frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

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Ponies In The Holy Land: Picspam Part 2

The Free Tour is a great way to see the Old City. The guides speak English, and we liked our guide a lot. He told lots of stories, and a few jokes. The one about the debate between Shlomo and the Pope was a chestnut, but he told it well, so I approve. We gathered in the plaza just outside the Jaffa Gate, and here are the things we saw!

This is David's Citadel. Almost certainly not built by King David. It was named by Crusaders who were pretty desperate to see something, anything, built by a Biblical character. So they saw this tower, which looked old, and (because they had no Free Tour guide to tell them otherwise) simply declared that it was David's Citadel. Right next door is a police station.

There are four quarters in the Old City. The first one, going counterclockwise from the Jaffa Gate, is the Armenian Quarter. Here you can see St. Mark's Convent of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate. They claim that, inside this church, is the room in which the Last Supper took place.

The Old City is very dense, and the streets are narrow. One good way to get a look around is to go up on the rooftops, from which you can have a view out over the Jewish and Muslim Quarters, with the Mount of Olives in the background. Note the satellite dishes. I liked them, for some reason.

Like Ankh-Morpork, Jerusalem is mostly built on Jerusalem. You have to go down quite a bit to find the Cardo, which used to be the main shopping drag back in Roman times. They have a few of the original cobbles preserved, as well as a section of columns. The columns mark the edge of the sidewalk, where merchants set up shop. Then there was an enormously wide street, and more columns and more shops on the other side. There's a helpful mural to show you what the place might have looked like back then. Little Sister Pony especially liked the kid with the backpack in the lower right corner.

Nearby, a Byzantine mosaic map of the city has been reproduced and enlarged, so that you can see the Cardo. Actually, there are two Cardos, the big one and the little one. The samples are from the big one. This is our guide explaining all about it.

Continuing in the Jewish Quarter, you see the Hurva Synagogue. This used to be destroyed till nothing was left but an arch, but it's recently been rebuilt. So recently that the tourist offices haven't yet had time to change the maps to indicate this!

We paused for a brief view over the Muslim Quarter and into the Christian Quarter. I think what I've got here is a view of the Ecce Homo Basilica, but I'm not entirely certain.

This is the Dome of the Rock. According to our guide, the original gold tiles on the roof were stolen, but they were replaced relatively recently. By an Orthodox Christian architect, of all people. You get that sort of thing. It's kind of heartwarming.

Angling the camera down a tad gives you an Iconic Jerusalem Image, the Dome of the Rock overlooking the Kotel, the Western (Wailing) Wall. The funny thing about the Wall is that the only reason that this supremely holy place exists at all is because King Herod had some really bad building engineers. He wanted to build a temple, but it turned out to be too big for the mountain it was sitting on. So he had to build retaining walls all around it and fill them in with dirt and rubble to support the temple. The Western Wall is in fact the Western Retaining Wall. All hail non-MIT-trained engineers!

There's a prayer area right at the Wall, separated from the general visitors' area by a fence, and then subdivided into a men's area and a women's area. Guess which area is three times the size of the other one?

There are lots of yeshivas overlooking the Wall, presumably to inspire their students.

And a picture of the visitors' area.

Not all the Old City is unimaginably old. There's some nice newer buildings, too. Well, for a given value of "newer."

There are several suqs in the Old City. This is the one in the Christian Quarter. We didn't buy anything there, partially to avoid having to haggle, and partially because I find merchandise in that kind of shop more attractive to look at in its suq setting than to actually buy.

This is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Little Sister Pony had a hard time with that word; she kept pronouncing it "Se-plucker!" Anyway, it's probably not the site of Jesus's tomb, but Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, said it was, and when Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, says something is so, then you send the tour guides around straight away. The ladder is kept there in memory of the monks who used to live all the time in the Church, but who would occasionally get bored and send out for takeout food. Not that I blame them. The falafel in the Old City is goooooooood.

On our last full day in Israel, we decided to return to the Old City. Little Sister Pony wanted to see the inside of the Church of the Holy Unpronounceable, so we went in. This is the Sepulchre itself, surrounded by dedicated worshippers, as well as one Orthodox priest who was riding herd on the faithful.

Next picspam: Tel Aviv!
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