakery in the Old City (Ramallah Tahta) produces brown kmaaj and sliced bread.
Also the Arabic variety of ice cream in many places in Ramallah is worth trying - a very different and more gooey and sticky version of what is available in the west. Regular ice cream can be found everywhere also. Try Rukab's and Baladna ice cream shops on the main street.
There are a huge number of Falafel and Shawarma places on all of the main streets. A filling falafel or hummous pita sandwich with a drink should run you around ₪4-6 from any of the common downtown restaurants. At nicer restaurants, such a combination will run you a bit more.
A large Shawerma, Kebab, or Chicken sandwich goes for around ₪10-15 in most restaurants. A hamburger, fries, and a drink go for around ₪15-25 depending on the restaurant. Abu Alabed is an excellent Shawerma place located in the old city next to fish and chips restaurant. Big Bite located at the end of the main street offers a wide range of hot and cold sandwiches.
Nazareth Restaurantaddress: Tireh StreetPopular for locals and serves really great (but hummousey) Falafel.
Sabaaddress: Tireh StreetFalafel.
Abu Khaliladdress: Tireh StreetAnother delicious Falafel.
Fish and Chips restaurantYou can have a delicious dish of fresh fish or other seafood dishes. You can choose your favourite fresh fish from Palestine Fishery and ask the chef to prepare that fish for you in the way you like. They also prepare very delicious fish sandwiches at reasonable prices.
AngelinosAnother place to eat. We went there with a group of friends and we all like sandwich with turkey, stuffed pigeon and pizzas.
"Tomasso's" pizzaFor a nice pizza dine-in or take-out.
CheckersFor those who want more American/Western food, this place is a fast-food joint in the mini-mall and on the main street.
Cheese Steakphone: +972 22967616American/Western
Chicago Cheese SteakAmerican/Western
The city has a number of upscale restaurants. A nice steak or seafood dish will cost around ₪80. "Darna", "Angelo's", "Azure" are all nice options for upscale dining.
address: Main StreetZiryab is great in winter with a large open fireplace and good food. The prices are average. Alcohol is available.
TropicanaA moderately-priced gourmet restaurant. Especially in summer, you can sit in the garden, and apart from the traditional Arabic food, they also serve European and Armenian dishes.
phone: +972 22975444, +972 592975444address: Rivera Palace, Al-Yarmouk St, MasyounRestaurant, coffee shop and bakery. Extensive range of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Palestinian dishes, home products, quality food. Homemade pastries, manakeesh, salads, sandwiches, desserts, cakes, fresh juices, hot and soft drinks, and shisha.
The city's active nightlife and its relatively liberal culture makes it a hot destination for visitors from other cities including Jerusalem during the weeknights and weekends.
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 a 'Argila' (flavoured tobacco waterpipe.) 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.
Fruit JuicePalestinians seem to love fresh fruit-juice. For under ₪10 you can get a large juice with a mixture of anything from Pomegranate to Orange juice.
SilwadiThis juice shop is the most famous and has been around for decades. Silwadi's something of a purist serving only pure juice.
Alsham Cafe (?)This one also serves a cocktail which includes ice-cream, nuts and dried fruit as well as chocolate sauce.
Coffee shopsRamallah offers a wide variety of coffeeshops ranging from the local low-scale ones serving Arabic Coffee for ₪2, to those fancy places serving the same item for ₪10-15. Try the Arabic drinks (arabic coffee, mint tea, sahleb, etc ), cappucinos and lattes, and fresh juices and cocktails at the numerous cafes around downtown and in the suburbs.
'Coffee shops' are places to drink coffee and smoke waterpipes. The term Argila is often used in Ramallah to describe the waterpipes, while Shishah is also used at some places. You might even see 'Hookah' or 'Hubbly Bubbly'. You can also smoke Arghila in almost any restaurant, although some have special areas for them.
You can order normal ('aadi') or fresh ('fresh'). Fresh means the tobacco is placed in a piece of fruit like an orange (or even a watermelon). It has a smoother flavour but is more expensive. You should also choose your flavour. Common flavours are double-apple ('tufateen') and lemon and mint ('limun-w-nana').
Depending on the location and type of restaurant of cafe, the price of smoking a nice and soothing tobacco waterpipe costs anywhere between ₪8-30. The cheapest places do have an unwritten men-only rule, however.
A mobile coffee standServing the arguably best sahlab in town.
Baladnaa cheap 'Coffee Shop' with an un-written men-only rule. It is packed every day for most of the evening.
Tarwee'aA midrange 'Coffee Shop' which accepts men and women
- Also try "European" and "Karameh" on main street.
BarsPopular local places to get served alcohol are Zan's, Zryiab, Stones, Angelo's, and Sangria's. They all serve food as well and the local Palestinian beer "Taybeh" (which can challenge most European beers). For more robust beer lovers, Taybeh also comes in a delightfully rich tasting dark version although this isn't as widely sold as the lighter ale.
Most neighborhoods, particularly traditionally Christian ones have a couple of stores that sell beer, wine and spirits.
Silwadi Juice Shopaddress: al-Manara SquareSilwadi juice shop is the most famous juice shop in Ramallah. It has been in the same place for decades. They only serve fresh juice. Choose from a variety of seasonal fruits (and vegetables).
Snobaraddress: Masaif (al-Irsal)Snobar is an open-air summer bar about 5 minutes in a taxi from the centre of the city. Snobar means pine tree in Arabic and the area is enclosed by tall pines. There is an outdoor swimming pool which is open in the afternoons. Food and alcohol available.
radioaddress: Al-Masyoun AreaBeit Anisa was the name now it is radio is Ramallah's latest addition to the nightlife and feels more like a bar in London's Soho. It attracts a mixture of locals, foreigners and others. Alcohol available.
Orjwanaddress: Al-Masyoun AreaOrjwan is Ramallah's premium nightspot attracting the higher echelons. Holiday-snaps from Orjwan might not look out of place with those from New York or London.
Taybeh Beer BreweryRun and operated by the Palestinian-American Khoury family, this is one of only a handful of micro-breweries in the Middle East. It creates the famous Palestinian beer called "Taybeh" and gets it's name from the village that it is made in (the only 100% Palestinian Christian village in Palestine). They offer a tour of their factory and have a gift shop and fresh and very, very, very cheap beer on sale. The village of Taybeh also hosts it's very own Oktoberfest-style festival on the first week of October in Taybeh village
FiegoAn upscale and very cosy place in an old city building, with great lights, a warming fireplace for cold winter nights, friendly staff and excellent drinks.
phone: +972 22819472, +972 597971254Made from recycled pallets, has live music, beer, and Palestinian food, such as grape leaves, manaqish, musakhan, maqloubeh.
phone: +972 569001020address: Arafat square al-nuzha street (Almaktaba) 12The first youth hostel in Ramallah. Including breakfast and city tour, political yours and introduction to Palestine, roof terrace and bar local beers cooking Palestinian food great city view. Close to night life in a safe zone in the city at night. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and many other activities can be organised. If you stay here you can collect a stamp for the AubergInn in Jericho for a discounted dorm bed of ₪60 there. Also, the Nablus Youth Hostel offers a discount of ₪10 (₪70 >> ₪60) if you say, you got recommended by Hostel in Ramallah.
phone: +972 569349072address: Top Floor, Maliki Building, between Jerusalem bus station (#18) and main mosque al-birehArea D was recently selected as the Lonely Planet editor's top choice in town, and it focuses on the political situation, with lots of information and tours. A place to relax for a few days, get to know the city and its people, and learn more about this fascinating part of the world.
Al Wehdeh Hotelphone: +972 22980432address: Al Nahdah StreetGreat Hotel, but a little run down but the cheapest in town..
Merryland Hostelphone: +972 22987176address: 3rd floor of Al Ramoni building close to al-mactabaNo dormitories, so not really a hostel. not sure it is still running.
Al-Hajjalphone: +972 22987858
City Inn Palace
phone: +970 22946800The most common destination in the city for businessmen and government officials.
phone: +972 22964040address: 24 Jaffa StreetAn all-suites hotel where every room has a kitchenette and A/C. Daily and monthly rates in a tourist area close to restaurants and bars.
Millennium Palestine Ramallahphone: +970 22985888address: 10 Emile Habibi StreetIt is the only five-star hotel in Ramallah so far.
Bear in mind that although Ramallah has been under military occupation for a long time, the city is relatively stable. However, very rarely the Israeli military enters the city to arrest wanted Palestinians. This usually only happens in the dead of night, and they disappear before anyone realizes that they were there. However, the Israeli military can enter Ramallah bluntly, and in large numbers. If this should happen while you are staying in Ramallah, do what the majority of Palestinians do, and stay inside until they leave and away from any soldiers or military vehicles. Do not assume that just because you are a foreign national that you will be safe.
That said, Ramallah hasn't seen any widespread violence since 2006 and it is highly unlikely to happen (unless there are escalations with Israel, which will be very apparent via international media). In the cases where the Israelis enter, it is usually to arrest a wanted Palestinian in an outskirts refugee camp in the middle of the night. They will rarely enter the city centre, so as to avoid an unnecessary confrontation with large crowds of civilians.
- Jerusalem – Besides the Dead Sea, a central focus for most people coming to this region.
- Nablus – One of the oldest cities in the world and famous for its kunafa/kenafeh.
- Bethlehem – The biblical birthplace of Jesus and hometown of David, surrounded by Mar Saba Monastery and Herodium (Herodion) Park.
- Jericho – One of the oldest settlements in the world and the Middle East, and a great starting point for Kalya Beach at the Dead Sea.