A morning exploring the Old City of Jerusalem | Jerusalem, Israel | Early rainy morning in Jerusalem, was my first day in Israel. Was so excited, and I could not careless about the rain. So after breakfast at our hotel, put my A-Game on, since I only had 24 hours to explore Jerusalem, moving onwards to the Dead Sea next. Here my recap of the first half of my day, which included mostly the Old City of Jerusalem, with the Jaffa Gate, the Arab Market, the Western Wall, The Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, the City of David, the underground tunnels, the four Quarters Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Armenian, Via Dolorosa and my absolute favorite, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, followed a fabulous lunch at a very charming Armenian Restaurant. I will not go over each of the landmarks, since there is so much to say about each of them. Instead I will give you a flow on how our expert guide took us around to maximize the tight morning schedule we had for the Old City as part of our one week visit to Israel. Fist stop was the Jaffa Gate and Jaffa Road. The iconic entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Both are named after the port of Jaffa, in Tel Aviv, from which the Prophet Jonah embarked on his sea journey and pilgrims debarked on their trip to the Holy City. From there we walk by the Arab Market, which was indeed quite a trip. I am a HUGE fan of this type of markets and souks. The Arab Market is sprawls along the Christian and Muslim Quarters. Perhaps this is a good time to explain a bit more about the Old City of Jerusalem. The city is divided in four quarters, which coexist in total unity and tolerance. The Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian Quarters. The Old City is the walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. Until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981. The rain gave a a little break, right as we’ve got to the Western Wall (also know as the Wailing Wall). It was meant to be that way, but even if it would have rained, the site is so incredible and moving, that rain or no rain was exactly the same. I am not Jewish, nor a active Christian either, but I mean, I am sure that you, as I have had, have seen this site a million times on TV or photos. I praise myself to have traveled extensively and seen most things, but this was quite impressive. The Western Wall is the most relevant, for being the closest point to the Dome of the Rock. Of course I took my time to get all this in, and place my note with my best wishes to family and loved ones, right in between the joints of the Wailing Wall. Al Haram ash-Sharīf (to Muslims) and the Temple Mount (to Jews). The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. Parts of the wall are remnants of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by now other than the mastermind of King Herod the Great. The Wall has a covered section, Torah Ark inside men’s section of Wilson’s Arch, where you will find young apprentices and elder Jews discussing the Torah and praying. From there we walked along the Western Wall, to our next stop, the City of David. But of course we could not get over the striking iconic views of the gorgeous golden dome of the holy Dome of the Rock, atop of Temple Mount. I must say that during my whole time there, even now trying to blog about my visit, I felt quite overwhelm by the amount of facts, details and history behind these sites. It is quite confusing. I would have love to have at least 3 full days to spend walking around the Old City of Jerusalem, learning every single fact and piece of information. I mean, after all…. it is indeed the cradle of our civilization… and the fact that so many different cultures and religions coexist in peace and tolerance, it is quite touching. The Dome of the Rock, is a shrine located on the Temple Mount, one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture. It has been called ‘Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmark. The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart, which bears great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Also where the Ark of the Covenant was kept during the First Temple, said to have contained the Ten Commandments, which were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. And you just go WOW. WOW. WOW. !!! There is so much more to it, that I please encourage you to do your own research.
From there we left the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and move to our next site, the City of David. on the southern face of the Wall of Temple Mount. The area is one of the most intensively excavated sites in the wider region. The views to the Valley and the Muslim district are breathtaking. And if you are lucky enough to be there during the callings, like I did, it will be just magical. The area is highly controversial in the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The City is located around and below Silwan, a predominantly Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, with some Jewish residents. Within the City of David itself, Jews now form the majority of the population.
The tour of the City of David begins with a breathtaking observation point overlooking Biblical Jerusalem which sends visitors 3,800 years back in time to the days of Abraham, when the first foundations of the city were laid. As one moves through the site, one comes in contact with archaeological excavations and thrilling biblical finds that span thousands of years of history including both First and Second Temple Jerusalem. The tour continues underground to the Gihon Spring, the major water source of Jerusalem for over 1,000 years. Visitors seeking adventure can trek through knee deep water in King Hezekiah’s 2,700 year old water tunnel, one of the wonders of early engineering. Continuing to the Shiloah Pool, the major water drawing source in biblical times, one reaches the Herodian Road, the ancient thoroughfare that led pilgrims north to the Temple. Once out the tunnels, you will find yourself back at the area of the Western Wall. From there we continued our tour, onward to the Cardo Street, followed by Via Dolorosa and my top landmark, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Cardo Street, at the Jewish Quarters, was a north–south-oriented street in Roman cities, military camps, and coloniae. The cardo, an integral component of city planning, was lined with shops and vendors, and served as a hub of economic life. We carried along the Jewish Quarters till we arrived Via Dolorosa, within the Old City of Jerusalem, held to be the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion and next The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. ( read my blog post on that) From there we moved onwards to the Armenian Quarter, to a well deserved and incredible lunch at the Armenian Restaurant. I must say that by then I was not only physically, but mainly mentally drained and exhausted, and shamed to recognize that I was so CONFUSED, and so much more research on my one would have to follow after this brief visit, followed by an obligated second visit to Israel next. Specializing in tasty home-style Armenian dishes flavored with traditional spices and sauces, this restaurant can be hard to find. Make the effort, ask around.
Without a doubt, Old Jerusalem is a destination by itself, and one of the most important ones around the globe. One important piece of advise, DO NOT venture into Old Jerusalem on your own. Hire reliable guide. There is so much to see, explore, learn and understand, that you will miss out otherwise. I personally cannot wait to return. See below a video recap of my visit to Old Jerusalem. Our next stops were the amazing Jewish Museum, and onwards to the Dead Sea, Masada and Caesarea. But this this all for other posts. Stay tuned. !!! OMG I think this has been one of the most difficult posts I have produced my in blogging career. Hope you enjoyed it.
ISRAEL Travel Group hosted by Carlos Melia 2015. If you would love to experience this and much more, join me on a journey to Israel and Jordan in 2015. For more information contact me directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org. This trip was made possible by the support and invitation of both the Tourism Office of Israel and a Tel Aviv based tour operator OUTStanding Travel. Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com
(*) To book your own travel experience, do not hesitate to contact me either by email email@example.com or phone # 917.754.5515. Also check our scheduled Small Travel Groups at Coups de Coeur. I am an experienced Travel Agent with over 25 years of experience, member of LGTNetwork, First in Service Travel, TZELL Travel Network. www.carlosmelia.com