If you do any shopping at all in the Old City (and you will), don't be surprised if a shopkeeper offers you a drink of mint tea. This is a custom that is nice to respect, even if you don't end up purchasing anything. It's part of the whole culture so by all means, go along with it.
You can also find strong tea being dispensed outside the Damascus Gate, especially during the marketplace. It's a lot of fun to watch the vendor carefully pouring out the drinks to paying customers.
Call To Prayer
Since a large part of the Old Walled City's residence is Arab, the haunting sound of the Koranic "Call to Prayer" is a constant, five times a day.
You don't have to be in the Muslim Quarter to appreciate the call - we heard it clear as could be outside the city on Mt. Zion. And if you've forgotten to bring an alarm clock, the first morning prayer call will be sure to get you out of bed in a jiffy.
Smoking the Narghila
A custom of many Arab men is to smoke the narghila pipe. This is basically a water pipe with really strong tobacco. If you smoke some, beware that you'll probably enjoy a temporary buzz, only to be followed by a headache.
I guess the Arab men have a strong constitution, because you'll see them clustered together in a cafe smoking their narghila and drinking mint tea or arabic coffee. You might also see them just sitting by the side of the street quietly puffing away as well.
The old city is full with markets. The famous one stretches eastwards from Jaffa gate. When you are close to the main tourist attraction the market is kind of a tourist trap, selling cheesy souvenirs. When you go deeper and away from the more tourisrtic areas, you'll see the places real people go to. One of the busiest areas id around the Damascus Gate. Outside of the walls there is a busy commercial area and this is where the busses to the west bank can be found. The gate itself houses a lof of improvised food stands. Old women come from the villages around the city to sell their products. Either herbs, vegetables or live chicks.
Buying in the Markets
One thing which is an unformal rull here and in the middle east is haggling !
Buying without huggling is almost like offending the the seller.
Its a game that everyone know and play.
Walking in the Arab quarter you'll be asked again and again by the sellers to get into their shops and see what they have to offer, they will try to impress you and make you buy.
If you dont want to then dont be shy, just say no thanks and go one.
If you want to buy you can feel okay with haggling and saying its too expensive, they will try to keep their price but if they will see that you're a "tough" buyer they will low the price.
If you have a sweet tooth, try some of the oriental sweets, like the ones shown. Some things to look for are:
Halvah - Made from tehina and honey
Baklava (pronounced as Baklawa%)
Kna'fe - Made from sweet cheese and thicj sweet syrup, usually has an orange colour.
These bagels are typically Jerusalem food. Even though you can find them all over the country. Do not forget to ask for Zaatar to accompany the bagel. Eating in the street while walking is perfectly acceptable in Israel, so you can keep walking enjoying the alleys while eating the bagel.
And the cloth only...
In Jerusalem you are always surrounded by religion. But, pay attention! Things are much more complicated than anywhere else in the world. It's not only Christianity, Islam and Judaism. There are dozens of different cults and groups, some really exotic. For example, in this photo you can see the clothes of an Ethiopian monk, taken outside of the church. This church doesn't look like any European church. Now, if you walk about 20 metres from this church you will find yourself in the middle of an ultra-orthidox Jewish neighbourhood which looks like 18th century Hungary.
Tip for Tat
In Israel, it is not customary to tip taxi drivers. Always ask them to put on the meter when you get in, or settle on some price before you start out. Otherwise they will insist on some outrageous sum at the end of your ride.
Tips are customary only at the hairdressers (you give a few shekels to the person who washes your hair) and at restaurants. I think 10-15% of the bill is about right, if you get decent service.Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Business Travel
Obviously Jerusalem is full of religous shrines of importance to one religion or another, so covering up certainly legs & in some cases arms are a must.
Even in some of the streets on the Old Ciry there are signs instructing you to cover up.
The easiest thing to do is keep a sarong in your bag, its light weight, easy to put on & off over your shorts full length & should keep everyone happy.
OUR tradition, VT meet restaurant
We took Carmen and Stacey to have the end of our Jerusalem VT meet in "Anashiem" (the name means "people") a restaurant located in Ein Karem, a beautiful old part of "new" Jeruslaem, one of the first settlements outside of Jerusalem proper. Today it is inside the city limits, but that was not always so. You can see (from left front) me, Tal, Zohara, Carmen and Stacey. My goodness does not everyone look happy here.
Bargin, bargin, bargin
When you purhcase anything from the shops in the old city of Jerusalem, or any of the tourist shops for that matter, you should bargin. Yes, it is almost a given and expected of you. The prices are jacked up in anticipation of bargining, so if you do not bargin you may be paying twice or more what the item is worth. Here you can see our daughter Tal giving Stacey and Carmen a hand with their bargining on olive wood products. They got about a 40% reduction if I remember correctly.
Walk through the old city.
Walk through the Old City inside the walls. It is made up of four quarters: the Christian Quarter (north-west,) the Moslem Quarter (north-east,) the Armenian Quarter (south-west,) and the Jewish Quarter (south-east.)
the narrow streets are lined with small shops such as butchers, greengrocers, bakeries, leather shops, jewelry shops and perfumeries. Bargaining is expected.
I enjoyed walking the alleys of oldtown Jerusalem the most. As you wander from one Quarter to another, you see an incredible variety of culture.
It does not seem as dangerous here as the international media portrays it. (But then again, I never seem to feel endangered.....) There are normal, productive and happy people living here from all parts of the world!
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