I were to start my Arabic lessons and English classes on Tuesday, which, conveniently enough, left me the Monday to explore my new environment. Together with my coordinator, we took a servees (a shared taxi of a standard price of 2,5 Shekels – or EUR 0,63) to Ein Sarah, the main street of Hebron.
I’d never dare to drive a car here; not even a rental. It seems like there are no actual traffic rules, it’s basically just first come first serve. (When in doubt, just honk.) The one with the most guts gets to drive first; I’d probably be waiting my turn politely until the dawn like some first-timer at a British roundabout.
We had a brunch at a local cafe, which was clearly catered to Western needs; instead of the cardamom-scented, almost tarlike cup of black Arabic liquid gold, I was served with also from home a very familiar – and a bit too mild – latte. The savoury pastries I picked at random were delicious though, and gave me a hint of what the local cuisine might have to offer. I was – again – happily surprised to find out one could smoke at the cafe! (Contrary to populair belief, this blog has not been sponsored by any tobacco companies. Disclaimer: smoking can seriously damage your health. Don’t start.)
After getting to know my “hedquarters” (i.e. the learning centre I was to both receive my Arabic lessons, as well as to give the English ones), me and my coordinator split ways after a quick crash course of the most important Arabic words. Instead of taking the cheap and trusted servees back home, I decided to walk instead.
Needless to say, I got lost.
All of the sudden the density of the people walking on the street increased exponentially. The sounds of the streets became amplified; the cars crawling at a snail’s pace with their drivers seeming to permanently lean on their horns making their way through the human masses. Street vendors advertising their products in a language that I could not grasp at all; they may as well been shouting profanities for all I knew.
Small chidren turning their heads at almost an owl-like proficiency, trying to steal one last glance of that a bit awkward-looking, clearly non-local blond woman, (who desperately tried to look like she knew exactly where she was going) before their mothers gently tugged them by their arms to haste them to move along towards where pretty much everybody seemed to be heading to, or returning from: the local vegetable market. The familiar odour of garlic and onions mixing with a more mystical scent originating from the spice shops made me a bit light-headed in all its intensity; I stopped for a sip of water, taking it all in, when something attracted my attention.
An old man sitting at a street corner, clearly oblivious to all the surrounding noises, was calmly reciting the worn Quran resting on his lap; and yet somehow, despite the cacophony that had embraced me, I could hear his serene voice in the middle of it all. As I passed him he gave me a gentle, almost toothless smile, and looked at me knowingly as to say: you will be all right girl.
And surely I was. All of the sudden I could make the outlines of a familiar mosque, which I knew to be near my residence; I allowed the crescent moon to guide me and before I knew it, I was back home again.