The World

Fast cars figure in today’s geo quiz.

These cars are racing in a city in the west…The West Bank that is.

The city we’re looking for is a Palestinian city, north of Jerusalem.

And in recent years, this city’s been wracked by violence and lawlessness.

Things are calmer there now.

But the streets in this city are far from quiet.

That’s because the city’s just hosted its first official car rally.

And there was plenty of skidding, crashing, ramming, and rumbling….

For today’s Geo Quiz, we were looking for a Palestinian city north of Jerusalem. The answer is Nablus, and today it hosted its first official car rally.

Matt Gutman was there and he sent us this report.


Gutman: There’s nothing flashy here at the Wataniya Nablus Rally. No big sponsors, or big engines for that matter. That engine belongs to a 1988 Opel. Your neighbor’s lawnmower probably has more horsepower. Wassim Zakkout is the driver. He’s the 2007 champion of the only Palestinian racing circuit. Today’s track is actually an inner-city street in a shaded part of Nablus. It seems better suited for a go-cart race than say, NASCAR. And the cars, well many of them are older than their drivers. Still people here, like 23 year old Kayyif, are very enthusiastic.

Kayyif: “For sure it’s for the first time, and all people are happy, the kids, the families, the girls, the boys. You know they are rocking the world!”

Gutman: Until about a year ago, you would more likely hear Israeli tanks rumbling down this street than aging muscle cars. But the Palestinian Authority has clamped down on militant groups here. Security has improved. Racer, Wassim Zakkout, says car racing is a great sport for locals.

Zakkout: “There’s not much to do. People can’t go to the beach, or can’t go dancing in a disco to get out all their energy. So cars is a sport that you can get out all this potential, all this energy that you have.”

Gutman: Wassim Zakkout is a professional driver, but not on the racing circuit.

Zakkout: “I am the chauffeur of the Australian representative in Ramallah. I drive armored cars for a living.”

Gutman: “You don’t train on the embassy’s car, do you?”

Zakkout: “No, you can’t. You can’t train with a seven ton car.”

Gutman: And training is clearly an issue. The drivers keep crushing traffic cones on the tiny track. At least one crashed into a group of spectators, sending one to the hospital. But, maybe that wasn’t the drivers fault. The crowd seemed to constantly spill over onto the track. Still, organizer Amir Morat called it a success.

Morat: “I don’t know, guys are crazy about cars over here, and they like this kind of sport, so we want to make it safe. If you want to race someone, this is the place to be and this is the time to do it.”

Gutman: Just watch out for the cones and the spectators. For The World, I’m Matt Gutman, Nablus the West Bank.

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