Nablus and Dundee, two cities you would never ordinarily mention in the same sentence.
That’s because the two places, one in the West Bank of Palestine – the Holy Land – and the other looking out across the North Sea in Scotland, could not be less alike.
Nablus, a village inhabited by the Samaritan people before the birth of Christ, has a long and historically important history.
Situated between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it houses Biblical sites such as Joseph’s Tomb and Jacob’s Well, the Roman’s built the city from 72 AD an it was captured by Crusaders a thousand years later.
And then you’ve got Dundee, a Scottish coastal city which famous for Dundee cake, two football clubs and Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue.
Not the most likely town to be twinned with an ancient city in the Holy Land.
This bizarre twinning came about in 1980, with controversial on-off British MP George Galloway leading the link-up.
Galloway, along with now retired Ernie Ross MP and then Dundee Councillor Colin Rennie.
The trio met up with Nablus mayor Bassam Shaka’a in London after he came to London to receive prosthetic legs following a bomb attack in Palestine.
It’s fair to say that issues in Palestine and the Middle East, possibly first addressed by Galloway around this time, have shaped his career.
The twinning was so successful that when Shaka’a needed a second pair of limbs, he came to Dundee Limb Fitting Centre. Naturally.
In 1996 an official twinning document was signed by the Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association.
Strangely, I have been to Nablus but not Dundee – though I am a big fan of Scotland.
NOTE: In the photograph (above) is Nablus’ current Guvernor Jibrin Al-Bakri, who was the subject of an assassination attempt by Hamas – the Palestinian political party which governs Gaza – two years ago.
The book Palestiniana is coming soon.
Dundee is also twinned with Orleans in France and German city Wurzburg.
Nablus is twinned with Lille, (France), Nazareth, (Israel), Dublin (Ireland), Como (Italy), Florence (Italy), Naples (Italy), Toscana (Italy), Poznan (Poland), Rabat (Morocco), Stavanger (Norway), Khasavyurt (Russia) and, of course, Dundee.
Facts from the DNTA website:
Nablus is about 66 km north of Jerusalem, 42km east of the Mediterranean.
Summer is hot and dry, winter moderate and rainy. The temperature ranges from 8° to 26° Centigrade.
One of Palestine’s largest cities, Nablus has a population of 326,752 in 2003, about half in the old city and half in surrounding suburbs and refugee camps.
The City of Dundee is situated beside the River Tay, at sea level. It is at the end of a rift valley, and is overlooked by The Law: a ‘pipe’ or small volcano. It is about 60 km north of Edinburgh.
Summer is cool but sunny, winter is cold. The temperature ranges from about 0° to 20° Centigrade. It is Scotland’s fourth largest city, with a population of about 140,000.(in 2004)
Trade and Industry
Nablus is famous for its soap industry. Also for marble and building materials, pharmaceuticals, goldsmiths, and the making of delicious sweets, the local variety being called ‘knafeh’.
Dundee’s chief business today is in biotechnology, electronics and education. Also computer games, comics, tyres, and call centres.
Both cities have been important trading centres. Dundee’s harbours are no longer as busy as they used to be, though it has enjoyed something of a revival with oil business and cruise ship visits. Nablus is at the junction of two ancient commercial roads running north/south and east/west. But in recent years Israeli road blocks have severely hampered imports and exports.
In Nablus there are 66 public schools and 21 private. In the refugee camps and the villages round about there are another 104, with camp schools run by the United Nations.
There are two universities; An Najah University, largest of the universities in Palestine, with 19,000 students, and Al-Rawda National School. Nearly all the students live in the old city because it is impossible to travel daily from the villages through the checkpoints.
Dundee has 52 schools; 10 secondary, 41 primary and one special. There are two universities, Dundee and Abertay, plus Dundee College, with 33,000 students between them.