Jerusalem is a pretty magical place. It has by far the deepest, darkest and most impressive history of any city in the world. It has been placed under siege 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured/recaptured 44 times and destroyed at least twice, which kinda says enough! As an intersection of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it has drawn foreign invaders, pilgrims and travellers since history began and whether you’re religious or a history buff or neither you can’t help but appreciate the fascinating city.
When I first arrived my eyes were instantly scanning the rooftops for that iconic gold dome sticking out from the old buildings. I visited the Tower of David which has a panorama of the Old City and I could finally see the Dome of the Rock and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really in Jerusalem!’. It had been one of those cities sitting high on my list of ‘must visit places’ for a while.
There are so many holy sights across the city, Jesus ate here, Mary died here, Muhammad came here, every place has a spot in history. I visited the Garden of Gethsemane and Mary’s tomb, all of these places that I’d heard about and read about, it’s very bizarre. I think the most amazing was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is a huge church built on the place that Jesus was crucified and buried. I had an audio guide and it took me around the inside stopping at places such as where Jesus was nailed to the cross and where Jesus was crucified. Of course, the most important place was Jesus’ tomb which had a protective rotunda around it. There was a line to go inside it and I waited for about 20 minutes. It’s a special experience whether you’re religious or not and I think you can’t deny that he was an important historical figure.
My two old city highlights were the Ramparts Walk along the top of the city wall and the tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. With my audio guide on the walk and an actual guide for the tunnels, I was told the history of the city from 4000BC to the present day. The city has been in the hands of the Samaritans, Jews, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans and the British. With famous leaders like King David, King Herod, Pontius Pilate, Saladin, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and Alexander the Great plus the religious figures like Jesus of Nazareth, Abraham and Muhammed, it’s importance is unprecedented. I heard the history many times, whether through the audio, from guides or through museum exhibitions but every time it intrigued me. There is so much character, history and charm to this place, it’s unbeatable.
Aside from all the historical sites and crowds of pilgrims, the Old City is a pretty awesome place itself. It’s rabbit warrens and skinny alleyways with cobble stones and old style buildings are like a maze and if it wasn’t for the sign posts everywhere directing all the tourists to the main landmarks I would have easily gotten lost numerous times. The streets were all lined with little stalls selling souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, freshly squeezed juice, falafel, dried dates and freshly baked pita. It’s definitely a foodies heaven!
I could write about all the sites to see but it’s a city that you have to experience to really understand. It has a special aura, whether it’s because of its history, culture or religious importance, it is unique. A lot of people I met there had been to Jerusalem more than once and I’m sure it will draw me back too.
*post adapted from my trip here in March 2015 and from my original blog site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com