Made it nearly the whole week in Jerusalem without visiting the Old City on my own. In order to avoid all of the “YOU WENT ALL THE WAY TO JERUSALEM AND DIDN’T VISIT THE OLD CITY!?” comments, I knew I had to change that quick. Thursday called for the free tour offered every morning followed by independent exploring. The tour meets around 10:30am in front of Jaffa gate and leaves around 11am for 2 hours. It only scrapes the surface of Jerusalem’s history and how the four quarters (Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) came to be, but it was a nice introduction.
If I had the time, I would’ve done the 4 hour tour that takes you inside all the churches, Dome of the Rock, to the Western Wall, and more. I was no match for the unrelenting heat, however, so I settled for the 2 hour tour instead. It was incredibly fascinating stumbling upon a medley of different vendors, kids playing in the streets, modern cafes, and churches. Everywhere you turn, there’s something different going on. One minute you’re witnessing a bar mitzvah celebration in the central square of the Jewish quarter, and the next you have kids coming up to you asking to take a ride on your bike. The Old City is like its own little country in that way, and I would have to agree that people can’t skip over the Old City on their visit to Jerusalem.
After roaming around the Old City, I headed straight back to the hostel to prepare for the Market Cooking tour. My group consisted of Jennifer (North Carolina), Priscilla (South Africa – such a lovely woman), Norma (the toughest party animal I’ve had the pleasure of meeting), and Dan (our guide who is a traveling fool himself). We began by championing the narrow alleyways of Mahane Yehuda market where you can buy all sorts of fresh fruits, sweets, spices, and snacks. Walking up and down each street of the market will burn your eyes and make love to your nose all at the same time. Along the way, we sampled some pastries, dried fruit, and a smoothie made with world love. Yes, world love was listed as one of the ingredients. It was foodie heaven. Outdoor markets are about the only type of shopping I can handle, and I could bargain for days.
On the dinner menu that evening:
- Majadra – rice with lentils and grilled onions
- Arab/Israeli salad – tomatoes and cucumbers
- Tahini with fresh bread and pita
- Baba Ganush
- Fresh veggies and lemonade
- Green salad with pomegranate seeds.
When we returned from the market, it was like setting a lion free from its cage. I was hired to chop up the fresh herbs and decorate the Tahini and Baba Ganush with peppers and onions. Away I went as if I had been starved for days. If I didn’t love traveling so much, I think I’d be a professional chef. Perhaps in my next life.
It felt so refreshing to be back in a kitchen chopping, dicing, cooking, and decorating away. That’s one of the things I miss the most about being home. The meal turned out to be scrumptious and healthy which is all I’m really looking for in a meal. Abraham Hostel offers the market tour twice a week, and I suggest doing it on Thursday because the foods you pick out at the market tend to be fresher when purchased during the week. Don’t miss out! It’s one of the best mediums of casual conversation and getting to know people in small groups.
This article is part of a two week series of adventures in Jerusalem. You can read the others below. All tours were booked through Abraham Hostel.