What to do in Jerusalem’s Old City
This article is part of my trip report 'Westward bound'. The trip report index will appear below once all posts have been published.
Jerusalem has been such a focal point of history it's incredible. Given my lack of serious bible studies I felt a visit to Jerusalem would give me some knowledge infusion :) Jerusalem is a city built on many steep hills giving fantastic vistas from many unexpected places. The city has modern modern elements such as it's modern light rail and many tunnels and modern bridges but still has the aura of a really old city. My naive impression prepared me for check points and lots of military near the Eastern border of Jerusalem but at least in March 2013 it was just not something to be seen at all. Most of the sights are concentrated in the 'Old City' which has seen battles going back into ..... It's in a really good shape with most buildings beautifully restored or in it's original format. I climbed the city wall which let's you walk along the Old city's Eastern edge giving great views towards East Jerusalem. It takes you to the Wailing Wall (or Kotel) which is the holiest places for Jews. Very interesting for me is that late in the day (with no other tourists in sight) I was was able to mingle with students in the adjacent library and take great pictures (ok I had my hat with me).
Visits to the temple mount are only available for certain hours of the day. Ask for the current hours. It allows you to walk up to the plateau with the Temple Dome and Al Aksa Moque. However the interior of both if off-limits to non-Muslims. Once you exit you enter the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem which could not be more different than the Jewish quarter.
It's just striking how the top monuments of each religion can be just a stone's throw apart from each other. We all heard that story but seeing it in front of you is just amazing. The Old City is chock-full of history and allows for many days of exploring. I only had 24 hours and wished I had had a week. There are even more museums outside of the old city to be explored. For food head for the Mahana Yehuda, Jerusalem main market for tons of fresh food and small, cozy coffee shops.
Annoyances: Few - the Old City is mostly free of cars and a very pleasant area to walk and discover. I found no tourist sharks at all. While there is a very friendly 'Tourist Information' it can be hard to piece together your itinerary with all the varying hours for sights. Invest at least an hour beforehand to make up your mind what you want to see and for how long exactly. How to get there: Jerusalem is a 90 minutes drive from Ben Gurion International Airport. Crossing the border from nearby Amman is possible but you can't take a rental car and wait at the border crossing.