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> African community
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> Nablus: The City of Strong Women
> The Heart of Nablus: Nine Thousand Years and More …
> Bus Number 23
> Jericho: Oasis Town
> Sweet Memories of a Winter Gone
> Warming Up in Jericho
> Hebron: Heritage of Palestine
> The Bread Oven (Tabun)
> The Courtyard (hosh) in the Palestinian Village Home
> The Façade of the Palestinian Village House
> The Transformations in the Palestinian Village Home
> The Village
> Friends School, Ramallah
Most villages in the central highlands of Palestine are located on hilltops or the upper slopes of the hills overlooking the valleys and plains below, and blending naturally into the surrounding rocky landscape. The compact groups of old houses in graying limestone merge harmoniously with the stone terraces (sanasil) of fruit gardens and orchards. Only occasionally does the minaret of the mosque change the focus, raising the eye from the domed houses to the open expanse of the bright blue sky.
Each village, a tight cluster of a small houses, was separated from others by well-tended private gardens (hawakir) and then by fields, where a variety of rain-fed crops- olives, figs, almonds, grapes, vegetables and cereals- were cultivated for home consumption and the market.
Today, the settlement pattern of Palestinian villages is very different. Neighboring villages are not as distinctly separated, and the new, fashionable houses are now built away from the village core, and spread along major routes, often linking up with neighboring villages.
Most highland villages were architecturally quite simple. The most sophisticated central highlands villages were known as 'throne villages' (qura al-karasi), and were centers of power and prestige for the rural landlords (shuyukh al-nawahi) who resided in them. Throne villages borrowed some architectural features and building styles from nearby urban centres, reflecting the close economic and political alliances that existed between rural landlords and urban notables.
The physical and spatial organization of the village, and its division into private and communal areas, was influenced by status, kinship and gender relations as well as communal and religious needs. Each village contained a number of patrilineal descent groups (hamuleh) grouped into separate quarters named after them (harat), each housing smaller groups made up of several extended families. Village fields were also divided into kinship domains.
Most villages were also subdivided on the basis of social prominence and wealth. The more influential hamulehs inhabited the more elevated areas of the village ( al-harah al-foqah), while those which were less well-endowed resided in the lower quarter (al-harah al-tahtah).
Other areas in the village accommodated the communal needs of the villagers. The main plaza (sahah) was a meeting place for the men of the village, since they could not meet in each others' homes because the house was considered 'female territory'. The guest house ( madafah), usually situated in the sahah, was also the centre of the male gatherings and entertainment. During the day, the elders of the village would working in the fields, the younger men would met there, to relax, exchange news and perhaps listen popular tales or folks songs recited by the village musician ( zajjal) strumming his single-stringed fiddle ( rababeh). The village mosque was another important meting place for men.
While these public areas were dominated by men, other areas were the province of women, principally by the village spring ('ayn). One of a woman's first duties of the day was to fetch water and bring it back to the home. At the turn of the century, the mother of the family sometimes took her children to the spring and did the family washing –soaking the clothes, laying them out on rocks and pounding them with wood. Soap was rarely available so either breadcrumbs, wood ashes or a special kind of sandy clay was used to rub off the dirt. The spring was also where young children were bathed. The bread oven (tabun) was another meeting place for women of the same quarter.
Often two or more hamulehs shared ownership of the village oil-presses (al-badd), threshing floors (al-bayader), and local shops which were centres for the daily activities of the members of the different hamulehs.
Source: Amiry, Suad and Tamari, Vera: The Palestinian Village Home, 1989.