Published on Arab Voices

From Sana’a to Jerusalem

Over the holidays, I spent a couple of weeks in Palestine visiting family and friends. During my stay, I visited Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron, and many other villages and towns in the West Bank.

One of the most memorable moments was spending Christmas Eve in Manger Square in Bethlehem, revered by Christians as the birth place of Jesus.  I also walked in the old city of Jerusalem. I walked through the narrow streets, smelled the fresh spices and ate the yummy Palestinian sweets. I also visited Al-Aqsa mosque (Al-Haram Al-Sharif) and the Church of the Nativity and many other historical sites.  As I walked there, I felt as if I was walking the streets of history. I saw Jerusalem as a beautiful Palestinian girl, in her traditional dress, but with tears in her eyes and praying for peace...for all of Jerusalem’s people...Muslims, Christians and Jews.  

World BankRight after I returned to Sana’a, I went to the old city.  I walked through the narrow streets of old Sana’a, starting with Bab Al Yemen. It very much reminded me of Damascus Gate in the old city of Jerusalem. The city is so beautiful; an open air museum, with its beautiful buildings, bazars, and historical sites. I walked around and interacted with merchants - wonderful people. Their eyes and the wrinkles in their faces reflect, like Palestinians, great patience and hope for the future. Many of them are waiting for tourists to arrive, and they have been waiting for so long...Unfortunately, I saw very few tourists in the old city.  It is understandable: Very few tourists will have the courage to visit Yemen during these difficult times.

Much like Jerusalem, the old city of Sana’a has tears in its eyes…crying for peace, stability and normality. For a time when people can live peacefully as good neighbors. Diversity of views should be considered  a strength rather than a source of conflict. From my dealings with Yemenis, I truly believe that all Yemeni people love the country in their own way. No one can claim that they love Yemen more than others. As the country is gearing up for the National Dialogue, this diversity of views should be mined to generate the best ideas to set a new direction for Yemen, for writing a constitution that brings the country together, and builds a solid foundation for a new, modern Yemen. This is for the sake of both the Yemeni people and their future generations.

As I was walking in the old city of Jerusalem, I had my own dreams of a real peace in the holy land. While it looks very far away, I have never lost hope.  I prayed for peace and stability, hoping that one day the people of the old city of Sana’a will be able to visit the old city of Jerusalem.  


Wael Zakout

Senior Technical Advisor and Global Lead, Land Policy and Geospatial

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