Monday, February 25, 2013

More of Old City Jerusalem.

Hurva Synagogue, located in the Jewish Quarter.

It's Shushan Purim today, a holiday. I think the whole city is on the move. As we neared Jaffa Gate, I reminded Hassan again that I was not going on to Bethlehem. He didn't believe me so he double checked his paper work and of course, I was right. I reminded him to drop me off at Jaffa Gate. He nodded back at me.


As we approached Jaffa Road, I expected Hassan to pull over somewhere to left me off but when he veered on to a lane that would take us away from the city center, I once again shouted out my reminder. This time it stuck. Luckily, we hadn't gone too far past Jaffa Gate. Hassan pulled over, I scooted out of my seat, waved everyone a safe journey to Bethlehem and got off the van.  It was nice to be back in Jerusalem.  I've already developed a big soft spot for this place!

I walked up the hill towards Jaffa Gate. On the opposite side of the road to Jaffa gate is Mamila Mall, a relatively new outdoor mall filled with high end retailers and eateries. I had wanted to check out the mall yesterday but since I was passing right in front of it, I decided to take a quick look see.

The place was JAM packed with Purim revelers. I love how everyone here dresses up and struts out in public. Men, women, and children of all sizes and ages - dressed up in fun and creative costumes, out and about!

Men, women and children were all dressed up in fun costumes.  It was such a festive atmosphere!

I was too short to see the perfomers :-(
 
I followed my ears - there was sounds of live music coming from one part of the mall. Too many people and I'm too short to fully enjoy the performance but I hung out for a few minutes to soak in the festive atmosphere.



For some reason, I had this preconceived notion that Israelis are conservative and joyless but they are anything but. They are absolutely full of life and I love the fact that they don't leave their kids at home - it's all about family life here and I think that's absolutely wonderful. I have to say too that the kids are remarkably well behaved. I know I've only been here two days but I've crossed paths with many a young child/baby and I have yet to hear one crying or having a tantrum.

As always, the children were ever so cute.

I love the outfit with the kippa!

All the stores here are the same as what we have back in the US so no point wandering into any of them. I decided to head back to the Old City - I knew exactly where to go.

View of the Old City Walls from Mamilla Mall.

I entered the Old City through the side of Jaffa Gate. I was back at Khattab Square.  I had decided to do the ramparts walk so now was as good time as ever since the entrance to the walk is located just as you pass through Jaffa Gate. I just had to get the tickets. You would expect the ticket office to be near the entry and apparently, at one point it was but now the tickets are sold by a tour agent located two doors down. The ticket costs 16 shekels and is good for both the northern walk from Jaffa Gate to Lions Gate and the southern walk from Jaffa Gate to Dung Gate. I decided to go the route to Lions Gate which is the longer of the two routes.

One thing good about Old City Jerusalem.  There are actually street signs.
 I took the stairs to the start of the walk. There was an entry machine that controlled the turnstile. Luckily, I'm good at figuring out how things work because there were no directions on how to use the thing. Turned out it was a scanner and all you needed to do was place your entry card under the reader and you could then hear the turnstile unlocking. I headed on in. Took some photos of the area around Jaffa Gate before proceeding.

Stairs leading up to the ramparts walk.

View of Khattab Square and the Citadel from the start of the ramparts walk.

Part of the ramparts.

There were a lot of metal stairs to walk up and down.

View of rooftops in the Christian Quater.  The Citadel, with flags on top, to the right.

The ramparts are a narrow, cobblestone path that winds all atop the wall. Some parts are really narrow - no more than one person at a time would be able to walk along some of the sections. I was handed a guidebook with my entry ticket but the photos in the guide didn't seem to match what I was seeing so after a while, I gave up trying to refer to it. Besides, I was more focused on the uneven pavement more than anything else. There were stretches where the stones were smooth as well. I didn't want to fall.

Walking in the footsteps of the Ottomans.  Pretty uneven pavement.

Looking out towards Mamilla Mall, on the right.  Jaffa Gate is just below, on the left.
 
Looking back at the walk way; a metal railing on one side and stone wall on the other.

I did take breaks for photo ops. Lots of roof tops. I also took photos of Jaffa Road and the light rail train that I've come to enjoy riding.

Looking out over New City Jerusalem. That's the light rail train passing by.
View of Jaffa Street which is the nearest train stop to Jaffa Gate.


The ramparts walk winds its way from the Christian Quarter to the Arab Quarter.

View of New Gate, one of the eight gates of Old Jerusalem.

The walkway got very narrow at some points - wide enough for just one person.

The hanging laundry is a reminder that the Old City is home for many people.

The gold cross tops the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most significant Christian landmark in the city.

I have no idea what these terracotta pipes were for.   My guess is they are a dovecote of sorts.

The walk wound its way by the Christian Quarter and then to the Muslim Quarter. Along the way, there were points where you could exit the ramparts walk. I have to admit, by the time I made it to Damascus Gate, I was ready to call it quits. I was getting bored seeing nothing but rooftops. Some views were interesting - like the one of the Dome of the Rock but I quickly tired of views of satellite dishes and hanging laundry.

By the time you reach Damascus Gate, the golden dome of Dome of the Rock comes into view.

The stunning exterior of the Dome of the Rock, one of the most iconic landmarks in Jerusalem.

Damascus Gate.

I was at the exit point to Damascus Gate. If I was going to leave the walk, this would be a good a place to do it though I was not far from Lions Gate. I could go to the end. I took a few minutes to plot my next steps. I found a spot to sit, sipped on some water and looked at the map. Lions Gate would take me down the Via Dolorosa - interesting but something my tour will take me on anyways. Damascus Gate would eventually lead me to the Jewish Quarter which my tour will not be taking me to. So, it was a no brainer. Damascus Gate it was!

I followed the exit signs and found myself standing in the middle of a very, very busy Arab market as I was still in the Arab quarter. I followed my intuition and found Damascus Gate. I exited just so I could see this famous gate from the exterior. A quick photo op and then it was back inside the Old City.

The Arab Quarter, full of souvenir shops!
The Arab Quarter is packed with life!

















I headed down Suq Khan Ez-Zeit which took me through the heart of the souk. Reminded me of Fes and Marrakesh. Lots of vendors selling souvenirs, spices, pottery, jewelry, leather, etc. Nothing of interest to me.

I just had to walk in a straight line though there was one point where it was a bit confusion as the path split into three. What I've learned is it really doesn't matter which path you take as long as you keep heading in the *right* direction.

It's funny but exactly where the chaos of the souk ends and what appears to be a series of neat and tidy art galleries begin is where the Arab Quarter ends and the Jewish Quarter begins. The contrast is astonishing! The Jewish Quarter was recently renovated and it's evident. Everything looks old but it's a very neat old. Everything is very tidy here. Whereas the Arab is cramped and crowded, there's plenty of room here. There's not a lick of trash anywhere on the ground and the noise level drops to a few decibels above quiet.

The start of the Jewish Quarter.   Quite lanes lined with art galleries.
 
Looking back towards the Arab Quarter.

In case you don't know where you are, there's a sign to tell you.

The Cardo is the commercial area of the Jewish Quarter.

I loved this door and the mosaic tile.  Too bad the gallery was closed.
 
A short distance into the Jewish Quarter and I came across stone columns. I figured they were part of the famed Cardo. So cool....this small city has remains from all the great ancient cultures!
 
The present day Cardo is named after the Roman market with the same name.  Ancient columns lined the Roman Cardo.

As I stood before the columns, I could smell the odor of garlic being cooked. I love the odor of garlic being cooked. I followed my nose to a small eatery with a handful of small tables outside. It was a beautiful day for al fresco dining so I decided to have my lunch here. I wasn't hungry but I knew I had to eat. I sat down and the waiter handed me a menu. I don't remember the name of the place but it was certified kosher. I imagine every restaurant has to be to operate in the Jewish Quarter.

Table with view of the Cardo.
Sign indicating restaurant is Kosher.
Lunch!

Anyway, I had momentary sticker shock when I saw the prices on the menu. Holy cow! More expensive the DC! It was mainly salads, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. I decided to go for spaghetti alio olio with cherry tomatoes and a glass of grapefruit juice. The juice was wonderful - full of flavor but no where as puckery as the grapefruits in the US. If not for the price, 19 shekels for medium sized glass, I would have ordered a second one. My pasta was okay. A little overcooked and loaded with garlic. I must have been hungrier than I thought because I easily downed the big bowlful and didn't feel full afterwards! I paid the bill - NIS 75 including a small tip so that meant lunch cost me somewhere around $20.

I definitely needed to walk off the carbs I had just stuffed my face with so I continued my way. The original purpose for heading to the Jewish Quarter was to see Hurva Synagogue which just so happened to be located around the corner from the restaurant. I entered Hurva Square and it was filled with Purim day celebrants - everyone was having fun!

Hurva Square and Hurva Synagogue

The synagogue offers tours in Hebrew and English but the times are very specific and you have to reserve in advance. I had not made any reservations so all I could do was see the building from the outside. Pretty but if I ever get to come back to Jerusalem, I will book a tour.
 
Another view of Hurva Synagogue.

More of the columns of the Roman Cardo.

Hurva Square.  The restaurant was just around the corner, on a lane where the trees in the photo are.

From Hurva Square, I decided to take the *backstreets* and head down towards a spot near the Western Wall where I had noticed standing at when I was at the wall yesterday. It seemed to me like that spot would offer a good view of the wall so I decided to go in search of it.

My wanderings took me down the quite backstreets of the Jewish Quarter. What a dramatic difference from the Arab Quarter. Old City Jerusalem is a small place so it doesn't take long to get from any one point to another - presuming you're not trying to zig zag your way diagonally across the city :-)
 
I can't remember exactly but I think this was the door to a synagogue.  Beautiful!
 
Quite street in the Jewish Quarter.

The streets in the Jewish Quarter were eerily quiet.  I loved the doors!

Without planning to end up at the Wohl Museum of Archeology, that's where I found myself and indeed it does offer a wonderful view of the Wall and Dome of the Rock. I want to go to the museum so I'm thinking I'll do this tomorrow, after my tour of the City of David.

A group of Orthodox Jews headed down to the Wall.

From the Museum, I headed back down to the Western Wall Plaza and took more photos of this amazing place.

View of Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

The Dome.

More of the Wall.  For some reason, I  was really drawn to this place.  It is too crowded in the daytime though.

It was getting to be mid afternoon and I was getting tired. But before I left the Old City, I wanted to find the entrance to Temple Mount. It's on the top of my agenda for tomorrow. I followed the map to Suq El Qattanin (had to do a couple of turnarounds to find the place) which ends at a set of steps that lead up to Temple Mount. I got one foot on one step before a soldier stepped forward to tell me the place was closed (which I knew) but more importantly, that this entrance was for Muslims only; non-Muslims had to enter in by the Western Wall. I knew that but where by the Wall? Arghhh.....I decided I would stop by the Tourist Information Center on my way out and get directions.

On my way back to Jaffa Gate.

Last view of the Wall and Dome of the Rock.....for today :-)

I decided to call it a day. I did stop at the Tourist Information Center and got the information I needed. I made my way to the light rail stop on Jaffa Road. The place was crowded, so crowded that it was difficult to buy tickets. Smartly enough, there was a ticket man there - he would take peoples money and then buy in bulk in distribute them. Sped up the process for everyone!

Back at the hotel, I took time to take a shower, charge my devices and batteries, read up on information for Temple Mount and City of David, responded to both work and personal emails and updated my status on Facebook.

Great second day in Jerusalem! I have another activity packed day tomorrow so I'm hitting the sack early.

Good night from Jerusalem!