Nestled in the Levant, with its beaches against the Mediterranean, lies a land glistening with history, resilience, and vibrant traditions — Palestine. Beyond the political turmoil that often dominates headlines, there exists a people with their own interesting and vibrant traditions and culture. 

The Palestinian people hold key core values, such as hospitality or familial respect, in high regard. Maintaining strong familial connections is important as a means of solidarity and supporting each other. Like many cultures, this includes holding elders in high esteem and respect. It's not uncommon to find households filled with numerous family members and plenty of playful children.

Palestinians also exhibit remarkable resilience, giving high importance and recognition to their cultural practices and identity, preserving their culture and heritage with unwavering pride and determination.

As mentioned, hospitality is highly valued, alongside generosity. Unannounced guests are always welcomed with food, snacks, sweets, tea, or coffee. Commons snacks include dates, nuts or watermelon slices. Palestinian cuisine is also another highlight of their culture. Their heritage and hospitality can be tasted in the splendorous flavours of their dishes. Across the globe, our common love for food permeates all cultures and languages, so let's take a look at what meals might be found in Palestinian homes. 

An iconic Levantine dish called Maqluba is composed of rice, meat (best with lamb), and vegetables such as eggplant, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, and potatoes. This ancient meal has its earliest known mention found about 800 years ago, in a 13th-century cookbook. The word Maqluba translates from Arabic to mean “upside-down” because of the special way it is served. The cooking pot is theatrically and dramatically flipped onto a large communal silver eating tray and lifted, allowing the juicy meal to collapse and spread across the platter. 

Adam Akram, a half-Palestinian student on campus, shared with us some of his favourite dishes saying, “My favourite Palestinian dish is called Maftul. It’s actually my all time favourite food, but I only get to eat it once a year or just once every time I get back to Egypt since my great aunt makes it the best. My favourite dessert is Kunnafeh and it has to be with Palestinian cheese.” 

The traditional clothing is also quite artistic, with colourful dresses embroidered with mesmerizing patterns. Akram explained some interesting facts about the Keffiyeh, the iconic black and white Palestinian scarf, stating that if you look carefully at the patterns, it has some hidden symbols. The mesh pattern represents a fishnet, which relates to the people's historical connection to their fishing industry and between Palestinian sailors and the Mediterranean Sea. The scarf also bears a zig-zag-like olive leaf pattern, displaying the cultural and economic significance of nature’s olive trees. These two patterns are separated by a bold black line, a symbol of the historical trade routes that have long connected the East to the West and the South to the North.

Adam shared another staple of Palestinian culture, the Dabke dance. This Levantine folk dance has people line up, holding hands, dancing energizing steps and stomps. It has a dancer at the front of the line who leads the group. Dabke is often danced during cheerful gatherings such as weddings.

As a fun fact, did you know that the gauze fabric likely derives its name from the city of Gaza due to its historic textile industry that produced the fabric?

Arabic, the official language, is known to be a very poetic and romantic language this can be witnessed in its poetry. The Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, is internationally acclaimed and is one of the most well-known modern poets. His works are poetic, elegant and aesthetic, and his often romantic quotes are delightful to read. He also indulges in more tragic poems, such with themes of unattainable love or war, as seen in this beautiful yet tragic quote from Darwish:  

“The wars will end and the leaders will shake hands, and that old woman will remain waiting for her martyred son, and that girl will wait for her beloved husband, and the children will wait for their heroic father, I do not know who sold the homeland but I know who paid the price.”

Overall, Palestinian culture is quite vibrant, lively and spirited — and this article only represents a snippet of this culture. Additionally, getting the chance to visually watch, witness and hear this culture, its music and its traditions, is so much more valuable. 

Akram explained that it is important to be informed and advises us that if we would like to learn more about Palestinian culture, we should do our own research, whether by watching documentaries on Palestine’s history or learning about culture through Instagram. 

“The Islamic, cultural and geographical history of Palestine is also of much importance and especially with the war going on; I feel it’s necessary for everyone to understand the historical background and gain some context before jumping to conclusions,” he affirmed. “There are Palestinian rallies and protests that happen every Saturday, usually at 1 p.m., at the downtown [Kelowna] roundabout, in which we advocate for the voices of the Palestinians and fight for their deserving rights.” 

This would give you the opportunity to meet Palestinians and learn more firsthand.