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A Complete Travel Guide through the Old City of Jerusalem

If you’re planning on a trip to Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is a destination that tops all other places in the country. The old city is surrounded by 450 years old walls, around 1km square, gathers thousands of tourists per year. Being one of the top compelling tourist attractions, it holds famous buildings, churches, scrumptious Israeli food, confined passageways within the old city, and markets to shop from. It is a mesmerizing place of serenity, spirituality, and of great significance for the followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

Historical Background of the Old City of Jerusalem

The Crucification of Jesus took place in this very city and Jerusalem houses the old and famous Jewish temples were Jesus used to come frequently and pray. The Church of Sepulchre located within the walls in Golgotha marks the location of Jesus’s crucifixion.

It was during 11th century, BC when Jerusalem was under the power of King David when he conquered the city and ruled it until the Muslims took it under their power in 637AD. Later the city went under the control of Christian Crusaders in 1099AD. The walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were built on the order of Suleiman the Magnificent in 15th Century, a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Jerusalem was a small city within the walls until the year of 1860. Later it was developed in to a larger city by expanding it outside the walls and is now modernized, but the Old city bordered by the walls has not changed much. It was not until the Six Day War by Jews of Israel when they were not allowed to reside or enter the Old City under the rule of Jordan in the 18th century. The Old City was divided into four quarters after the Jews got their city back and started living in it again. Apart from being a thrilling city, the old city of Jerusalem has sacred places and houses pilgrims of various beliefs. Western Wall, Temple Mount and the Church of Holy Sepulchre are the most visited places by Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Quarter Arrangements of the Old City

The old city of Jerusalem houses eight gates built in to the stone walls around the city, from where tourists and worshippers enter the city. Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters are the four quarters in which the old city is divided into. The quarters are marked so one recognizes the start and end of a quarter. In Muslim quarters, the Muslims cover themselves with keffiyah and wear jalabiyyyah that resembles a kaftan. Jews are seen wearing black hats and coats in their quarters whereas nuns and priests wear their traditional dresses in the Christian and Armenian Quarters. The most amazing and distinctive element you will notice in each quarter is that, each quarter follows its traditional values, be it traditional food, traditional clothing, shops, everything represents the culture, history and beliefs of each religion.

Christian Quarter, Jerusalem

Located in the north-western part of the city is the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem. The Quarter can be accessed through the New Gate, Damascus Gate, and Jaffa Gate. David Street and Souk el-Zeit are also in the vicinity of Christian quarters. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is no doubt the most significant site for the Christians along with 40 other religious sites in the quarter. The rich architecture of the Church with the detailed work inside the church and chapels is not to be overseen. Built in the 4th century, the church marks the location of crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary. The tomb where Jesus was buried and resurrected is located in the church along with the last four Stations of the Cross. The Roman Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and the Greek Orthodox churches share the belief of the church unlike Syriacs, Egyptian Copts and Ethiopians, who do not share it at a greater level.

Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem

Since the middle ages, 8th century BC, the Jews have been residing into the Jewish Quarters. The Jewish Quarter has been altered and is now different from early ages in order to discover the remains of ancient Roman times, Cardo was a street running through Jewish quarter. Demolished in 70AD, the 2nd Holy temple to the believers of Judaism has its remains in the Jewish Quarter and thus the Western Wall also known as Kotel, is of great importance to Jews. Yearly, many Jews come to worship the sacred Western Wall from all around the world. Synagogues and western wall are of equal importance to the locals living in Jewish Quarter. Many worshipers write their messages to communicate with God on a piece of paper and place it into the Western Wall.

Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem

Muslim Quarter is the largest quarter in the old city of Jerusalem. Muslims and a small number of Jews live in this quarter. The bustling and busy passageways in the quarter leads to Temple Mount, where it is said the old Jewish temple existed in the 1st century. It is believed that Muhammad rose up to the Heaven where the magnificent Dome of Rock is located and protects the foundation stone within it. Sighted from far away and a beautiful attraction in the city, is the Golden colored, Dome of the Rock. Another place of religious importance for the Muslims is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, final point of Muhammad’s Night Journey and the extravagant Dome of the Chain and lastly the ancient site on Temple Mount. Many Roman and Crusader remains can be found in Muslim Quarter as the Western wall runs under the Muslims Quarters. Visit ‘shuk’, an Arab market to find different variety of goods in the Muslims Quarters. Along seven Station of the cross, Via Dolorosa is also located in the Muslim Quarter.

Armenian Quarter, Jerusalem

The fourth and smallest quarter of the Old city is the Armenian Quarter. After the rise of Christianity in Armenia in the 4th century, many Christian Armenians and Armenian pilgrims came to reside and worship in Jerusalem. The Armenian Quarter is known for St. James Monastery and St. James Cathedral which was built in the 4th century. The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is also located in this Quarter. Like every other religion, the Armenians have unique tradition, language and norms. In these quarter you will find beautifully handmade items, like ceramics handmade tiles and paintings and they can be easily bought. The colourful Armenian tiles made into street signs in the Quarter make the Armenian Quarter a distinctive one.

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