Exploring the Old City of Jerusalem
Jerusalem Travel Blog› entry 5 of 37 › view all entries
This was a very busy day. We got up early, went for breakfast and then straight to the Temple Mount.
Since it was Ramadan, the visiting hours were limited from 7am to 11am. We got there at around 8am. There's an entrance for non-muslims that leads you right next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque through a passageway above the Western Wall Plaza and after leaving behind the security checks.
In the moment we entered, a couple of guys approached us offering themselves as guides. We declined their offer and did the visit on our owns. We couldn't enter the mosques because it was Ramadan, so we were a bit disappointed. Anyway, the Temple Mount is impressive... and the silence!! Everything was so quiet and silent, quite a contrast with all the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
We left the Temple Mount and went through the Cotton Market, where most of the shops and stands were closed, so not much action here. We headed up to Jaffa Gate where we wanted to join a free tour around the Old City.
The tour started at 11am and took almost 3 hours. The tour was really informative and interesting and it gave us an overview of the Old Town. We started just outside the Jaffa Gate and went through the christian quarter to the Holy Sepulchre Church but we didn't get in. The guide told us that this church is shared by 6 different christian religions.
Exhausted as we were due to the heat and the walks up and down the city, we went back to the hotel for a little nap. When we woke up (around 15h30) we realized we still had the ticket from the day before to the northern ramparts walk, and the entrance closed at 16h!! And my God, were we tired!! After a few minutes trying to decide whether to go or not, our travelling spirit prevailed and we rushed to the tickets office, totally sleepy.
The northern ramparts walk took us from Jaffa Gate to Lion's Gate, via New, Damascus and Herod's Gates. It goes around the christian quarter on to the muslim one. This is the part I enjoyed the most. You get a really close view of the muslim houses, great views over the mosques and East Jerusalem, with all its hustle and bustle. I think it took us about an hour until we reached the Lion's Gate (or St. Stephen's).
We went through the muslim quarter to the Holy Sepulcre Church following (in theory) the footsteps of Jesus when he was carrying the cross to Calvary. The walk consists of 14 stations, the last 5 are inside the Holy Sepulchre Church. Some of the stations on the way are very easy to miss. The Holy Sepulchre Church really impressed us. It's not a church like the ones we are used to. As I said before, it holds 6 different christian beliefs, so everyone of them has their own space inside the church (except the Ethiopians who have their chapel on the back roof). It's a compound of different chapels, altars, mosaics, etc... It was full of people wandering around and many others queueing to see the Holy Sepulchre.
It had been a great, though exhausting, day. Too many things, too much information... we needed some time to sort all that out in our heads and assimilate all the things we had seen and learnt. We didn't even go out for dinner that night. We grabbed some stuff on our way back to the hostel and ended the day watching a beautiful sunset from the rooftop. Beautiful end for a great day.