The heart of Nablus is the Old City which crowds round the foot of mount Ebal, one of the hills surrounding Nablus. It is as one would expect a very crowded and lively place. Here are some views looking towards the Old City which give you an idea of the density of buildings and the density of traffic leading up to the Old City.
Once inside the Old City or casbah, you are immediately into a warren of narrow streets and lanes, thronging with people of all ages – shoppers, shop keepers, passers by and the odd tourist like us. Here are some photos to give an indication of the bustle in the market area. The third one shows a street when the shops are closing down and you can see how narrow the streets are and how the shop fronts are bare when closed.
All kind of goods can be found in the casbah and the shops themselves are quite fascinating. Here is a selection of snaps of shop fronts and some of the goodies on display. As you will see the interior of some shops can be quite bare and most shops still use the old fashioned way of measuring things with scales.
Clothes of all kinds make up most of the goods on offer, followed by food of all kinds, including spices. We visited a charming old fashioned spice shop, called in English The Breaking Mill. It was a treasure trove, not just of spices and herbs, but in the back a veritable museum of old implements, jars, and goodness knows what else. The first photo below shows some of the spices and teas on offer, followed by a glimpse of the inside and finally some of the teas on offer in another little shop. Not quite sure what is in the Indian tea for man and wamen, but would have loved to try it out.
Nablus was a major centre for soap making and there are still some factories making soap from olive oil. One of our visits was to a former soap factory, now a cultural centre. However evidence of its former use still remains. Below you can see the kiln in which the oil was turned into soap, followed by some of the old implements used in the process. Finally a tower of soap bars from the spice shop.
The Old City is full of surprises and none more than the Samaritan Baths. A relic from the times the Samaritans lived in the Old City, it is still a bath, but no longer run by Samaritans. Next up is a poster on the wall advertising the baths and a couple of photos from the inside. One of the intricately decorated dome and one of the bench in the steam room. We were invited to try out the baths, but alas we were not in Nablus long enough to accept this offer. Perhaps the next time!
Just to give you an idea of how narrow the streets are and how low the roofs are, here are three photos showing some of the streets more or less empty of people.
I end this glimpse into the Old City with some photos of buildings in the Old City. All show a greater or lesser state of disrepair. The first two are shots of the remaining ruins of former Turkish palaces from the Ottoman period. Then comes a courtyard, almost certainly from the Ottoman period as well. The final three photos show some of the crumbling façades to be found all over the Old City, often as here with shrubs growing out of the walls. The last photo shows the blue coloured barrels used to store water. Nablus is indeed an old city in every respect. Old and beautiful.