The sights and sounds of an ordinary day in Birzeit’s revitalized historic center are manifold: older children chattering on their way to the Circus School or to the Mosaic Workshop, younger children laughing on the playground, an instructor lecturing women on the intricacies of international marketing at the Women’s Charitable Society, tourists sipping tea at a tea house, visitors young and old testing their scientific skills at the Saadeh Science Center. Later a café or two will open for lunch and kitchen sounds will fill the narrow streets. Later still weary hikers will return from a Sufi Trail hike and the tourists will shop for olive oil and other olive products, Hebron pottery, and locally-embroidered scarves at one of the local businesses.
These routines are recent. Birzeit’s Old City, once a place of poverty, neglect and decay, has been transformed into a thriving neighborhood, with modern amenities, for families, local businesses, cultural organizations, museums, and schools. Three times each year Birzeit’s Old City hosts cultural events that attract thousands of visitors, both local and international – the Birzeit Heritage Week, the Maftoul Festival, and Ramadan Nights. These are prototypes for what the historic area is becoming throughout the year, a prospering cultural area and a living archeological heritage restored for modern use.