Interview: Palestine looks to boost tourism after COVID-19 pandemic: official

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-12 00:11:15|Editor: huaxia

by Fatima AbdulKarim

BETHLEHEM, April 11 (Xinhua) -- In the wake of a new discovery of a cemetery of the Bronze Age, a Palestinian official said the country will seek new ways to boost tourism after the country recovers from the novel coronavirus crisis.

The latest discovery was made in Hindaza area in the suburbs of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. It was found by a man who was digging in the area to build his future home's foundations.

The man contacted the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities which confirmed that it is a cemetery of the Bronze Age.

Rula Maayah, Palestinian minister of tourism and antiquities, told Xinhua that the discovery shows a diverse set of items including horse saddles, clay pots, dishes and jars as well as weapons made of bronze.

"The importance of this discovery is that it shows the burial tradition of the middle Bronze Age, which dates back to around two millenniums ago," Maayah said. "This teaches us about human life in Palestine in that age and people's belief about the afterlife."

The discovery was made amid an expected slowdown in the tourism sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Like most of the world, Palestine's tourism and antiquities sector has suffered a blow that has nearly paralyzed the sector, as airports and borders were shut down, however, we have not stopped our work on the preservation of cultural heritage sites and buildings," she noted.

The minister explained that the newly discovered site will be renovated and will possibly be connected with tourist hiking trails in the eastern part of the Bethlehem city.

However, there is no timeframe for the plan yet, as the circumstances amid the COVID-19 outbreak remain unclear.

"Our plan for 2020 includes the renovation of 20 archeological sites across the West Bank to make them catalysts for economic development," Maayah said.

"However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, our work at the moment is restricted to only the protection of cultural heritage sites," she added.

The ministry has begun an extensive research and documentation of the new cemetery in order to accurately identify all found archeological items.

Maayah said the difficulties they face are not only related to the COVID-19 protection measures, but also, to the limited access to some heritage sites because of Israeli movement restrictions against Palestinians.