Sans the influx of tourists in the historical birthplace of Christ, a quiet Bethlehem community gets to experience a renewal in faith over a boom in business.
Prior to the pandemic, the Palestinian city located in occupied West Bank was always filled with visiting tourists who wanted to experience walking in the land of Jesus Christ’s official birthplace. In the past, those who wanted to visit the Church of the Nativity were forced to maneuver through the crowds teeming the streets of Bethlehem. This year, however, a quiet Bethlehem becomes largely part of the massive lockdown and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Nevertheless, the absence of tourists is an opportunity for renewal, says Father Rami Asakrieh, the parish priest of Bethlehem. “Sometimes there are more than half million people who arrive in this period to visit the Nativity Church,” he recounts.
During the days leading to Christmas, however, the Church of the Nativity has been so silent, devoid of the yearly visiting faithful who traditionally visited Bethlehem from all over the world. A quiet Bethlehem, then, is a new thing for the community as locals are used to the noisy throng of commuters and visitors who annually arrived during the holiday season.
Armenian prayers are recited by four (4) monks below the Grotto of the Nativity, echoing through the typically crowded vicinity. Even during this year’s Christmas Eve, the most essential part of the celebration, the church was closed to the public. The lack of yearly visits from Palestinian authority representatives starkly reiterated the difference of this year’s celebration, as well.
“It has never happened before,” contemplates Asakrieh, as he mentions that the only times that the church was forced to close its doors were during periods of uprisings and Palestinian intifadas that were done in protest against Israel’s continued occupation.
“I think that this Christmas is different because people are not busy with the external manifestations of the feast,” the priest shares, referring to the customary purchasing of gifts and the conduct of extravagant get-togethers that have long been linked to Christmas celebrations. “Now (people) have the time, and they are obligated, to concentrate on the essential… the theological spirit of Christmas,” he expressed. “Less business, but more religion,” Asakrieh continues.
During the days leading up to Christmas, the chapel of Saint Catherine, a small one that is next to the Church of the Nativity was made open to the local Bethlehem public. Amid a distinctively quiet Bethlehem atmosphere, many of the local faithful turned up as they donned their Sunday’s best.
One of them was Nicolas al-Zoghbi who mentions that the usual joy of the Christmas season was replaced by the overall feeling of depression. He shares that his son is among those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. “We hope the Lord will destroy corona, just get rid of it so we can return to our previous life,” states al-Zoghbi who is now in his 70s.
The city’s economy is hugely reliant on the annual influx of visitors who purchase items like rosaries and other Nativity-based trinkets from the shops and stands that pepper the place. Thus, a quiet Bethlehem during this holiday season signifies a highly decreased income for those who rely on the earnings that used to be generated from these yearly tourist visits.
The Best Food Towns To Visit This Summer
Are you still looking for that perfect summer destination? Are you a foodie? You will find everything you are looking for in these top notch food towns, and their best dining spots. After all, all the best travel decisions are made with your stomach in…
Are you still looking for that perfect summer destination? Are you a foodie? You will find everything you are looking for in these top notch food towns, and their best dining spots. After all, all the best travel decisions are made with your stomach in mind.
Not as famous as the west coast one, this Portland has so much to offer your taste buds. At Dukfat you can find fries double fried in duck fat and served in a cone with a variety of funky dipping sauces. Have you ever had spudnuts? That’s a potato donut, you will find them at the Holy Donut, made from both regular and sweet potatoes.
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Asheville may be a weird little town but their restaurant scene could hold it’s own in San Francisco or New York City. You will find the best pizza at All Souls Pizza with toppings like salted turnips, and the ever favorite clam pie. At Biscuit Head you can try the mimosa fried chicken biscuit, with biscuits the size of your head.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
You can’t miss Charleston with it’s old fashioned mix of charm and humble low-country cooking. The Butcher and Bee’s sandwich masterminds have created favorites like grilled cheese with blueberry jam and toasted almonds with gruyere. And go to McCrady’s or Husk to taste the true southern cooking of Chef Sean Brock.
THE NORTH FORK, LONG ISLAND
A northeast coastal town with a beachy feel, The North Fork is a summer food haven. You can have a lunch of lobster rolls served from the camper turned lunch truck outside in the afternoon, or go to a fancy dinner at the North Fork Table and Inn in the evening. At Billy’s By the Bay you will find whole lobster, frozen drinks and tiki vibes.
BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA
With breathtaking sunsets, stunning views, bohemian vibes and excellent cuisine Big Sur may just be the perfect summer destination. Nepenthe is classic California with the ambrosia burger, paired with a glass of wine you can relax and marvel at your surroundings. You will find the best breakfast pizza you will ever enjoy at Big Sur Bakery.
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Sure, you can get a great meal anywhere. But how many times have you had a meal that sticks with you for the rest of your life? If your answer is “not enough,” then you need to check out one of these amazing global dining destinations. Food aside, the atmosphere and experience will stick with […]
Guide to Eating in Austin
I’ve been living in Austin for two months now, and in that time, I’ve consumed a lot of food. After all, Austin is home to an incredible food scene — from BBQ joints to food trucks to healthy, organic outlets to (of course) Mexican restaurants. As more and more people move to Austin (close to […]
I’ve been living in Austin for two months now, and in that time, I’ve consumed a lot of food. After all, Austin is home to an incredible food scene — from BBQ joints to food trucks to healthy, organic outlets to (of course) Mexican restaurants. As more and more people move to Austin (close to 160 a day at last count) and the city balloons with a more diverse population, Austin has expanded its dining fare to include more varied and higher-quality food.
Part of the reason Austin’s food tastes so delicious is because of the locally-sourced ingredients. As the birthplace of Whole Foods, Austin has always embraced organic food, and it was one of the frontrunners in the farm-to-table movement.
Moreover, to meet the needs of the expanding population, nearly 200 new food trucks and restaurants open up each year! With so many eateries opening all the time, you’re going to get hugely increased variety, selection, and quality.
While I still have much more exploring to do and food to eat, I want to share some of my favorite places to eat in the city for your next visit:
If there is anything I dislike about Austin, it would be the lack of good Asian cuisine, as it is my favorite in the world. When it comes to Asian food, it has a lot of those fusion joints that serve Chinese, Thai, sushi, and Korean all at once. Most are simply acceptable; they won’t blow you away. However, there are a few restaurants worth eating at:
- Bar Chi (206 Colorado St., (512) 382-5557, www.barchiaustin.com) – Decent sushi but an unbelievably affordable happy hour (5-7pm each day). My friends and I come here because it satisfies the sushi craving on the cheap!
- East Side King (1618 1/2 E. 6th S., (512) 407-8166, www.eskaustin.com) – Located in The Liberty Bar (also a kick-ass bar), this is best Asian-Thai fusion food truck in the city! Be sure to get the pork buns, tori meshi, or the chicken buns.
- Lulu B’s (3632 S. Congress Ave., (512) 921-4828, www.facebook.com/LuLuBsAustin) – I found this place thanks to Jodi from Legal Nomads. I’m not the Vietnamese food expert she is, but this place was delectable. I’ve only had the beef pho, but it was a flavorful broth.
- Piranha (207 San Jacinto Blvd. #202, (512) 473-8775, www.piranhakillersushi.com/piranha-locations/austin) – My all-around favorite sushi joint. The sushi here gives you the most value for your money, and it’s always fresh and of high quality. I particularly love their yellowtail.
- Thai-Khun (1816 E. 6th St., (512) 407-8166, eskaustin.com/v2/thaikun) – As a Thai food snob (ever since I lived in Thailand), I’m always disappointed at Thai restaurants because I never think the food is as breathtaking as in Thailand. This place in Austin is the closest to true Thai food that I’ve found so far.
- Uchi (801 S. Lamar, (512) 916-4808, uchiaustin.com) – The fanciest high-end sushi restaurant in the city. They also have a sister restaurant called Uchiko. Both live up to their reputations and are good date places. Reservations recommended!
- Wu Cho (500 W. 5th St. #168, (512) 476-2469, wuchowaustin.com) – This is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the city. They serve a very popular dim sum brunch on Sundays. Be sure to come early as it gets packed during dinnertime and Sunday brunch, and the wait for a table can be up to an hour.
If there is one thing Austin does well, it’s “Americana” food. I define that as a fusion of multiple cuisines: burgers, fries, steaks, seafood, and the like.
- Launderette (2115 Holly St., (512) 382-1599, launderetteaustin.com) – Located in an old laundry store, this restaurant is one of the hottest spots in town and serves an amazing menu of Americana and seafood, as well as a decent selection of wine. Some of my favorite dishes include crab toast, burrata, okra, brussels sprouts, and grilled octopus. If you’re coming for dinner, come early, as it fills up fast.
- Truluck (400 Colorado St., (512) 482-9000, trulucks.com) – This is my favorite steak restaurant because it’s one of the few places where you can also get fresh seafood (crab, oysters, lobster). It’s not cheap, but if you want a upscale steak house, try this.
- Péché (208 W. 4th St., (512) 494-4011, www.pecheaustin.com) – A New Orleans–inspired restaurant serving Bayou food, and it has a very friendly staff, tasty cocktails, and an extensive whiskey list.
Austin is world-famous for its BBQ, and you can’t walk down the street without running into a restaurant that serves it. The title for Austin’s best BBQ is hotly contested among fans, and I don’t claim to know who’s right — to me, BBQ is either good or really damn good. But these are among my favorites:
- Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St., (512) 653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com) – This is considered the top of the top of the top BBQ joints in the country. Even the president ate here! It’s open from 11am until they run out of food (usually in a few hours). Lines start at 8am, so it’s best to go midweek in summer when most people don’t want to wait in that line and you don’t need to line up until 9 or 10am.
- La Barbecue (1906 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 605-9696, www.labarbecue.com) – BBQ is a matter of perspective. A lot of people say Franklin’s is the best, but La Barbecue is #1 to me. It opens at 11am. Expect two-hour waits during lunchtime, so get here early.
- Iron Works BBQ (100 Red River St., (512) 478-4855, ironworksbbq.com) – Located downtown, this restaurant serves above-average BBQ with large portions and hearty helpings of side dishes. I come here for the lunch brisket plate.
- Micklethwait Craft Meats (1309 Rosewood Ave., (512) 791-5961, craftmeatsaustin.com) – An awesome food truck on the east side of the city. I’m in love with its ribs, brisket, and BBQ sauce. While it’s very popular, the line here isn’t as long as the other places listed.
Tacos are serious business in this city. I have yet to fully experience much of the wonder that Austin has to offer on this front, but I do like a few of the big names:
- Veracruz (1704 E. Cesar Chavez St., (512) 981-1760, veracruztacos.com) – The best food truck in town (conveniently located across the street from my hostel). It makes wonderful breakfast tacos, and the migas was voted #1 in the country. There is never really a line, but service is slow.
- Torchy’s (multiple locations, torchystacos.com/in/austin) – World famous (and another spot where the president ate), this taco place has multiple locations in the city. It lives up to all the hype! I’m a big fan of the fried avocado and trailer park tacos. Every location is always packed, so expect a wait, especially on the weekends. The food here is pretty spicy, too.
- Taco Deli (multiple locations, www.tacodeli.com) – Another delicious eatery serving mouth watering breakfast tacos.
Mexican & Tex-Mex
Like tacos, there are a lot of world-class Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin! There are plenty of people who can dissect their finer points — I am not one of those people, however. But these establishments will never steer you wrong:
- Vivo (6406 N. Interstate Highway 35, (512) 407-8302, vivoaustin.com) – Solid Mexican with huge portions, spicy dishes, and friendly staff.
- Benji’s (716 W. 6th St., (512) 476-8226, benjiscantina.com) – Amazing margaritas, huge portions, and an outdoor patio area. Their incredible guacamole is made tableside.
- Tamale House East (1707 E. 6th St., (512) 495-9504, www.facebook.com/tamalehouse.east) – Located in East Austin, this hole-in-the-wall is only open for breakfast or lunch. It’s famous for its tacos, but like the name suggests, get the tamales!
There isn’t a lot of good Indian food in town, mostly because there just isn’t a lot of good Asian food in general. I’m not an Indian food expert, but these two are my favorites:
- The Clay Pit (1601 Guadalupe St., (512) 322-5131, claypit.com) – I order from this spot through UberEats all the time since it often has fast delivery. I love the samosas and jasmine rice, and their naan is just perfect!
- Masala Dhaba (75 Rainey St., (512) 665-6513) – A higher-end, sit-down restaurant with a flavorful chicken tikka masala!
Some other of my favorite must-eats:
- P. Terry’s (multiple locations, pterrys.com) – This is the best burger bar in the city. It’s delicious and cheap (you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for $6 USD), with filling portions. This is one of my all-time favorite spots in the city, and since it’s close to my house, I tend to eat here too often!
- The Onion (408 Brazos St., (512) 476-6466, onionbaby.com) – Coming from NYC, I’m spoiled for pizza — you can buy tasty dollar slices anywhere you go there. That’s not the case in Austin: slices are around $4 USD and not as good, but if there is one pizza place I do like, it’s this one.
- Gus’s Fried Chicken (117 San Jacinto, (512) 474-4877, gusfriedchicken.com/austin-texas-location) – The sister restaurant to the famous location in Memphis, this place has juicy, moist chicken with battered skin that bursts with flavor in your mouth. It’s freaking amazing! They also serve mouthwatering fried green tomatoes and pickles.
- Leaf (115 W. 6th St., (512) 474-5323, leafsalad.com) – This new lunchtime salad place is incredible (also the line is long). Its gigantic salad bar has anything and everything you could ever want to put in a salad. It’s one of my favorite places for a healthy meal in Austin.
- True Kitchen (222 West Ave. #HR100, (512) 777-2430, truefoodkitchen.com) – This new restaurant is incredibly popular with people after work. All its food is natural and organic. You’ll find healthy wraps, salad bowls, sandwiches, and fresh and flavorful seafood, as well as an incredible selection of wine and cocktails.
Austin’s growing food scene means that there are still plenty of places I haven’t eaten at yet — and a few locations I probably left out, as a result — but during your visit to Austin, you’ll find yourself with more than enough choices by using this list as your guide!
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