Waking up this morning to a pretty smear of pink across the sky was our welcome to Jerusalem. Breakfast in the dining room was amazing. So many different fruits, cheeses, hard boiled eggs, gefilta fish, frittata, pastries, breads and cakes just to name a few. The variety was mind boggling and must take the staff ages to prepare and set out.
We then walked around the district for a couple of hours. Because of Shabbat, everything was closed and the streets were deserted except for many Jewish guys walking to Synagogue, praying from their prayer books as they went.
Checking out and then taking a taxi to Hotel Azzahra, which is only a ten minute walk to the Old City, took no time. Our first experience of the traffic with our friendly Jewish driver took us into East Jerusalem, a Muslim area. A cacophony of tooting filled our ears as chaos reigned on the streets with cars, taxis, motor bikes and pedestrians jostling for space.
Before we headed into the Old City we found a great place for lunch overlooking the old city walls and enjoyed some delicious hummus with breads and olives. Then into the Old City we went…through the Damascus Gate.
What a melting pot of humanity. We were absorbed into a throng of people and surrounded by many different languages. It was full of market shops selling all types of ‘stuff’. A lot of junky two dollar shop type of merchandise with spice, fruit, clothing and pastry stalls thrown in. At one stage we were caught in the middle of a four way intersection where we had to stick tight and just squeeze our way through!
Finding a spot for coffee wasn’t too difficult and we sat for a little while watching the world go by. Finding our way out was a different matter but we eventually got back onto familiar ground and made our way back to the Azzahra Hotel to check in.
We have a double and a single room which we’ll rotate so we can all have a turn at solitude. We laughed when we struggled up the stairs with our cases; thump, thump, thump up to the first floor. We’ll take up the offer of help when we leave.
At 6.00pm our little tour group of eleven met in the foyer for our tour briefing. Our guide’s name is Azmi and seems terrific. He took us on a short familiarisation of the immediate area, giving us a few hints about cafes that we might have dinner at and also the all important ATMs and which ones are safe to use. Six of us went to the Holy Land Hotel rooftop restaurant for dinner and a great view over to the city wall. The food was great but Cath had to wait an age for her pumpkin risotto.
The atmosphere was provided by a guy playing a lute, we think, setting the scene for a great night. By the time we left around ten o’clock the restaurant was full, our musician had kept playing without a break, and the smell of cigarettes hung in the air. Obviously smoking at dinner tables is still OK here and with the amount of smokers around I wouldn’t like their chances of bringing that in! A girl from Geelong, one from Rio and another from Cornwall made up our group. There are two couples, one from Corowa area, and another woman on her own who decided not to come on the walk. I guess we’ll get to know them all over the week but first impressions are that it will be fun.
Tomorrow Azmi takes us into the Old City with the first stop being the wailing wall. Can’t wait!