Paltrips.ps, an online cultural and travel guide to Palestine
To show Palestinian cities and Palestinian lives in another light: that is the aim of Paltrips.ps, an entirely online guide that takes tourists off the beaten track. We spoke to Victoria, the woman responsible for the project, who is currently based in Ramallah.
What can you tell me about your project?
The project came into being a year ago. It was instigated by the Franco-German Cultural Centre in Ramallah, which is home to the Institut Français and the Goethe Institut, two separate entities which share a building and cooperate on a number of projects. The idea was to meet a need identified among young tourists, be they foreign or Palestinian, by providing them with a guide to the country. That is how paltrips.ps was born. Exclusively web-based, it is made up of written contributions (articles, interviews), video and audio. The site’s main language is English, but it also contains texts written in Arabic, German and French and translated into English.
Jéricho © paltrips.ps
How did you go about producing this guide? Who provided the content?
Because it’s a Franco-German initiative, we saw this project as a cooperation between young journalists from France, Germany and Palestine. In late September last year, young journalists came to Palestine for ten days to visit all the cities so that they would be able to talk about them and share their experiences.
How did you choose them?
We preferred people who had already been here or already had a good knowledge of the country. We chose young professionals so that we could be sure to have high-quality content.
Jéricho © paltrips.ps
Is doing something like this in Palestine very different from doing it in Paris?
Yes, in as much as the image people have of Palestine abroad is not necessarily the right one. Through this project, we would like to break down the stereotypes that exist about Palestine and the images people see through the media, which are essentially of war. There is a war going on, but there is another side to the country too…
The image we present isn’t a false image. It’s an image that comes from Palestinians, based on our everyday experiences as young people living in the country.
So what do you show, exactly?
That if you come to Palestine, you can enjoy yourself, you can party, you can drink, you can go out and make friends, just like anywhere else… I wouldn’t say life is wonderful and everything is rosy. It’s not. But life goes on, places keep on opening and flourishing, and there are always new ideas emerging. It never stops, really. Especially at the moment.
Old City, Jerusalem © paltrips.ps
How do you explain that?
It comes from the young people, who have travelled a lot and lived abroad, and are saying to themselves, “We’ve got an amazing country and the market is totally untapped, so there are really lots of things we can do”. For instance, the start-up scene is extremely vibrant, with a particular focus on technology and IT projects. We talk about that on the site, actually.
Did you choose touristy places? If the site was about Paris, would you be showing us the Eiffel Tower, or places that are a little more alternative?
We try to be a little alternative. Take Bethlehem, for instance. The best-known monument is Christ’s birthplace, the Church of the Nativity.
What we show is a little museum in the Old City, just next to that church, and, for example, a nice little café that is popular with young people.
The site contains a list of the topics we have talked about. We do a lot of stuff about food, nightlife, architecture, scenery, etc.
The Institut français on Charles de Gaulle Street (which the locals have renamed “Sharl Degoul Street”), the only cultural centre in Gaza that is open to all.
Can you separate all this from the conflict?
It’s hard, but our project is really not about activism.
How is Palestine’s tourist industry doing?
Tourism is one of the most important sectors for the economy, but there are lots of restrictions on tourism in Palestine, particularly in terms of travelling around, and the sector is generating little economic benefit. It’s a sector that is ripe for development. That’s when only talking about politics and occupation becomes problematic.
On a very practical level, can a tourist honestly come here and feel safe?
We’re not going to deny that there are problems. When you get to the airport, there are things you can say and things you can’t say. It’s all part of the game. I’ve got a friend who is visiting Palestine for the first time at the moment. I don’t think she feels very comfortable when she crosses the roadblock to get to the other side, to Jerusalem or the Israeli cities. And I can understand that… we don’t feel comfortable either. Crossing the border between Palestine and Israel – when we are allowed to do so, that is – is never the highlight of the day.
One of the last remaining tile workshops in the region, in Nablus © paltrips.ps
Can you give me your top 3 cool places to go in Palestine?
On a large scale, I really like the city of Nablus, which is a little further north. The food is good, the Old City is really nice, and when you visit, you can’t see anything but the city itself, because it’s nestled in a valley between two mountains. The city stretches as far as the eye can see. There’s an article on it, actually. I really like Ramallah, too. And Bethlehem, because that’s where I’m from! But in general, there are still lots of places we still have to cover. We’d like to develop the site and add new projects.
Take another look at our interview with Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf, who is from Palestine: “Mohammed Assaf: Arab Idol”
> Facebook page of paltrips.ps