I am not long back from a visit to Nablus in Palestine as part of a delegation from the Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association. Before we reached Nablus though, we had a few hours to spend wandering around Jerusalem. Our plane arrived at Tel Aviv in the early hours of Tuesday morning so we did not reach Jerusalem until just after 4.00 am. By which time the place was pretty deserted, though there were still some signs of life. We had booked into a hotel in Muslim quarter of the Old City, the part that the Israelis have illegally annexed. We had time for a few hours sleep then a quick breakfast followed by a walk around the old city before we got a bus to Ramallah in the afternoon. One of the advantages of our hotel – the Hashimi hotel – is that from its rooftop it offers fantastic views of the old city. Including the brightly coloured Dome of the Rock. Below is a photo taken just after we arrived, followed by the same scene in the morning and then a view of the black covered Al-Aqsa mosque.
We entered the old city through the Damascus Gate. It was fascinating to note that our Israeli taxi driver from Tel Aviv did not know exactly how to get to this landmark and would at traffic lights stop and ask other taxi drivers how to get there. This lack of detailed knowledge of street layout was shared by his fellow taxi drivers in Nablus. Must be a Middle Eastern thing. Anyway here are three photos of the Damascus Gate, two from the outside and one from inside the old city.
The streets in the old city tend to be very, very busy, full of shops and people bustling their way through the narrow streets. Here are some snaps of the streets including one at night time,
Getting about these narrow streets can be a bit of a nightmare, especially if you are transporting goods to shops or stalls. This is how it is done. The last photo shows a kind of wheelbarrow overloaded with cartons which is pulled or sometimes pushed by one person. Dangerous vehicles.
Jerusalem is a holy city for the three great monotheistic religions and the geography of Jerusalem reflects this. There are Muslim, Jewish and Christian quarters and for some reason an Armenian quarter. Not quite sure why Armenians got to be so honoured. Here are three photos of the Christian heritage of the city. A street sign for the Via Dolorosa, a sign to mark the seventh station of the Cross and finally the outside of the Holy Sepulchre church complex.
The old city is famous for the Western Wall, a sacred place for Jews, but this is not the only interesting wall in the city. In the Armenian quarter there is another wall, this time beautifully decorated with symbols, presumably of significance to Armenians. Here is a photo of part of this wall, followed by two photos of the Western Wall, one showing a glimpse of the section for women.
The old city is not just full of shops and religious buildings, but beguiles you with enticing smells. There are stalls selling fruit and all kinds of sugar rich sweets. It was in Jerusalem that we had our first introduction to the delights of humous, felafel and pitta bread, which was to become the staple of our diet in Nablus. We ate lunch in a very unpretentious but charming restaurant in the heart of the Muslim quarter. Here is a photo of the dishes, followed by a couple of photos showing some of the tempting goodies on display.
Another of the great visual sights of the old city is the variety of costumes worn by the locals. In particular the women. Coming from a western country I was particularly fascinated by the attire of the women, especially in the Muslim quarter. Stereotypes abound in the West about Muslim women and how they are forced to wear certain types of costumes and of course cover their head. Though the headscarf did abound, it was anything but a drab item of clothing. And none of the muslim women looked oppressed. Judge for yourselves as here are three shots of women at the Damascus Gate.
From the old city you get wonderful views of greater Jerusalem, where some of the most historic sites lie. The following photos show the mount of Olives and the old Jewish cemetery followed by another hillside with clear signs of a wall. Not sure exactly where this is.
Jerusalem is a city that has more history than is probably good for it. The old city has been occupied by various peoples over its long history. I close this glimpse into the old city with three photos of occupation. The first is an old, disused Post Box from the time of the British Mandate. The second shows some Israeli flags over an illegal settlement in the old city, a reminder that East Jerusalem is still under occupation. Finally a photo from our hotel of prized objects belonging to the owners which includes a key – that potent symbol for all Palestinians of the ongoing occupation of their land.