Walking On the West Bank | Robert Macfarlane | Granta Magazine

Walking on the West Bank

Robert Macfarlane

In an essay for our ‘Aliens’ issue, Robert Macfarlane tells of walking in Palestine with his friend, the writer and lawyer Raja Shehadeh. Shehadeh has been conducting sarha in the hills of Ramallah, on the West Bank, for more than forty years. As Macfarlane explains, sarha originally meant ‘to let the cattle out to pasture to graze’, but the word has been humanized to suggest the action of a walker who roams without a fixed plan. ‘Wander’, he says, is the closest equivalent in English: ‘a word shadowed by wonder’.

Wandering is increasingly difficult in Ramallah as the open landscape gives way to city sprawl, Israeli army posts and Palestinian militia bases. ‘But Raja still walks,’ Macfarlane writes. ‘As walking becomes less easy, it has become correspondingly more important.’

This series of photos, exclusive to our website, presents a few striking moments from Macfarlane and Shehadeh’s sarha.

Robert Macfarlane

Robert Macfarlane was born in Nottinghamshire in 1976. He is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways and Landmarks. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award and the Sundial Scottish Arts Council Non-fiction Award. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times.

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