Friday 16 January 2015

Monday 12th January

Today we went to Ramallah and we saw, amongst other things, Yasser Arafat’s Tomb.

Ramallah is a bustling town, full of life and people everywhere, a sharp change to the quiet and disengaged Abu Dis. Going around the town it was clear that economically it had a bit more life than elsewhere in Palestine but the aesthetic was still consistent; buildings that may in twenty or thirty years convey a sense of solidity and permanence are still being erected and the stores and shops feel like they could do with a bit of a makeover.

Arafat’s tomb is a different world. Amid rubble and rubbish, a parting on the side of the road with two very nice military gentlemen with Kalashnikovs and behind them an oasis of pure white marble serenity. As we entered another guard escorted us through the courtyard to a small structure with sliding glass doors.

Inside, on full display, a stone coffin with the inscribed lid angled towards us and behind it, a solder with a far more solemn countenance than the bloke who brought us in and clad in his parade dress and posed as proudly as if Arafat was his own son.

The design seemed to have been drawn from a few different directions. There was a strong sense of heroic triumph not dissimilar to what you might find Napoleon’s mausoleum while the appearance of the tombstone had the same white marble with naturally inspired designs as can be found on the Taj Mahal. The minimalist glass and marble design created a strong sense of modernity while the engraved tombstone, far more timeless. The Palestinian flags flew outside the small enclosure and another was draped across the guard’s uniform as a sash.

Behind everything on a nearby street, Mahmoud Abbas gleamed back at the whole scene from a billboard.

It seemed odd that a man who had been born into, lived through, was shaped by and fought on through such turmoil could rest around such serenity, even as the conflict staggered on; when outside the marble afterlife the tragic injustice can no longer tarnish the memory of this freedom fighter.

After maybe five minutes, we left the enclosure and returned to the blustery city.

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