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Market in Old City, Jerusalem

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Of all the places in the world, Israel was never at the top of my destination list. I didn't envision myself visiting this country, but sometimes gifts are handed to us when least expected and it's necessary to unwrap them. I was invited by a friend who has family ties in the area. One of his relatives is interested in creating tours specifically tailored to American clientele, so he offered a free trip for a few natives to visit and provide opinions on select hotels, services and destinations. Almost all members of my group are highly religious - some pastors, others devote Christians their entire lives. For them, visiting the Holy Land was a dream realized. For me, it was simply a new country to explore. Today a very brief post and introduction to Jerusalem, with a main focus on the market in the Old City. It was there that I met this friendly guy, who enticed me into his decorative shop full of dishes, mirrors and other handmade items.

1. While we had some control over the places we visited, the dates were set by the tour organizer. We journeyed to Israel at the worst possible time for crowds - a rare occasion when Passover and Easter fell within the same week. It was almost impossible to walk the streets or narrow alleyways of the Old City due to the sea of humanity. Here, a more open alley, yet many of the corridors are half this size and clogged with the same amount of people. For me, being pushed and shoved with the masses took away from the experience and made it less enjoyable, especially in very hot temperatures.

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2. A lot of vendors in the market, selling every item imaginable. Counterfeit goods, including COACH purses, for $30 USD - what a bargain! As a trademark and brand protection lawyer, it's necessary to close my eyes in such places. The guy in this photo is a lazy merchant. However, most of the sellers stand outside their shops waving at you with friendly smiles, trying to get you to enter. English is commonly spoken, even if it's only basic words.

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3. This shop I liked the most. I purchased a nice bowl and sugar container supposedly handcrafted in Jerusalem. The bottom of the bowl has a notation the item is "Made in Jerusalem." It could have been made in China for all I know, but it now sits on my kitchen counter. The seller, pictured in the cover photo, is coming to America this autumn to study in California. You can easily bargain with the vendors and get the price cut in almost half, so practice your negotiation skills before you arrive. :)

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4. Local kid, beautiful face. Looks like he's just starting to grow his side curls. I don't know all the branches of Judaism, but perhaps some Jewish readers can tell a person's affiliation just by their hairstyle, clothes or hat.

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5. Colorful, vibrant area. Great for photos when you can capture an image without people in the way. Basically tourist items and food are sold in the market areas.

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6. Delicious candies all over the place, many with a jelly texture. The scent of sugar and fruit permeates the air in parts of the market. This candy reminded me of the yummy treat Turkish Airlines serves on all flights - a citrus sweet known as "Turkish delight," covered with a dusting of powdered sugar. I flew this airline from Washington, DC to Tel Aviv round trip, with a connection in Istanbul. I wasn't impressed with the aircraft or service. In comparison to Aeroflot and Lufthansa, it was subpar.

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7. I didn't try this food, so I'm not sure if it's a sweet or some type of sandwich? I liked the food in Israel and Palestine - flavorful, rich and fresh. I'll show you more when I write about the West Bank in Palestine. I ate something here that looked like hay, but tasted divine! It was a fragile, sweet candy that melted in my mouth almost instantaneously. Similar to cotton candy, but I don't know the name of the treat. Maybe this is the same thing, stuffed with pistachios?

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8. I love this shot of "Nuns' Ascent" with the children in the far distance. This is part of the "Via Dolorosa," which draws so many religious pilgrims to Jerusalem. The hideaway entrance is made of limestone stairs with bright, shiny steps from all of the feet that walk upon them. Why is it called "Nuns' Ascent"? Not sure, I couldn't find the answer online. Maybe someone will explain the reason in comments. It's very easy to get lost or separated from your companions here because all of the alleyways and corridors blend together like a complex maze. This happened to me twice when I wandered away from my group to pursue my own interests.

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9. The remarkable thing about this part of Jerusalem is that it's filed with consumerism and tourist junk, yet it's also home to some of the most sacred ground for believers. In the midst of all the commercialism sits several stops on the Via Dolorosa, the route Christ walked on the way to crucifixion. Each significant point is marked as a  "Station", with a total of 14 stops on the route. During Easter week, many pilgrims were carrying huge, wooden crosses through the crowds, walking in Christ's footsteps. I didn't get close enough to photograph any of the Stations located directly in the market. Too many people and it was impossible to snap a shot of anything without the image being obstructed by human heads.

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10. These pilgrims are entirely focused on their mission, fighting through the crowds and heat with heavy crosses. I watched some of them closely, not even a bit distracted by everything else going on around them, including shiny, bejeweled bras hanging from the store entrances. Who wears such outfits in this area? It's a bit depressing that such a holy site is now overrun with tourist booths and tacky souvenirs.

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11. Colorful stones for jewelry. I think the owner of the store made customized earrings and necklaces from the stones, but I didn't go inside. I wear absolutely no rings, necklaces or any other ornamentation, with the exception of hoop silver earrings I place in my ears each morning.

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12. In all areas of Palestine and Israel, people are waiting to squeeze and serve you fresh juice. It wasn't cheap, but refreshing to taste on a hot day. I chose the pomegranate juice. If I recall, the price was around four dollars.

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13. Lemons for lemonade. Popular summertime drink in America, and apparently around the globe.

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14. The Old City is divided into four quarters - Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian. At times, it's very obvious in which quarter you're walking, but I wasn't always certain. Here, a Muslim woman must make a difficult fashion choice - black, black or black? :)

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15. Decorative Muslim head wear. Compare to this. Which would you rather wear?

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16. In the middle of the week, parts of the Muslim quarter were blocked off. Make of it what you will, but Muslims were prohibited from entering. The reason? I cannot say. When we asked the guards, they simply ignored us or said "crowd control." To fully understand or write about the religious dynamics here is almost impossible. There are many Palestinian Christians who wish to make the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage, but they must seek special permission to enter the Old City. It's my understanding that Israeli officials hold a lottery each year, granting special permits for select Palestinian Christians to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem. I read online that about 1/2 of all applicants receive permits, but this figure may not be accurate.

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17. This Israeli guard was approachable, and posed for photos with several of my friends. In general, Israeli security forces are perceived to have a very heavy and intimidating hand in this area, but I experienced it only once. Behavior at the checkpoints between Israeli and Palestinian controlled areas is more stern and serious, with less room for pleasantries and small talk. I'll discuss this in a separate post. Magic word here? "American" - it's a way to avoid a lot of hassles.

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18. Late one afternoon, a main entrance to the market was suddenly closed off with no explanation. A bunch of security forces ran to the area, but no one had any idea what was going on, or why the drastic action. Many tourists became upset, wanting an explanation for the closure, but guards were silent. I don't think they owe tourists any explanations for their actions. Inconvenience - a big part of life. Deal with it.

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19. Do you immediately recognize the ethnicity of these women? I kept seeing this look over and over, African features with white head scarves. I later learned they are Ethiopian nuns, but didn't know this beforehand. They were part of the large group confused by the sudden closure of the market entrance. I have a strong desire to step foot in Africa, but can find no travel partner to join me.

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20. Olive man. This food I strongly dislike, but it's a big part of Mediterranean cuisine.

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21. Most of the stores in the market sell cheap items, but this place is an exception. It's run by artsy Europeans who create decorative art pieces of all forms. Hanging decorations, wind chimes, chandeliers, lamps, etc. I couldn't afford to buy anything here, but liked all the pieces.

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22. Vintage tea pot in same store. I picked it up, and it was very heavy! Each night before bed, I drink chamomile or mint tea. It would be cool to boil the water in this kettle. Is it a snake head on the spout? I think so.

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23. Tired merchant. I should note that sellers here prefer payment in American dollars. Not a problem to carry U.S. dollars and use them almost everywhere, even in the remote areas of Palestine I visited. Rubles - I'm not so sure. :)

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24. Plenty of food options outside the congested areas. This bread, or big bagels as I called them, are available throughout the city. This guy was very modest, yet kind. He said it was okay to take a photo, but he didn't want to appear in the picture.

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25. Corn, corn and more corn! Sold on the cob, as we eat it in America, and also as roasted kernels. I wanted to try the hot kernels, but never did. I remember eating hot, salty and buttered corn in Gorky Park in the middle of my winter visit. This is one of my favorite vegetables.

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26. To say that Old City, Jerusalem is a sea of black hats is an understatement. Here, a group of men walk in the Armenian quarter where we stopped for lunch. Food in restaurants is pricey, but on this trip everything was paid by the tour organizer, so it was not a concern for me. I actually liked the street food better than the meals in sit down restaurants. Cheaper and more flavorful.

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27. Crowds thinned a bit after Easter, and the walk on my last evening was more calm and pleasant. I  wish I could have spent more time exploring the differences in each Quarter; however, it was impossible during a seven day visit. So many other sights to see, with limited time. Overall, the Old City is architecturally and aesthetically pleasing, but you must carry with you patience and tolerance for big crowds if you wish to visit this area.

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I'm not creative or brilliant enough to say anything original about this place. It's one of the most ancient cities on the planet, visited by millions of foreigners each year, for varying purposes. Many reports have been written about these sites, and next week I'll continue on with one more post from Jerusalem, showing some of the holy sites and more local people. Then, onward to Palestine and the West Bank, which I liked much better.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
sibir_muzhyk
Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:25 am (UTC)
>> Muslim woman must make a difficult fashion choice - black, black or black?
Muslims are Henry Ford's followers . :-)
("People can have the Model T in any color - so long as it's black" )

street of Old City early in the morning:
Street of Old City early in the morning

peacetraveler22
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:37 am (UTC)
The alleyways look more pleasant in this view. :) Unfortunately, I couldn't dictate my schedule on this trip because I was with a group. Otherwise, I would have walked the Old City later in the evening instead of mid-afternoon.
fesma94
Jul. 3rd, 2014 04:38 am (UTC)
7- This is one of my favorite sweetie !!!! It's good to eat with Turkish coffee but not to add sugar !!!
peacetraveler22
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:40 am (UTC)
Thanks for the name of this food. I ate it in Palestine. :) Arabic coffee is soooo tasty!! Full of flavor and it smells like a bowl of cinnamon and spice.
andrey_kaminsky
Jul. 3rd, 2014 05:03 am (UTC)
Как важно исповедовать правильную религию
You felt uncomfortable with the fact that the travel date coincided with Easter, but there was a simple way to avoid this. You should have been to accept Orthodoxy. Orthodox Easter is not the same time with Jewish or Catholic (with nothing in the world except perhaps some communist holidays:). Then you would have seen a miracle - you're the same, the same place, the date is the same, but there is no Easter!
And if we we're talking about religion and god is omniscient, so reading these lines, i have to put it here, "Hey, Jesus. Sometimes i think of you :)"
peacetraveler22
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:35 am (UTC)
Re: Как важно исповедовать правильную религию
It wasn't the religious holiday that made me uncomfortable, but the extra crowds that came with it. I think the Old City must be busy at all times, but especially during holy observances. Anyway, this must be the most boring report I've ever written given the lack of comments. :)) I prefer Palestine for many reasons, but mainly because there are a lot less tourists there. Most Westerners are brain washed and scared to venture into the West Bank.
notabler
Jul. 3rd, 2014 02:04 pm (UTC)
I'd be happy to go there, But their hot weather is a bit frightening
peacetraveler22
Jul. 3rd, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
For me, the heat was unbearable at times and this was in April. I can't imagine how hot it gets in July or August, but I have a very low tolerance for heat levels. The country is worth a visit - beautiful landscapes and interesting cultural dynamics.
a_nimaida
Jul. 3rd, 2014 04:22 pm (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Jul. 3rd, 2014 04:26 pm (UTC)
I don't think they're Tajik. :)) I believe they're decorative yamakas (traditional head covering for Jewish men), but I could be wrong. The market is nice, but too many people in a small space.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 3rd, 2014 04:49 pm (UTC)
Hmm..well, maybe you're right. I have a man hat from a different "stan" country - Kyrgyzstan! :)

 photo hat_zps4fdf4572.jpg
a_nimaida
Jul. 3rd, 2014 05:30 pm (UTC)
he-he he )))))
exactly Kyrgyzstan))))
real_marsel
Jul. 3rd, 2014 10:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you, very interesting.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 4th, 2014 03:12 am (UTC)
You're welcome! Have a nice weekend. :)
skvorets1989
Jul. 4th, 2014 08:51 pm (UTC)
It was good report. I enjoyed it.

It's a bit depressing that such a holy site is now overrun with tourist booths and tacky souvenirs.

It was the same when Jesus was bearing his cross here.

Looks like he's just starting to grow his side curls.

It is interesting and funny thing. Religious jews don't cut boy's hair for the first three years after he was born. And then they still don't cut sidelocks. It is because of ban of shaving a beard. As no one knows where it officially ends or begins so let's also not shave part of head's hair. Something like that. Actually different branches of judaism look differently at this. I'm no real specialist.
peacetraveler22
Jul. 6th, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
There are so many branches of Judaism. I was completely unaware of how many until I visited Jerusalem and saw all the variances in hats worn by local Jews. Also, they can clearly identify which community someone belongs to just by looking at them. Small differences which seem barely noticeable to us stand out to others in the community. For proof of this, you can read my other post where the Orthodox Jew yelled at me for posting a photo. He claimed to know everything about the guy in the photo just by my pic, which only showed a profile image.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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