Shopping and noshing through the Holy Land
The area has become trendy in recent years and a large selection of local boutiques, bars and cafes are mixed in with the antique and junk shops. You can combine shopping with noshing at Puaa, a charming restaurant that is a favourite of locals and tourists. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with local specialties like homemade yogurt and shakshuka, an egg and tomato dish usually eaten for breakfast, and has a nice wine selection as well. Most of the carefully selected vintage furniture, decorations and crockery in the restaurant are for sale.
Adventurous travellers may want to make a side trip to the Palestinian town of Ramallah, located in the centre of the West Bank, six miles north of Jerusalem. The city is slowly making its way onto tourist maps; it is the West Bank's most cosmopolitan and affluent town and recently opened its first five-star hotel.
While crossing from Jerusalem is safe, you can feel the tension of the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since 1967 and to get to Ramallah you cross a thick concrete wall of a checkpoint.
The Al Hespa Market in Ramallah is just off Al Manara Square in the centre of town. You will not find many tourists here, but this is where local families do their produce shopping. It is best to arrive early in the morning to get your pick from piles of watermelons, cherries and grapes, displayed under brightly coloured umbrellas to shade them from the sun. Vendors also sell fresh bread and homemade sweets, and men in ornate red costumes sell tea and fruit drinks out of huge metal flasks hanging from their neck.
After stocking up, head a few blocks away to Ramallah Tahta for Abu Abed's Shawerma shop (Rukab Street; no phone) where the staff chisels away at a huge slab of slowly spinning meat cooking under hot lamps. Laced with fresh chillies and tahini, it is the best lamb shawerma in town. With plastic tabletops, the atmosphere is cheap and cheerful.