The West Bank opens up its great outdoors

The striking, culturally rich landscape of the Judean desert in Palestine is starting to lure visitors with new hiking routes, homestays and Bedouin treks

Clinging to the contours of the Kidron valley, the monastery of Mar Saba blends into the backdrop of the West Bank’s ancient hills. A throng of Orthodox pilgrims chant outside the modest stone entrance. A priest, in black, accepts donations and bestows blessings on the crowd.

Unlike the majority of historic sites in and around Jerusalem, there is no noisy bus park, no boisterous tour groups, no vendors pushing rosary beads or postcards. Instead, Mar Saba and its surroundings seem little changed from how it must have looked on completion in the fifth century AD.

The youth are more adventurous and curious than before. They are discovering the beauty of a country many don’t know

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