O Jerusalem, fragrant with prophets
The shortest path between heaven and earth…
A beautiful child with burned fingers and downcast eyes…
O Jerusalem, city of sorrow,
A tear lingering in your eyes…
Who will wash your bloody walls?
O Jerusalem, my beloved
Tomorrow the lemon trees will blossom; the olive trees rejoice; your eyes will dance; and the doves fly back to your sacred tower.
Nizar Qabbani, Jerusalem
I attempted to select a few of my best travel pictures I took from my trip to Jerusalem and Jordan. It wasn’t an easy choice trying to pick the best of the lot because there were too many. I hope this selection earn your approval.
The Golden Gate, as it is called in Christian literature, is the oldest of the current gates in Jerusalem’s Old City Walls. According to Jewish tradition, the Shekhinah (שכינה) (Divine Presence) used to appear through this gate, and will appear again when the Messiah comes (Ezekiel 44:1–3) and a new gate replaces the present one. In Arabic, it is known as the Gate of Eternal Life. Therefore the holies, the nobles, the warriors are buried beside this gate. The Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent sealed off the Golden Gate in 1541. While this may have been purely for defensive reasons, in Jewish tradition, this is the gate through which the Messiah will enter Jerusalem and it is suggested that Suleiman the Magnificent sealed off the Golden Gate to prevent the Messiah’s entrance.
On the ascent to Mount Olive on the right is the nondescript resting place of Virgin Mary. Day and night, incessant chanting and prayers goes on here as the Armenian and Coptic Monks take their turns or altogether performing this thousands-year-old ritual.
The Basilica of Agony (also called Church of All Nations) is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest. (Mark 14:32-42)
From Mount Olive we captured a wonderful view of the old city of Jerusalem. Tourists will not miss The Dome of the Rock which shines prominently on the Temple Mount (Haram El-Sharif).
The exterior of Al-Aqsa mosque does not look spectacular but the interior is a sight to behold.
In close range, The Dome of the Rock (see below) is even more beautiful than it seen from afar.
The structure has been refurbished many times since its initial completion in 691 AD at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The Dome of the Rock is in the centre of a greater Muslim shrine, known as the Haram ash Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), which Muslims believe commemorates Muhammad’s miraculous Night Journey into heaven.
Not forgetting there is a little dome besides the main dome!
At the Western side of the Temple Mount is the Western Wall, also called the Wailing wall. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognised by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BC by Herod the Great.
The Western wall is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great.
Within the slit and cracks of the stones, Jews include their wishes and prayers on paper and slot them into the crevices, whispers your prayers again to the wall and that should do it.
It is lunch. We went into a thousands-year-old cafe in the old city and drank fresh squeezed pomegranate juice and ate stuffed chicken Sharwama pita bread sandwiches.
Have you tried Palestinian Arab coffee? It is so strong and left with a sediment of dark coffee that looks like tar at the bottom of the glass. Truly caffeine charged, adrenaline pumping substance!
Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem take the Via Dolorosa. Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Grief”, “Way of Suffering” or simply “Painful Way” is a street, in two parts, within the Old City of Jerusalem, held to be the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion. This spot below is the Third station. At this spot, Jesus falls beneath the weight of the cross for the first time (there will be two more falls). This site is now a small chapel.
The fourth station. Jesus meets Mother Mary. This sculpture above the Armenian Church of Our Lady of the Spasm, shows the grief of Mary as she sees her son walking to His death. I walked the journey and felt thoroughly moved and affected.
The final station ends in the Church of Holy Sepulchre. Stone of Unction (underneath the lamps) is where the anointing and wrapping of Christ’s body after His death and His body taken down from the crucifix. Pilgrims from all over the world came here to pray at the Church.
On a separate day we travelled to Bethlehem to the Church of Nativity where Jesus is born. On the humble site of a manger, the star indicates the very spot Jesus is born.
On a separate day, we woke up early to Knesset in order to join the 8:30am English tour to the Israeli parliament. The House Committee of Knesset Parliament in Israel is where decisions are made. The House Committee members convene here.
The Knesset Parliament herald to be the smallest in the world holds only 120 seats.
After visiting the parliament we drove to Tel Aviv and took a stroll at the Carmel market at the Yemeni quarter. The fresh food and produce on display were mouth watering, fresh, beautiful and look wonderfully organic. Here are the famous Jaffa blood oranges on display.
The pomegranate in its original form consists of ruby gem-like filling that look all so juicy!
We took a stroll from neighbouring Jaffa in late evening to the night.
Archaeological evidence shows that Jaffa was inhabited some 7,500 years. Jaffa’s natural harbour has been in use since the Bronze Age. (wow!)
I found it truly surreal experience to be walking in a street of a city this old at night…..
The walls witness history of triumph and bloodshed. It whispers the daily lives of all the inhabitants who live in it. Today it houses boutique and souvenir shops; and a few residential units.
From the top of Jaffa, this beautiful view of Tel Aviv was breathtaking.
In search of the famous Jaffa Bell tower, it was situated right in the middle of a busy thoroughfare. The Clock Square with its distinctive clocktower was built in 1906 in honor of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The Saraya (governor’s palace) was built in the 1890s.
Jaffa during the day is just as beautiful.
The beach of Tel Aviv in the morning. It is February, but the weather is mild and beautiful.
Capturing a view of Mount Zion with this man speaks volume of the diversity of this beautiful city.
Our last day of Jerusalem, we sat down at the Cotton Merchant’s market and have a glass of that strong coffee!
It was that coffee that spurred me with excitement and without a care (and unaware!) found myself walking the ramparts of Mount Zion overlooking the hills and the Temple Mount!
How totally awesome it is to be able to while your time away sitting on the wall with your friend….
This is Al-Aqsa mosque. Below the wall is the archaeological park and Umayyad Palace built during the Umayyad dynasty.
The Dormitian Abbey, a grand German Benedictine Abbey located on top of Mount Zion, commemorating the memory of Virgin Mary, in the traditional site of her death, is also the site of Jesus last Supper.
I am equally fascinated with the souvenir shops which sells these beautiful incense burner…
These are Armenian painted pottery. This is the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian, Arabic and Aramaic languages.
One of my prized and favourite shot was this old man with his red Keffiyeh (head dress) sorting out his sesame coated bread. The bread costs £1 each but they are tasty especially if you dab them on herbs.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to show you The Dome of the Rock at night. It is truly out-of-the-world experience as the Dome exudes this ghostly, heavenly light which renders the structure one that is placed here from heaven.
With a heavy heart, I left Haram El-Sharif through the Chain gate and into the Cotton Merchant market again. The stalls are closed, the vendors are doing their last clean-up and packing-up. As much as I am reluctant to leave this city, I have to pack up and go too after this night.
Out from the Damascus gate, out of Jerusalem Old city. It is a cliche to tell people that when I arrived in old city Jerusalem, there was a sense of peace and tranquility spiritually that I cannot find anywhere else in this world. It is as if your heart belongs here and when you leave, you left a piece of yourself in Jerusalem.
I hope the long scroll has been worth it. I will share some pictures of Eilat and Jordan in my next few posts. Watch this space!