|From the sky, Jerusalem is a mass of white
stone dwellings, spread over hilltops, with the walled Old City as a
centre point. Despite the city's buildings all being made from the same
stone (this is according to a planning law), the diversity from area to
area is huge, with each neighbourhood being its own little world.
Within a matter of kilometres you can switch from the history and intensity of the Old City, to the cosmopolitan buzz of downtown, from the hubbub of a shuk to the peacefulness of a panoramic lookout point, from hearing Arabic on Salah Al-Din Street to Hebrew in Malha Mall, from the religiosity of Mea Shearim to the dance club culture of Talpiot.
The walled Old City (which sometimes feels like the centre of the world) is the centre of Jerusalem, with Jewish West Jerusalem on its one side and Arab East Jerusalem on its other. The Old City comprises several different areas: the Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters as well as the highly contested Temple Mount. This is the spot where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. Later the First and Second Temples were built on this site and this is also the location from where the Islamic prophet Mohammed went to heaven. The gleaming gold topped Dome of the Rock mosque, which dominates the Jerusalem skyline, stands in this compound as does Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The only remaining wall of the Temple, provides the border between the Temple Mount and Jewish Quarter. This is the Western (Wailing) Wall and Judaism's most holy site, where worshippers both pray verbally and stick written prayers into the cracks between the ancient bricks. The Jewish quarter also contains numerous religious institutions, museums and archaeological sites, such as the Cardo ' an ancient Roman thoroughfare.
Bordering the other side of the Temple Mount is the Muslim Quarter, which is rich in architecture from the Mamluk period (1250-1516) and its souks which wind through countless alleys are a treat for the senses (with the scent of Turkish coffee, the cries of the market sellers and merchandise from hair ribbons to chickens' legs to feast your eyes on). Damascus Gate is the main entrance to this quarter from outside the walled city.
Jaffa Gate is the entrance for the Armenian and Christian Quarters. On your way in, you will pass the Tower of David. The Armenian Quarter is home to some 1,000 Armenian residents and much of the life of this community goes on behind the high walls of the Armenian Compound.
Within the Christian Quarter is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified. Many pilgrims follow Jesus' last footsteps to this church along the 500m-long Via Dolorosa (which is best approached from Lion's Gate). The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Ethiopian Compound are also in this quarter.
The Old City is a wonderful place to get lost in by day and to marvel at its fairytale-like beauty when it is floodlit at night. A walk around the ramparts of the Old City walls is recommended to get a feel for the geography of the Old City.
One kilometre outside the walls of the ancient city (exit from Lion's Gate), more religious sites and wonderful views await on the Mount of Olives, home to the spectacular Church of St Mary Magdalene, with its golden rooftop, the Chapel of the Ascension where Jesus rose to heaven and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.
Another must-see area is West Jerusalem's Mea Shearim which is inhabited by strictly Orthodox Jews, living a life devoted to the Torah and dressing in the same way they have been doing for hundreds of years. Visitors should walk around this area with respect ' in modest dress, without a camera and refraining from public displays of affection.
The adjacent areas of Nahlaot and Mahane Yehuda are fascinating to walk through during the day ' a bustling market and a pedestrianised residential area with the sound of song floating down alleyways and the poor and the gentrified living side by side in this old part of town.
For people watching in East Jerusalem, the Damascus Gate area and Salah Al-Din Street are a hive of activity with vendors selling produce along the roadside and service taxis coming and going from Palestinian areas all over the country. The differences in language, sights and sounds between East and West Jerusalem will make you think you have arrived in a new country.
For fun, try the Russian Compund at night (West Jerusalem's bar area)
and the touristy Ben Yehuda Street, Zion Square and surrounding alleyways,
which have a lively mix of cafes, restaurants and speciality stores.
|Avg. Precip.||5.7 in||4.5 in||3.9 in||1.2 in||0.1 in||**||**||**||0.0 in||0.9 in||2.7 in||4.3 in|
Fahrenheit temperature scale is used.
Mother Earth Travel > Israel > Jerusalem > History