Trails and Healthasala aqel
Trails and Health: A Promising Partnership
By Raed Saadeh
In the beginning, my interest in trekking and trails was to use them to enrich the potential tourism package that exists in the countryside of Palestine. Visiting and walking along the trails near Palestinian villages is not only a beautiful and serene activity, but it is also culturally enriching.
Sufi Trails By
community, who have incredible secrets to reveal about the land and local traditions. Exploring the relationship between the local community and the environment is an enticing activity for a discerning visitor. The fact that local communities have lived continuously in rural Palestine for many centuries has created a wealth of knowledge about the indigenous plants and shrubs that grow nearby and the many uses and benefits they offer. It is not uncommon to meet people from nearby villages picking plants and shrubs along rural trails to make food or medicinal treatments.
However, as I became more familiar with the trails of Palestine, I began to see the significant health benefits of walking as well. Walking is proven to control weight and high blood pressure. It helps to reduce the risk of heart attack, colon cancer, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and arthritis pain, and even helps to prevent osteoporosis. Adopting lifestyle changes that incorporate walking outdoors is proven to have long-term health benefits for both
Photo by Yiota Kutulas.
individuals and communities, provided it becomes part of their daily routine. Hence, establishing trails becomes a worthy initiative that offers a good opportunity for regular physical activity, while at the same time offering opportunities to explore and discover the secrets that our surrounding villages, neighborhoods, and unspoiled landscape have to offer. This leads to an interesting partnership. On the one hand, walking trails nourish tourism in nearby villages and neighborhoods, while on the other, they enrich visitors by encouraging physical activity and allowing them to explore the ancient history, beautiful landscape, and flora and fauna of this area. As a result, the trails promote social cohesion, and positive economic and cultural impacts. And this is only the beginning. The promising partnership between trails and health can lead to a healthier society overall, something that insurance
companies and government agencies that are responsible for paying numerous medical bills should keep.
Shubruq “Ononis Spinosa”.
Hence, the benefits of trails and walkways should attract the interest of various stakeholders, including governments, private health services, planners, philanthropists, and businesses. Together, these stakeholders could develop initiatives for improving health through nature-based physical activity. With some investment, walking trails can make our communities more liveable, enhance the economy through local and international tourism and civic development, encourage the preservation and restoration of open spaces, provide opportunities for people of all ages to improve their physical and mental health, and support the interdependence between nature and local Palestinian communities that has existed for centuries.
Tayyoun “Inula Viscosa”.
I would like to take you on a tour of the Deir Ghassaneh Sufi Trail, which was developed by the Rozana Association (www.sufitrails.ps). The trail passes a number of sites and shrines before it brings you to the edge of a 3 km trail that ends at a remote Sufi shrine called Al-Majdhoub, which means “the attracted” in Arabic. This shrine was built in honour of Ibrahim Al-Rabi, a Sufi scholar who lived at the site more than 200 years ago. The trail is not only interesting for visitors who are fascinated by the Sufi story, but also because of its connection with the local community and its links with the multi-layered history of Palestine. There is also a diverse variety of indigenous plant species that seem to sprout up in the most unlikely places along the path. Palestine’s geographical location, its topography, climate, soil diversity, and centuries of agriculture all contribute to its plant
Qurus Anneh “Eryngium”.
There are 114 overall plant species in Palestine and more than 2,700 individual types of plants, which is a proportionally large number compared to the size of the country. Many of these plants are well known to the local community, and have been used throughout history to provide medical relief for a number of symptoms and sicknesses. An inquisitive look along the trail is sufficient to discover a number of these species. Some of them find their home at the edges of terraces, like shubruq and tayyoun, while others live in solitude between the cracks of the rocks, like ourus anneh, and jaadeh. These are just samples of what nature is providing for humanity. The rest is waiting to be explored and enjoyed along the trails that crisscross Palestine. Join us along one of our trails to celebrate good health and Palestine’s natural resources.
Shubruq (ononis spinosa): This plant is a small shrub rising 20 cm above the ground. It has a woody stem, rosy flowers, and oval-shaped fruit. It is often used to heal ulcerations in the mouth and teeth. It can be boiled, soaked, or extracted for both internal and external use.
Tayyoun (inula viscosa): This plant is a shrub that grows to 50 to 100 cm. It has yellow flowers and its leaves look like spears. It is known to help break up kidney stones, heal liver pains, and cure urinary infections, and is prescribed to help control weight and prevent obesity.
Qurus anneh (eryngium): When green, this small plant can be finely minced and eaten as a salad with a bit of olive oil and lemon added to it. When dried, it becomes a thorny blue-coloured plant. Throughout the ages, this plant has been used for many medical treatments, such as stomachaches, liver problems, and cramps.
Ja’deh (teucrium polium): It is about 35 cm tall and pale green in colour with soft white fur balls. This plant is generally associated with curing ulcers and other stomach and abdominal pains.
Kharroub (ceratonia si liqua): This tree has existed in the Mediterranean area for at least 4,000 years. It is known to cope well with dry, cold weather and strong winds. It is usually satisfied with an average of 30 cm of rainwater every year. The fruits of this tree are used to help relieve stomach acidity, diabetes, and diarrhoea.
Mr. Raed Saadeh is the co-founder and chairman of the Rozana Associationfor Architectural Heritage Conservation and Rural Tourism Development based in Birzeit. Mr. Saadeh is also the owner and general manager of the Jerusalem Hotel, a boutique hotel in Jerusalem, the current president of the Arab (Palestinian) Hotel Association (AHA), and the co-founder of the Network for Experiential Palestinian Tourism Organisations (NEPTO). Raed originally trained as a mechanical engineer with a BSc Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University, N.Y. and a MSc. at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.
Original published in ” this week in palatine ” Issue No . 185, September 2013 .