To catch you up to speed, check out these earlier posts about my trip:
Israel I: Modern Tel Aviv
Israel II: Jaffa (the Old City)
Israel III: Modern Art and Bauhaus Architecture
Israel IV: Caesarea and Haifa
Israel V: Acre (Akko)
Israel VI: The Sea of Galilee
Israel VII: Golan Heights
Israel VIII: Nazareth
Israel IX: Masada and the Dead Sea
After finishing our Masada tour, we were dropped back off in Jerusalem near our hotel around 4:30p just in time to find a good sunset spot. We head to one of many roof decks at the Mamilla. Keep in mind we have been in Jerusalem for almost 24 hours, and yet we still haven’t seen much of Jerusalem.
When we got into town the night before (after dark), we went straight to our hotel which was next to the car rental place. We were running only about 5 minutes behind, but that was enough time that the car rental workers, who were still at work, wouldn’t even look at us. Frustration. We knew we had the 7am Masada tour the next morning (the car rental place opens at 8 or 9) so we talked to the awesome staff at the Manilla hotel. They told us where to park it (the car rental place shares a parking lot with the hotel), we gave them the car keys and they walked over the car keys just as it opened in the morning. This means we weren’t charged an extra day. Thank-goodness for the Mamilla, which is a phrase we said several times on the trip!
Here are the views from the Mamilla roof. Jerusalem has the Old City and the New City. The Old City is everything within the tall walls you can see above. The New City is everything else. The Old City is mostly zigzagging walkways and shops with homes up above. It’s also the traditional city when you think of Jerusalem. The New City (which is where most nice hotels are) is more like Tel Aviv in its newness.
At this point I’ve barely seen Jerusalem, and Im so antsy to visit the Old City. From the Mamilla you can see the Jaffa gate entrance to the Old City. The Mamilla is along an outdoor shopping mall (like the Grove) which leads right to the Jaffa entrance (there are only a few entrances into the Old City).
“A” is the hotel, and the Jaffa gate is located where the Christian and Armenian Quarter meet at the edge of the wall. To give you a sense of scale, the Old City is just under a mile high and a mile wide. It’s all super walkable.
I was so excited to be in Jerusalem- I place I remember seeing as a kid via a church slideshow presentation when a couple people came back from a trip. After watching the sunset, I decide to venture off by myself to the Old City since we had a few hours until our dinner reservation (people eat dinner really late in Israel).
I wandered into the Old City and headed toward the Armenian Quarter. I wandered with no itinerary, knowing that you can’t get too lost in a mile wide city filled with high walls. Eventually you’ll hit the wall, which you can follow until you hit a gate to exit. I had maps with me, but I didn’t want to head to the landmarks so I put the map away and just wandered.
This site is right around where the Armenian and Jewish Quarter meet. This is on the Jewish side. There’s no real clear distinction between the quarters. There are main walking routes that run along the borders of the quarters, but there’s no big sign saying, “You’re in the Jewish Quarter”. There are several visual clues that tell you where you are (the clothing and religious markings).
I headed down closer with the crowd, passing through security and metal detectors to find myself at the Western Wall. Here I was wandering and then BAM, Im at the Western Wall. It was a fun thing to stumble upon.
You see above, the wall divides the mens and women’s side. The women’s side is much smaller. Also note that when leaving the wall, you’re not supposed to turn your back to the wall, so people walk backwards to leave the wall. It’s a little bizarre to watch, but so much about Israel so far has been about tradition and rituals, so I’m not too surprised.
I should talk about something that happens throughout the Old City, especially to Americans. Venders are all over the Old City. It’s like the first level of every building is filled with trinket shops or food vendors and all of the owners sit at the entrance and try to get tourists to come in. I had been warned, and I’m good at ignoring cat-calling and when strangers talk to me. As a tourist you have to have a thick skin, and not engage in it. I often spoke French so that they wouldn’t harass me, although that didn’t really work. The best thing is to ignore it. Since I arrived just after sunset, the shops were beginning to close down.
I walked through the Muslim Quarter and made my way to the Christian Quarter where I stumbled onto the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I’ll be back tomorrow in the daylight to see everything, but what a nice exploratory mission.
This is the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Everyone kisses the rock (although everything I read said this was a replacement rock after a fire in the church). All around Jerusalem are people waiting in line to kiss any rock that Jesus touched. I took it a step further and made-out with all of these sites (totally kidding).
This is the Aedicule. It’s “owned” by several religions and is said to contain the Holy Sepulchre itself as well as the Angel’s Stone which was covering Jesus tomb. This is all depending on what you believe of course. Funny story, since so many religions feel like they own this church, it’s in sections where each group is responsible for maintaining their part (ex. this wall is Greek Orthadox, this closet is Roman Catholic). And in order to keep it all fair, a Muslim family owns the keys to the church. They open and close it every day. It’s the only way to make it fair for all the religions.
My favorite part of Jeruslaum is wandering the walkways. At night it’s so quiet when the venders shut their doors. When it’s quiet and peaceful at night, it’s easier to imagine this in Jesus times.. or with Kings riding through these streets. I know that the real streets they were on are 30 feet below under many layers of buildings but its fun to imagine.
This is just outside the Jaffa gate, just before I headed back to the Mamilla for a bath soak before dinner. You can see the Tower of David lit up.
After the best bath I’ve ever had, we headed up to the Mamilla rooftop for dinner at their restaurant. This was clearly a special occasion restaurant. Next to us a couple got engaged. To the left of us a rock n’roll couple celebrated a birthday. And then mid meal security came through, and Tony Blair and guests took the table behind us. Tony is just to the left of my uncle in this photo. What a fun meal- it was delicious and a fun night dining with Tony 😉
Next up: We have a personal tour guide take us around Old City Jerusalem. You’ll see some duplicate photos from my night wandering, only now in sunlight.