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The Old City with New Heart

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to visit The Old City of Jerusalem.

I cant quite put into words how much I loved the city. Downtown Jerusalem was alive with music, lights, and the nightlife of Downtown London. The cobbled streets and food stalls reminded of me Europe.

The walls around the Old City are remnants of a fortress that houses centuries of history. The three clearly identifiable layers of rock represent the different groups of people who took over and continued construction around the city. We spent Friday morning exploring parts of the city as we made our way to a free* walking tour. This tour (if you are ever there, you should go on it) took us through the Armenian, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim quarters of the city, while stopping at the major landmarks (ie. The Dome of the Rock) over the course of two hours. Once the tour was done we had some lunch (which is quite hard to do on a Friday afternoon inside the city mind you) and ice-cream while we waited for the afternoon heat to pass. We tried to scope out some dinner places (equally hard to do on a weekend as everything is closed for various days of rest) but to no avail we headed back to the hotel for some down time before eating at a restaurant close to the hotel.

The place we stopped for dinner was amazing. Or maybe I was just hungry. But the food we had was delicious and I will for sure be going back one day. Dinner was followed by some time on the hotel rooftop where we got some amazing views of the city (new and old).

The next morning we woke up early and before the city awoke were on our way to explore The Old City some more. This morning we took the long way around the outside of The Old City up to Lion's Gate and proceeded to make our way to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque (this is considered the third holiest site in Islam). Now, I generally am unable to function in the morning because mornings are hard but I am so, so glad that we went that morning. The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are beautiful, which doesn't do their beauty any justice. It is impossible to gain access to these sites during prayer time and when we arrived there were less than a handful of people around. It was early enough that when we got to Al-Aqsa Mosque there was an older caretaker of the mosque who took the time to show us around the mosque and all the key pieces of history that are still alive there.

After this we picked up some traditional bread that is eaten at breakfast and as you can the size of it, it took me three days to finish this bagel.

I really hope to return again one day soon to continue exploring the city and learning about its history, I also really want to do the walk at the top of the wall around the city.

Before I explain what it takes to get there and back, I want to thank my lovely travel companions for inviting me along with them on this adventure. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it.

Some things no one is able to state clearly online that would have been very helpful to us before leaving were the costs and process to coming and going between Palestine and Jordan.

What happens on the way there:

  • It can cost anywhere from 20-100 JD to get a ride to the border

  • You have to pay the border person in Jordan 10 JD to flip the pages of your passport, look menacing, and hold onto it for an uncomfortably long period of time

  • It will cost you 7 JD if you have no big luggage (10 if you do) to sit in the shuttle to go across as no cars are allowed to drive across [during this bus ride you will pass all through the no mans land that exists and your heart will break which I cannot put a price tag on]

  • Then you will disembark the shuttle bus to pass through border security. It's like airport security but weirder because they have mandatory conscription after high school and everyone carrying a large gun (I'm not kidding some of them were as big as me) looked to be about 17. The night we passed through they stopped all couples and men traveling through the border for 2-3 hours.

  • We had also been warned that the border closes early on Saturday (weekends in Muslim countries are Friday and Saturday) so we should plan to arrive before noon to guarantee our passage through the border - but no one at the border could give us a straight answer about when they would close, if at all.

  • Once we go out we had planned for a driver to pick us up in advance and the drive from the border to the hotel was about 70 JD.

What happens on the way back:

  • Our driver picked us up in the morning on Saturday to take us to the border and it was also about 70 JD

  • Then we stood in line at the border and relieved the shock of our lives. For 4 people it was 738 Shekels which is 144 JD. We just stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do next.

  • After that we boarded the shuttle bus and it was the pricing: 7 JD if you have no big luggage (10 if you do).

  • Then someone boarded our bus, collected our passports, left the bus, got in their pickup truck, and sped away. Now you can imagine how my heart sank - I've always been told to never lose sight of my passport. Once we got off the bus we had to wait by a large window and wait for someone to call your name.

  • Then our pre-arranged driver picked us up and we were heading home.

Some key things to note here are (1) 1 JD =1.41 USD = 1.82 CAD; (2) they will not stamp your passport at all since having a stamp for Palestine can cause issues when you try and go to certain other countries; and (3)

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