Our final stop before flying back to Canada was going to be the infamous city of Cairo. Known for its great ancient sites as well as its chaotic streets and bustling markets, Cairo is a city which needs no introduction. Here is a photoset from our last few days exploring Cairo.
It’s a bit of a tricky task summarizing this destination due to the political hostilities and opinions that surround this land but nonetheless, we are in Jerusalem!
Israel has always fascinated both Nick and myself, but was one of the last places we thought we would ever see firsthand. Most people who come to Israel for tourism purposes head straight to Jerusalem, where the three Abrahamic religions flock to walk in the footsteps of their faith, and behold such holy sights as the dome of the rock, the western wall, mount of olives etc. We, having to pass through the south of Israel on our route to Egypt, decided to check out the hype.
The old walled city of Jerusalem is divided into different quarters that keep the different religious groups together but also segregated. There is the Jewish quarter based nearby the Western Wall, the Christian quarter with its Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Arab quarter with its souqs and market atmosphere and the Armenian area (which we didn’t quite understand).
When we arrived to Hotel Hashimi located in the Arab quater, I had to stealthily change my ring to my left hand, as strict Islamic owners have a huge sign declaring, “non-married couples cannot be in the same room.” After an interrogation of why our last names did not match, we set out to explore the twisty streets of Jerusalem.
It is very easy to get lost, especially when walking through the ancient Arab Quater that is difficult to navigate with the narrow, dark alleys covered from the sky. There is no need for a map, however, as we found out that Israelis (and Palestinians), no matter what religion, are extremely friendly and will always point you in the right direction.
We divided our time by visiting the most important religious sites of the city and began our day walking to the Western Wall. The last remaining structure of the Second Jewish Temple after it was destroyed by the Romans, the western wall is by far the most important holy structure to the Jewish religion. It came as quite a culture shock joining the Orthodox Jews in their sometimes-dramatic prayers to the wall while cramming notes of prayers into every crack or hole in the structure.
Next on our list was the Church of the holy Sepulcher which represents the most important church to the Christian Minority in Israel. It is said that the church stands on the place where Jesus was crucified and holds the rock for which he was laid down upon to die. The atmosphere felt a little more familiar, having been in plenty of Christian churches but was far from a peaceful experience with mobs of Christian pilgrims jostling for space and pictures.
To round the day off a visit to the Dome of the rock would have been the perfect finale but was impossible on the days we chose to visit Jerusalem as it was not open to the public. The Dome is important to all three religions but is currently a Muslim site with restricted access and we were stuck admiring the symbol of Jerusalem from a panoramic view on our rooftop terrace at Hashimi.
Not an exceptionally beautiful city on a cosmetic level, after we visited all the requisite holy sights, we began to wonder what else the city had to offer and if this city might not be a great tourist destination for non-believers or those not on a religious pilgrimage. It was often difficult to find food and transportation easily as we were there on Friday and Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, where most of the country takes a complete break from all kinds of work even government run transportation. We found ourselves walking kilometers and kilometers in search for some food having flashbacks to Italy during siesta on a Sunday, and deciding we were going to move to a city like New York where the city never sleeps and we can get anything at any time of day.
Although we only had a short time in Israel, we were very glad we got the opportunity to explore. With a distinctly European feel but sandwiched between the Middle East and Egypt, being the only Jewish state in the world, with a national language of Hebrew as well as Arabic, machine gun toting teenagers sharing bus seats (going to or from mandatory military servie) and arguably more religious tension than anywhere else in the world, Israel is one unique place.