Editors' Picks

The Old City

dome of the rock

You’ve been here before—to the bazaar, the medina, the souk, the old town, the old city, in Cairo and Istanbul and Marrakech and more. Here again are chaotic, crowd-filled cobblestone streets and alleyways, alternately picturesque and powerfully smelly and full of junk-laden souvenir shops and visitors in search of the real thing, wherever it is and wherever they are. Fortunately, Jerusalem’s Old City has much more than mere tourism to draw the crowds.

Within its famously honey-colored, 16th-century walls are the Western Wall, the most sacred site in Judaism; the Dome of the Rock, where Muhammad ascended; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected. Not bad for three sites about 10 minutes apart. Their presence is what makes Jerusalem “O Jerusalem” and quite arguably the most hallowed ground on earth.

On your first visit, get your bearings and do your pilgrimage—pray at the Wall, prostrate yourself at the mosque or put your hand on the rock of Golgotha. The next day, take it more slowly; now you can start to really see the place, noting the differences between its four quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian) or walking its walls to appreciate both its compactness and its density. No matter the plethora of vendors hawking hookah pipes and plastic Stations of the Cross placemats, the Old City, against epic odds, remains a one-of-kind pileup of cultures and beliefs and ways of seeing and living in the world. Once you see it and experience being moved by a place that means so much to so many, as you inevitably will, you’ll almost certainly see your own world and beliefs a little differently, long after you get back home.

Written by John Cantrell

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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