Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC)

Tourism is directly associated with cultural heritage, which is considered to be one of its important components, where elements of cultural heritage and values that distinguish them, which can be historical, architectural, artistic, or symbolic, are themselves elements of tourism attraction. when cultural heritage resources are utilized and invested in accordance with the requirements of tourism development, cultural tourism can be an effective tool for economic development. In that regard, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) began to think of architectural heritage as an essential source to activate the tourism movement and initiated working on a master plan, to invest in the historical monuments and landmark of the Old City. The Old City of Hebron abounds with an ancient cultural heritage, weaved in a unique way to form a set of traditional treasures, represented by its courtyards, markets, alleyways, vaults, mosques, zawiyas, shrines, hospices (takiyas), and khans, and above all of which Ibrahimi mosque, that witnesses its religious, historical and civilizational status.

Ibrahimi Mosque

The tourism development plan prepared by Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) focuses on rehabilitating heritage buildings as tourist attractions, through a main route that starts from the entrance to the Old City leading to its Ibrahimi Mosque, Where restoration and rehabilitation of the distinctive historical landmarks took place, especially the Ibrahimi Mosque, which Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) consistently maintained nearly twenty-five years ago and is still continually restore and preserve until this day. Aside from the rehabilitation and renovation of mosques, zawiyas, maqams (shrines), hospices (takiyas), olive presses, sesame presses, traditional hammams, to be integrated with the rehabilitation of all buildings within the traditional urban fabric of the Old City, which itself represents a civilized and cultural heritage and a source of admiration and attraction for visitors. At the same time, the plan devoted a special attention to rehabilitating the infrastructure of the Old City’s lanes, roads and alleyways, and creating public gardens and rest spots for visitors. In addition to rehabilitating the Old City souqs and commercial shops and affording them with the necessary services in preparation for receiving visitors and shoppers.

To complete the heritage image for the tourist, the tourism development plan was not limited to preserving and rehabilitating the tangible heritage, but rather focused on the intangible aspect of this heritage, which is no less important than the tangible heritage, but rather completes each other if work is complete to achieve integration between these two aspects of the heritage. In this context, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has sought, through its development plan, to sustain traditional crafts and prevent their extinction by conserving them and resuming the glass and pottery industries in the Old City, where a traditional glass factory and other pottery and glass workshops were operated, as well as supporting other traditional crafts such as embroideries, leather tanning, weaving and the food industry by providing shops and commercial galleries for their owners to enable them to display and market their products, along with organizing seasonal festivals that include multiple activities to highlight the cultural heritage and attract tourists and visitors.

On the other hand, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) worked to provide the necessary tourist services and facilities by offering hotels, parking lots, public health units, a visitor center, information centers, directional panels, and tourist maps.
Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) believes in the importance of local communities' participation in tourism development and the active role that the local community plays in achieving sustainable development. Therefore, the HRC makes sure to provide awareness and educational programs for the local community of shop owners and street vendors, in order to raise the level of awareness and culture and how to deal with tourists, as well as organizing training programs for tour guides. Hebron Rehabilitation Committee's efforts to activate the role of the community and enhance their involvement in tourism and economic development have had a significant impact and encouraged the residents to consider tourist projects using their heritage treasures, Residents operated parts of their homes as tourist inns or guest hosts and visitors' rests, many housewives have also marketed their heritage products of embroideries, food industries and other products that can be displayed to tourists, which has helped to provide job opportunities that support the families’ income in the Old City. On the other hand, market rehabilitation and shop restoration projects have attracted many private investors to open branches of their companies in the Old City and provide goods at lowered prices to encourage the Old City’s local tourism and shed light on the important aspects of the Palestinian economy to foreign tourists.

Restored commercial shops in Kasbah market

Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC) has ensured to create of a route where visitors tour in a circle full of historical and architectural elements to learn about the civilization and history of this area on the one hand, and to mark the beginning of a comprehensive tourism and economic development suitable to the elements that this historic Old City contains. The Natsheh Press was the first site on this route, and it is a remarkable historical building that HRC restored, as a touristic spot that tells the history of the oil production industry in Hebron, as all of the architectural and archeological elements have been preserved through restoration in the press to witness this production.

Sufi Zawiyas

The Natsheh Press

From the Natsheh press, the route leads us to two of the most significant Sufi zawiyas in Hebron, the zawiya of Sheikh Shibli and the zawiya of Al Zahid, each of which reflects the period of scientific prosperity that Hebron witnessed during the Mamluk period, that used to be spots for religious scholars, sheikhs, and education seekers. Hebron Rehabilitation Committee implemented 2013 an extensive restoration of these two zawiyas, which was carried out to be touristic sites that show the scientific importance of Old Hebron, this distinctive pattern of religious architecture is preserved through the restoration process, which is a living witness to the cultural development of this ancient area.
From the sufi zawiyas to another pattern of traditional presses, that combines between olive and sesame in its use, it shows us a unique combination of techniques and equipment that were used in this industry, which in itself is an archaeological masterpiece, that must be preserved and shown to the present and future generations to know that the Old City owned industry and economic prosperity, therefore, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee has made great efforts in its restoration, preserving all of its components, and opening it to visitors and tourists.
The tourist route thereafter leads us to one of the oldest traditional crafts in Hebron, the craft of ceramics, that used to be a source of livelihood for many families in Hebron, and Hebron was featured by the continuity of its production and is still considered until now an important source of support for the city's economy. From the ceramic craft, we begin our tour in the historic Hebron souq (Al Kasbah neighborhood), which has long been famous for its specialized shops and multiple goods, which is also known for its special smells that spread in the atmosphere of the souq, due to perfumes, spices, sweets, incense, coffee, etc., bringing to this old souq a distinguished atmosphere witnessed by everyone who visited it. In the middle of this crowded souq, we encounter the historic Badran coffee and its well-known square, which served as a colloquy center for the elderly men and family elders in Hebron, where their discussions concerning various causes, whether they are social, economic, or political, besides that it is considered as a place for entertainment, storytelling and folk tales. This coffee gives the tourist the opportunity to relax in a remarkable traditional atmosphere.

The route proceeds, to stop for a while at Iqnaibi Press, which is featured by a special character, that shows the tourists another type of traditional sesame presses and their products, many antiquities, traditional tools, and Palestinian folk costumes are placed inside, and in middle of the press, constituting a small folk museum. The building was used as an olive press amid the Ottoman period, then during the British Mandate, it was transformed into a sesame press.
After this rich tour of characteristic sites, the route still carries us many tourist treasures, as it now takes us to one of the oldest baths in Palestine, Ibrahim Al Khalil Hammam, bringing us back to the Mamluk period, which we can observe clearly through its architectural pattern and Mamluk elements. When Hebron Rehabilitation Committee in 2015 carried out a comprehensive restoration of the building, through which it preserved all of the architectural and aesthetic components in the building, it also transformed it into a center for visitors in the Old City, and created a small museum in one of its halls to represent the antiquities collected from the site and its surroundings.

Iqnaibi Press

“Ard Kanaan” traditional glass factory

Ibrahim Al Khalil Hammam

Al Emar Tourism Route afterwards heads to Friendship Garden (Al Sadaqa Garden), and is finalized with Hebron City’s holiest landmarks “Ibrahimi Mosque”. The process of launching the route was accompanied with releasing and publishing brochures related to the tourist attraction sites that the route includes, as well as releasing a map demonstrating the tourism route.
As a side of its efforts to develop this route and provide it with tourist stations, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee created Old Hebron Museum to be a mirror that shows its civilization and cultural heritage, and to be a platform that informs present and future generations everything regarding their area, out of the need to raise the awareness of the local community individuals and increase their knowledge of their Old City’s heritage, history, civilizational development, and political conditions, as well as the exerted efforts to protect and preserve this heritage. This interpretive museum also plays a dominant role in encouraging tourism to the Old City and is considered one of its components, this project therefore targets all categories of the local and international community. The museum is considered a unique piece of architecture, with its traditional elements, architectural pattern and decorative ornaments. The Old City Museum consists of five main spaces, each of which deals with a specific aspect of the city, where the visitors follow these spaces in accordance with a clear series to display information, thus the first space presents the historical review of Hebron City with a detailed presentation of historical information regarding every historical era that the city went through, illustrated with photos and antiquities of the era, then the visitor moves to a special room related to the Ibrahimi Mosque, which reviews detailed information about this sacred landmark in terms of history, architectural description, the techniques used in its restoration and preservation, and the challenges encountered in the process of its restoration. Meanwhile the third space covers Hebron Rehabilitation Committee in terms of its establishment, goals, comprehensive master plan, and achievements in preserving and revitalizing the Old City, and the fourth space deals with a presentation of the political situation in the city of Hebron and the violations committed against the residents and the urban heritage likewise. The fifth room in the end presents everything concerned to the main traditional crafts, that represents a significant aspect of the cultural heritage of the Old City, such as pottery, glass, ceramics, weaving, and embroidery, along with displaying samples of each craft. The museum also includes a multi-purpose hall equipped with a display screen, in which special films are presented, meetings and seminars are organized, in addition to an antiquities exhibition that provides a group of artifacts that reflect the history of Hebron.
Restoration and rehabilitation of the aforementioned tourist attraction has come to deliver us a message in reality of the HRC’s ambitions to enhance tourism movement in the Old City suited to the Old City’s components and its value as a world heritage site, to achieve the tourism development that helps to reveal the cultural and civilizational heritage of the area on one side, also it contributes in improving the area’s economic conditions for its residents on another side as a tourist attraction. Hebron Rehabilitation Committee considers its efforts in achieving the tourism development as a main factor for its identified goals to preserve the cultural heritage of the Old City, which reflects an outstanding civilization, that still contains the civilizational and architectural very specific details, thanks to the efforts of the HRC to preserve and revive these civilizational components and maintain them for future generations.

Al Emar Tourism Route

Old Hebron Museum