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Published: March 14th 2015
Our first hummus meal!
We arrived at our hostel at 6am after a pretty gruelling back to back red eye flights and a 10 hour layover in Amsterdam. We got here just in time for the free breakfast. We filled our bellies and hit the sack for a couple hours. Waking up at noon we took off into the city. This is our first trip into the Middle East which has been a dream of ours for some time so needless to say we're pretty excited about the whole deal.
The first stop was lunch at a local cafe. This was to be our first hummus in Israel and it did not disappoint. Pita and hummus is absolutely legendary here. The olives need no introduction. Fuelled up once more we walked down Jaffa Street towards the Old City. Jaffa Street is a really cool pedestrian only road with a modern tram line running down the middle. The street is lines with shops and cafés and offers a pleasantly quiet walking route.
Walking up to the Old City walls is spectacular. You can only imagine what it looked like back in the day without the new city surrounding it. We entered through the Jaffa
Synagogue beside a mosque. There a lot of that in the old city. This is the main synagogue in the Jewish Quarter that was rebuilt after Israel recaptured the city from Jordan.
gate and dove right into the narrow bazaar alleys of the Muslim Quarter. The sights, smells and sounds bring us right back to Istanbul, Delhi and Yogyakarta. We bought some fresh strawberries and olives and eventually wound our way out to the Damascus gate where we hung out watching the chaos ensue as vendors cart their goods through the narrow gate past tourists and locals alike. All of this of course is overseen by the ever present Israeli Defence Force soldiers who keep a watchful eye on who comes and goes. We walked back through the city walls again and wandered for a few hours checking out some crazy old 3000 year old archeological ruins and just soaking it all in. Returning to the hostel we discovered the joys of the local micro brews (surprisingly tasty!) and the open mic night at the hostel bar. Highlights included Jewish religious hymns, Hebrew version of Lorde - Royals and an original Jewish rap song by some American dude.
Day 2 we set out to see the main three sites in the Old City which happen to be some of the holiest sites in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths. It's nice
Dome on the Rock. The Temple Mount is a very quiet peaceful place above all the chaos in the city.
and warm today, with highs of 23 C it feels like summer. First stop the Western Wall which is the holiest site for the Jews. The wall is actually a retaining wall holding up the Temple Mount which housed the first and second temples two thousand years ago. The wall is the last remaining link to the days of King David and Solomon and so the Jews take it pretty seriously. Without a real need to go inside we peered over the fence and watched as people swayed, chanted and prayed while they touched and kissed the stone wall. There were a number of bar mitzvahs going on as well which looked like a great family celebration. The men and women are separated by a fence so obviously the mitzvahs took place on the men's side but the women pulled up chairs and celebrated right with them over the fence. As an aside we noted that the man section is far bigger than the section for women. Oops.
Next stop was the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock which is right above the Western Wall. The dome and the Al-Aqsa mosque are the third most sacred Muslim
Olive trees everywhere.
site in their religion. We passed through another security check (as you can imagine this part of the Old City is covered in security check points and security personnel) and eventually past a modesty check where they looked Jay up and down and deemed her modest enough. Never thought I'd see the day. Entering the huge open Temple Mount complex the first thing you notice is the famous Dome of the Rock with it's golden dome. This is built over the rock upon which Mohammed ascended to heaven according to Muslim faith. You can't go inside the dome or the Al-Aqsa mosque unless you're Muslim so we enjoyed walking around the vast courtyards outside and found a nice view of the Mount of Olives east of the city.
The next stop on our self guided tour of monotheistic religion in Old Jerusalem (who knew we'd ever learn so much about this stuff) is the Christian church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the site where Jesus was crucified and supposedly resurrected. The church is unassuming from the outside but the inside is loaded with relics and chapels. The church goes deep down underground displaying bedrock from the time of
Trying to check out the view through the slits in the outer wall of Temple Mount. We got a good view of Mount of Olives through here.
JC himself. The walk through the church winds through all these relics and ends up at the tomb of Christ. There was a massive lineup to pray at the tomb and we just hung out watching the mayhem.
Having no religious preconceptions or ideas leading up to this point we found the day very informative. I hate to think of all the people that must go through these incredible historical sites with engrained misconceptions and distrust. It's awesome to be able to soak in each of these holy sites with an open mind and no preconceived idea of right or wrong. This stuff's too complicated and deep rooted for us so we'll just sit back and enjoy.
After a long day and lots of walking it was time for a holy pint of beer! We walked back up Jaffa to the Mahane Yehuda market where we bought some bread, feta and olives for dinner and enjoyed a pint at a street bar on the edge of the market watching the world go by. Tomorrow we head off to Jordan on a 3 day tour of Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum with camping with Bedouins thrown in there.
In the bazaars of the Muslim Quarter
Man it feels good to be traveling again. A sign at our hostel reads Work Less Travel More and we couldn't agree more at this point!
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