Monday, April 30, 2012
In the homestretch of my 90 under 30 Travel Project, I visited countries in Southeast Asia in February and South America in March. With time running out, I focused my April travel on the Middle East, making Israel the 89th country on my list. In honor of counting countries, I will write about my travels to Jerusalem in a post-by-numbers.
2: Number of important religious holidays that took place on the day I arrived in Jerusalem. Good Friday and Passover were both in full swing when I got to the old city.
Throughout the streets of the Christian and Muslim quarters, processions of Christians retraced Jesus’ footsteps down the Via Dolorosa. They covered the stations of the cross as they made their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the Jewish quarter, large signs requested that people refrain from eating leavened bread during the Pesach holiday.
1: Number of times I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After standing in awe of the building’s storied history and beautiful art, I waited in the long, rather unruly line to visit the tomb chamber. I ducked my head as I entered the two small rooms, which were rather sparsely decorated save for the beautiful lamps that hung from the ceilings.
3: The number of distinct cities that Jerusalem seemed to contain. Divided into Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian quarters, the city seemed to have three very distinct cultures (the Christian and Armenian being one). Cross a street, and you feel like you have entered a different world. The only other place I have seen this is Damascus, but in Jerusalem it felt more distinct.
I spent time exploring each quarter, from the historic streets of the Jewish quarter to the markets of the Christian quarter and the churches of the Muslim and Armenian quarters.
3: Number of world-famous sites I visited in Jerusalem. There was the aforementioned Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall (Wailing Wall), and the Dome of the Rock / Temple Mount. I had heard of all three before visiting, but seeing them in person was an altogether more powerful experience.
2: Number of lunches I ate on my only full day in Jerusalem. As I was enjoying a falafel sandwich at a cafe in the old city, two locals told me about a nearby hole-in-the-wall eatery that had the best hummus in Jerusalem.
Given that I only had a short time left, I walked straight over for lunch number two. The hummus at Abu Kamel was as good as the recommendation suggested, and I ate until even my dessert stomach was full.
1: Number of nights I stayed in Jerusalem. It was a shame that I couldn’t stay longer, as the city had so much to offer. But Good Friday was as good a day as any to see it. An added bonus was that my accommodation, the Gloria Hotel, was located inside the old city, offering me convenient access to the sightseeing highlights of Jerusalem.
Endless: Number of markets in Jerusalem’s old city. I didn’t go anywhere without walking along tiny streets lined on both sides with vendors selling everything from Jesus statues to souvenir T-shirts. I even got a marriage proposal from one of the proprietors. An Easter miracle…