Israel's Good Name

Akko (Part 2)

In Galilee, Israel on August 26, 2012 at 5:43 AM

Continuing on with my saga of Akko and Rosh HaNikra, both visited on Thursday, here is the second half of the Akko report:

One of my favourite parts in the Old City of Akko is the Marina and its cheap boat rides of the bay area, something that gives me the same thrill each time. We found a bright pink boat in the Marina that was still loading up – the boats usually carry between 15 to 20 people – and waited for the gaudy sea-going vessel to be untied from the dock. But first, the Marina:

Akko’s Marina

When the boat was full, mostly with vacationing Arabs, we untied and took off, leaving the marina behind as we headed out to the open sea. The captain turned his invigorating Arabic music up to the max, the gaudy boat reverberating as we bounced in the troughs. Here I shoved my arm way out, sitting down for a spell, and took a blind shot of what was behind us:

Leaving the bay behind

As we went out, passing the domain of the sea walls, our eardrums cringing from the overpowering music – the classic Arabic songs are all the same to me, one man singing and then a chorus of a bunch of men partially repeating what the main singer said (something like this song, blasted at 100 decibels). If you listen to the song at full volume, rock back and forth and splash salt water on your face from time to time, you may begin to feel what the boat ride is like, with the help of a healthy imagination! Here is another tour boat passing us on its return journey, Haifa and the famed Mount Carmel in the distance:

Another tour boat passing us

And then we too turned around and headed back, about fifteen minutes after departure. Here is the Old City as seen by sea, how the incoming vessels – be them for war or for peace – would have seen Akko all those years back, minus the destroyed Templar Fortress:

The Old City from sea

Here we re-entered the Marina, after a 20-25 minute boat ride, and another tour boat leaves for the high seas:

Re-entering the Marina

From the Marina, after disembarking and planting our feet on terra firma, we walked our way back into the crowded streets and found the Kahn El-Omdan and the Clock Tower. The Kahn El-Omdan is an Ottoman-styled motel where people would tie up their horse/camel and belongings in the lower coves and then go upstairs to sleep in the rooms up above.

Kahn El-Omdan

The Clock Tower is also from the Ottoman Period, one of seven built throughout Israel (the ones in Tzfat and Jaffa have been photographically featured on my blog). Last time I was in Akko the clock was out of service but it looks as though someone fixed it. Historically, it has been the clock tower with the most malfunctions, perhaps a testament to the unease between the Jews and Arabs in Akko’s Old City.

Akko’s Ottoman Clock Tower

Emerging from the Templar Tunnels (which we did after the boat ride) having walked/crouch-walked it both ways, we walked comfortably through the quieter residential area of the Old City, mostly inhabited by Muslim Arabs. We found a camel and then found the exit to the sea walls area, the gusts of cool wind refreshing us as we made our way down to the water. Here is the view from Burj el Kashla of the sea wall heading north, with Rosh HaNikra far off in the distance:

The sea wall looking north

Looking south, to Mount Carmel, here is a small panoramic of the corner of the city – the calm area of sea, locked in by the rocks, was where the mighty Templar Fortress once stood:

Panoramic of the area that juts out to sea

As we walked along the sea wall, passing the lighthouse and heading towards the historic Pisan Port, we came across the famous part of the wall where the local youth jump off and into the sea. The scary part is that there are huge rocks in the water so they have to be really careful not to splatter themselves needlessly. Another thing is that they often wear shoes so that the razor sharp underwater stones don’t slice their feet. We watched as several teens dove into the churning sea some 30+ feet below. If you click on the picture and zoom up you can see the youth climbing back up for another leap:

The sea wall where the local kids jump from

After picking up some refreshments in the souk we took a swing north-east and headed for the Land Wall Promenade where the Ottomans fended off the French conqueror Napoleon and his 30-day seige back in 1799. Part of the wall area, protected by cannon and men, was conquered but the second, inner wall held the invaders off and Napoleon was forced to abandon his efforts. In some areas, closer to the sea walls, rusted cannon balls can be seen lodged in the wall from the battles so long ago. Here is one of the cannons that was involved in the fighting:

Old cannon involved in the counter-attacks of Napoleon’s siege

Located beneath the wall, in arched rooms, is the Treasures in the Walls museum (also known as the Ethnography and Folklore Museum) – various collections of historical items and artifacts. There, in compartmentalized exhibits, workshops and offices have been recreated all using period pieces. A shoemaker, a carpenter, a pharmacist and a hat-maker (or as the man referred to himself: casquettier), all these workshops and offices, and many more, were faithfully redone with the finest attention to detail. Also, there were collections of old toys, old matchboxes, old currency (spanning four nationalities in the Holy Land during the last century and a half) and even old sitting rooms of imported furniture from Damascus, Syria. Here, a collection that would befit a palace – wood inlaid with bone and seashell:

”Straight Outta Damascus”

After the museum, which took a good forty minutes, we headed back out onto the Land Wall Promenade and exited the Old City. From there we grabbed a taxi, got on a bus and made our way to Rosh HaNikra, the topic of the next blog post.

  1. […] and the site of French emperor Napoleon’s camp after retreating from their 30-day siege on Akko in 1799, became a place of the […]

  2. […] and their beasts of burden. Some khans are large and impressive, such as the Khan El-Omdan in Akko‘s Old City with its large granite pillars, and others are a simple affair tending to the base […]

  3. […] To the northwest is Achziv and Rosh HaNikra and to the southwest is the magnificent port city of Akko and Haifa, all fascinating sites. Finished with our little tour of the dig area, we were introduced […]

  4. […] a view of the Old City of Akko in front of me in the distance I walked, alternating between taking pictures of the view and taking […]

  5. […] Up top, looking out over the castle floor, we imagined what it would be like to live there back in Crusader times, keeping a watchful eye out for seagoing vessels. The gentle waves crashed on the surf just tens of metres away from the fortress’ front door, which made us wonder what the sea level was back then – something that was actually researched on-site back in 2012-13 (see HERE). There was something downright magical about the correlation between castle and sea that I had never yet felt; whereas many fortifications are built on the coast, almost all are building atop natural ridges, such as Arsuf, or pre-existing city foundations, such as Akko. […]

  6. […] we had a quick look at intricate Damascus wooden furniture, taking me back to my visit to Akko’s Treasures in the Walls museum a decade […]

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