Getting out of the Templars Tunnel we walked to the sea where we saw the Acre Lighthouse.
It’s an active 10meters high cylindrical lighthouse that was built by concrete in 1912 in black and white and has a gray metallic lantern room on top.
It is located near the base of the former ottoman flag tower Burj-El-Sanjak. According to Wikipedia The light characteristic shown is two white flashes every seven seconds, visible for 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi).
The café under the lighthouse is named after it of course, Al Fanar. We didn’t stay long there, we took some pics of the lighthouse but we spent much more time checking the view over the walls to the sea (in the distance you can see Haifa) and then walked over the southern walls towards the marina of Acre.
A public bathhouse that was built by El-Jazar in the year 1795 in the format of the Oriental bathhouses that were common in the Turkish Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries...
The bathhouse has an entry room that serves as a dressing room, with a marble fountain in the center. A corridor leads from the entry room to a series of hot rooms, the last of which is a hexagonal steam room, with a domed roof supported by four marble columns, with four rooms for individual use, one at each corner.
The bathhouse building is an elegant one and is adorned with marble floors and imported ceramic tiles.
I think I enjoyed the excavations under the citadel much more than the restored halls upstairs which are high and impressive anyway but I tried to imagine the prisoners locked in small dark rooms. Now full of tourists but back then with unlucky people that got tortured there. You can see the dungeon, a complex of semi-joined halls and an ancient church that used to serve the Hospitallers Knights.
Don’t forget that if you want to go out of the citadel you have to go through the underground tunnel under the Citadel (not to be confused with the tunnel of the Templars that leads down to the harbor), it was weird walking there and may cause claustrophobia to some people, an old british lady was screaming “get me out of here” but it wasn’t that hard although we had to bend through a large part of the tunnel.
Our tour in the Old Town of Acre started from the Citadel. It’s an ottoman fortification that was built over the ruins of the Crusaders fortress (they ruled from 1191 to 1291) on the NW part of the town. In late 17th century the old sleepy town came to life again when Pasha Jezzar fortified the town with a fortress and then became the seat of the Governor of Galilee. A prison was added in late 19th century and during the British mandate in 20th century the citadel was used as the largest prison in Israel (many people from jewish Zionist resistance movement were held or/and executed here) . After the Israeli independence war (1948) it turned into a mental hospital and the recent years after massive excavations turned it into a museum.
I have to admit that the first thing I remember for this place was the weird exit through a souvenir shop! :)
Although there’s not really much to see we followed a tour group for a while and I enjoyed the amusing guide that not only gave historical information but did it in a funny way. But don’t forget to take an audio guide at the entrance (its for free but you have to give your ID) so not to get bored, no it’s not just another empty hall after another large empty hall, it’s full of history but someone has to put light on it. Unfortunately many parts were under refurbishment so we couldn’t really feel the old feeling I love in such places.
The Hospitaler’s Citadel is open 8.30-18.00.
There are 2 combo tickets, one for the Citadel/Okashi Museum/Templar Tunnel costs 27nis, and one of all those + the Turkish bath (46nis)
Just behind the main market street we noticed a small alley which was full of small souvenir/local craft stores. We ended up there after visiting the citadel and although we didn’t buy something we strolled slowly and checked the stores.
It’s the Turkish Bazaar that was built during 18th century and served the town as the local market until 1948 when it was deserted because of the Israeli Defense Force captured the old city. Now popular for visitors that want souvenirs but there were also some nice corners like the tiny orient-type café here and there. It’s small in size anyway so it wont take more than 5’ to walk from one end to the other. The truth is that we liked the main market much more.
It’s open till 18.00
It was included on my combo ticket along with Citadel, templar tunnels and Okashi Museum but I wouldn’t suggest anyone to visit this one as top priority. Hammam al-Basha is Acre’s hammam that was built by Jezzar Pasha and was in function as a bathhouse until 1950, a nice hammam for a butcher like him.
So, is there anything to do there for the average visitor? We got inside and asked to sit on one of the rooms (probably this was the dressing room that led to a series of hot rooms) around a marble fountain where we saw a mediocre video presentation (focusing on Pasha al-Jazaar) that tries to be entertaining but it’s just a waste of time.
After some minutes we walked into another room where again a video of poor quality started to be played…. I just opened the exit door and got out although the hexagonal steam room (supported by four marble columns) was interesting to see along with the ceiling. There are also some sculptures of bathers in life size so the visitor to visualize how this place was (I know, common sense will do the job anyway) but as I said the main problem here is that if you are not interested about the video presentation you wont have much to do/see here. No need to bring you bath suit here, in case you have one keep it for a normal hammam or go to the beach :)
Visiting the Old Town of Akko means a walk through the main market which isn’t only focusing on tourists but has dozens of stores with products for locals, lovely fish stores, colorful herb stores (we love herbs/spices by the way, so we bought some to bring back home) etc
The market spreads though the main alley and its worth to be visited even if you don’t really plan to buy something, its on your way anyway from the Al-Jazaar mosque down to the sea, there’s great atmosphere with lots of smells and colors. I love such places anyway.
Here and there we noticed street vendors selling freshly squeezed fruit juice, for about 2-2,5 euros we tried different ones, it was fresh and refreshing under the heat. We also tried lots of nuts and dry fruits which is handy to have with us later in the day.
The tunnel of Templars was a secret 350meters long tunnel under the medieval town of Acre where the Crusaders of the Templars settled in 12th century after the fall of Jerusalem when they were driven out by Saladin (1187).
In Akko they built a massive (protected with huge walls) fortress (now gone) and the tunnel (that was cut into the rock in a semi barreled arch) was very useful for them to get a concealed access from the fortress to the inner port.
You can get inside from the Eastern entrance near Khan Al-Umdan near the marina where once was the internal anchorage of the Akko port but you can also get access from the other side of the tunnel on the western entrance near the modern lighthouse where the Templar fortress was.
The tunnel opened to the public in 1999 only 5 years after the accidental discovery of it when a local that was living over it complained for a blocked sweage. It has a walkway while the top part is reinforced by hewn stones and lights makes the walkthrough comfortable and easy. Of course although its important historical significance some people may feel this is another rip off because there are some simple animated videos and illustrations but what most people do is just walk through the wooden platform when they realize the videos are only in Hebrew and focusing on Akko history and not the tunnel itself.
Not far from the lighthouse of Akko we saw the church of Saint John the Baptist.
According to a text that was found on the northern wall it was built by the Franciscans in 1737 on the area of the crusader church of St.Andrews. It was renovated in 1947 and has a whitewashed façade with red roof tiles. It belongs to the Latin community (the only roman catholic church in Acre) and is located on a nice spot overlooking the sea on Haifa bay, we took some pictures around but it was closed during our visit so we couldn’t check the interior.
It’s nice that you can still see parts of the wall that once used to protect Acre from the enemies of the crusaders. It surrounded their town including the sea side where you can see the thick fortification although I guess a boat ride around will be much more impressive so you can have a better view and imagine how the walled city looked like to anyone that was approaching Acre back then.
Most of them were built in stages between 1750 (by Daher el Omar while renovating the Crusader walls) and 1840. The Ottomans encircled their city with a 10m high wall that was thick, had towers and in some parts there were moats. There were two gates, the land Seria gate in NW part and the sea gate in SE part.
I loved spending time near the walls but most of all checking the view over the walls to the sea (pic 5)… in the distance you can see Haifa. It was also interesting to see some old parts of the walls lying into the sea unprotected by the salted sea (pic 4 shows a wall piece in front of the café).
Although we saw several different parts of the wall we enjoyed walking along the south west part near the sea (starting from the lighthouse that was built there in 1912). Finally I have to admit that sometimes I like regular building walls, pic 5 shows a local woman outside her window trying to take control of the clothes.
Khan (also known as caravanserai, remember the famous Santana album) was a large inn enclosing a courtyard that was used by camel caravans for accommodation but also a warehouse. The khans supported the flow of commerce along the trade routes in Asia, SE Europe and north Africa.
Old Akko had many of them but the largest one (not only in Akko but in Israel!) was Khan al-Umdan (Inn of the Pillars due to its 40 granite columns).
It was built in 1785 (during Ahmed Jezzar Pasha reign), a two story structure with the ground floor housing the animals while the upper floors housed the travelers. There’s a nice clock tower that was added much later (1906), you supposed to be able to go up and have some nice view from there but the khan was under renovation during our visit and we could just walk in a small part of it. We were planning to return again later that day and have some proper photos of the khan but then we changed plans so I missed some good shots except this bad one I have here :(
Jezzar Pasha Mosque is the most beautiful mosque in Acre and dominates the skyline of the Old Town. It was named after Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar (1708-1804) who was the local (Acre and Galilee) Ottoman governor in late 18th century (from 1775 until his death), a lovely man that was famous with the nickname the Butcher :) He was a Christian slave from Herzegovina that escaped after committing a murder starting a nice carreer through slave markets, he was converted into Islam by an Egyptian ruler that used him as an executioner (come one, you saw it coming, didn’t you?). He is buried in the small graveyard adjacent to the mosque along with his successor Suleiman Pasha.
Al-Jazzar built the mosque in 1782 in a beautiful mix of byzantine and persian styles with a green dome and minaret with a winding staircase of 124 steps. I was surprised to know it’s the largest mosque in Israel outside Jerusalem. The mosque is also known as the White mosque due to the former silvery white dome.
There’s a large courtyard with colorful flowers, a nice fountain and some other smaller structures around. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures inside. The mosque is famous because it houses Shahr el Nabi which is hair from the beard of Mohamned!! I dint see it as it is shown only during congregation.
This small but highly interesting museum is not to be missed!
It is well hidden within the city walls, below the wall promenade level, in one of the forts in the wall called "Burj-al-Kommandar" (Commander's Fort). You can easily miss the entrance if you don't follow the signs.
It is one of the best ethnographic nuseums I have seen, with a rich display filling the arches and niches of the old fort and creating beautiful spaces, full of atmosphere, dedicated to old Akko and the Galilee.
The highlights are the period rooms from Damascus, with beautifully decorated furniture, carpets, vases, coffee sets and even hookahs. Then there is a recreated market street with stalls and corners dedicated to artisans and craftsmen of all sorts who used to populate the Galilee's towns and villages in the Ottoman period. There are also nostalgic household items from later periods, from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Two enthusiastic collectors, Dan Hortman and Michael Luria, donated their collections so that this museum could be created. The displays express love and respect for the tradition, culture and way of life of the old inhabitants of the Galilee, of different ethnic origins.
The founders of the museum write in their introduction to the visitor: " We believe the encounter with this old way of life will bring all of our hearts together". I would say "Amen" to that!
This is the largest mosque in Akko, and its green dome and minaret are a landmark seen from far away. The mosque was erected in 1781 on the remains of a Crusader church. As the name implies, it is dedicated to Ahmed Al-Jazzar (aka "the buthcher", jazzar meaning "tearing bodies apart"), the cruel ruler of the northern Land of Israel under Turkish rule in the 18th century. The mosque is renowned for a relic, a lock from the beard of the Prophet.
Al Jazzar mosque welcomes visitors (not during prayer hours). Both the exterior and interior are impressive. The coutryard is pretty and has colorful flowerbeds to decorate it. A fountain in the center of the courtyard is used for the ritual wash before prayers. Around the cortyard there is a nice arcade, with some marble and granite pillars which were brought from Caesarea and Tyre. The arcade has small rooms with pretty little domes above them; these rooms served as madrassa (religious school) and as housing for pilgrims.
When I went to Akko there was a man selling fresh grapefruit juice in the parking lot right out front of the Citadel. He squeezed the grapefruit by hand and charged hardly a dollar for two glasses. I couldn’t pass up the offer. When I came back to the States I purchased a jug of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice from the store and nearly spit it up all over the kitchen table, it just wasn’t the same.