Old City Jerusalem Streets, Jerusalem
The dress code inside the ultra-orthodox jewish neighborhoods such as Mea-Shearim is strictly observed. Men should cover their heads, as well as married women. Women should wear long skirts and long sleeves blouses. Anyways, at the entrance of all ultra-orthodox neighborhoods you will be warned not to enter in immodest dress. Any transgression in dress and behavior may be met with shouting. If this occurs, you should better leave the quarter at once. Any escalation could lead to violence.
Motorists are not allowed to drive on Shabbat through the streets of the ultra-orthodox neighborhoods such as Mea-Shearim. Any desecration of the jewish Shabbat might be met with shouting and in some cases even violence such as stoning.
I bought two scarves in the old city. The vendor put them in a black plastic bag -- so I thought.
Fortunately I checked the bag and it was stuffed with old rags.
I made such a fuss that he was afraid the cops would come. He gave me the scarves and half my money back
The only drawback if you're staying in the Old Walled City and you've driven there in your rental car, is finding a place to park. Parking is at an all time prime here, and space is really limited. The streets are narrow and parking is difficult if next to impossible; I found that the best place to park is if you enter either through Jaffa Gate or Zion Gate and take a right down the Armenian Patriarchate Road, following it as it curves along the perimeter wall toward the Jewish Quarter (not too far a drive inside). Close to the Western Wall you'll find a fairly large parking lot. It gets pretty full there but it's by far your best and safest bet for parking, especially if it's going to be overnight. We even left a suitcase in the trunk of our car for several days and it was fine. We also found the cost to be reasonable, considering the location: around $10 a day. We made a deal to pay for 3 nights in advance, and it worked out beautifully for us.
Jerusalem has always been a volatile city and it's best if you are always aware of your surroundings. it was a young women with an uzi across her chest as she herded a small group of school children throught he streets that reminded me there could be danger.
There are alot of warnings out there about unaccompanied women, but men should take precautions too. Against my better judgement, I started talking to a pushy souvenier store owner, who asked me questions like, "Are you travelling alone?" and "Do you have a girlfriend?" I thought he was just trying to sell me stuff, so I told him I didn't. Soon, however, he stopped trying to sell me stuff and started coming on to me. (Believe me, I know the difference between "You don't have to buy anything, just look" and "I would like you to enjoy my hospitality. [Crotch Grab]") I quickly left the store and went on my way. I was later told he was a male hooker, which was dissapointing in its own way.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is whether it is safe it to walk around Jerusalem at night.
For starters, Jerusalem is as safe as anywhere else these days - if not safer. In West
Jerusalem, you can walk around freely at night, and you should. The Old City walls and many sites around modern Jerusalem look quite spectacular when illuminated. The Jerusalem stone from which most of the buildings are constructed takes on a special glow and the city truly becomes Jerusalem of Gold!
For a woman alone, however, walking at night through deserted lanes in East Jerusalem might not be such a good idea. You have to remember that this is the Middle East, and Arab men do have a tendency to ogle women and catcall. But if I were with somebody - at least one other person - I'd have no qualms about that either. Just don't answer or get into conversation with these guys, and they will generally disappear into the woodwork.
Also, I think it depends what part of East Jerusalem. The Jewish Quarter and
Western Wall are pretty lively and lit up round the clock, but it gets kind of
quiet and spooky (or maybe atmospheric is a better word...) in the Muslim
Quarter late at night.
1. Do not use a credit card in the Arab Shuk! Use cash
2. If you must - insist on an electronic transaction - not paper (this is nearly obsolete and very easy to fraudulate)
3. Make sure you are charged in the same currency/sum you were quoted for prices
4. Always make sure the reciept is given with all details of the shop (address, Phone, Licence)
5. Always check your purchases have been bagged and given to you.
Case - My friend was charged 970$ instead of 50$! :
My friend made two small credit card purchases in the right hand-shop ("Al Maghthe Stores") at the entrance to the narrow Souk from Jaffa Gate- one for 120 NIS (Israel shekels) (about 30$) and another for 85 NIS (about $20). When he got home he discovered that he was signed on US Dollar credit forms instead of Shekels AND the sum of 85 had a "0" added - and he was Charged $120 + $850 (instead of $50). The Shopkeeper also kept the customer copy of the reciept (he supposedly put it in the bag ) - His credit-card company and Israeli Police are unable to help.
Summer time is when humidity maybe low but the temperature still makes one lose too much water. Many American fitness pros hiking deserts or just exploring the streets of Jerusalem note that drinking bottled water is not enough- that does not compensate for the loss of electrolytes. You would need the Gatorade sports drink, but they don't sell it overhere.
What is recommended is Isostar, available as a fashionably packaged powder from any drug store. You'd have to make your own dilution in the biking bottle that comes with the purchase. Drink as you would Gatorade.
You don't want to be in the old city when it gets dark. You will get lost (especially without a map). Forget about asking the way. Some people might be helpful, but most send you the wrong way!
Also watch out you get sunburnt very easily here! I burnt my head, arms and shoulders ouch! You can see my sunburnt head on the picture ;o)
Women traveling alone should exercise extreme caution on the Mount of Olives. I took a taxi to the Mosque of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives a few days ago. It was in the early afternoon and I was traveling alone. When I got to the Mosque, i went inside to find it was completely deserted. I left a few minutes later and the taxi was gone. An Arab youth who apparently worked there started following me down the empty street. He proceeded to sexually harass and grope me. I was able to push him away and run until I came upon a few tourists and was safe. Needless to say, it was a very frightening experience and I am thankful nothing worse happened. Please be advised that there is at least one predator there and it is not safe for a woman to walk alone, even in broad daylight.
Jerusalem has been many time under local terror attacks and there fore the security is tight here, you will see security forces, police and military often in all major places, those soldiers are there to protect you, please do not distract them from their job.
Guidebooks often warn about walking through the old city at night, and I can see why. As soon as dusk descends, it can be spooky, especially if you're a solo female traveler. The narrow paths and sundry dark alcoves and alleys are tailor-made for thieves and rogues of the night. I stayed in the old city, at the Lutheran Youth Hostel, but didn't go far alone after dark; why chance it?
A recent post claimed that a merchant in Jaffa Gate had inflated the charge slip when the traveller bought some stuff, billing it to "Maraka gift shop" or somesuch. This case sounds eerily similar to an experience I had on June 2. What I did was to obtain shekels at a currency exchange in Jaffa Gate. To avoid doing this as a cash advance (very expensive with Visa), the currency exchange guy suggested that he sell me the cash as a cash transaction. This we proceeded to do--voila, no bank fee! (he himself charged $25 for selling me 4000 shekels00about $1280). The slip says "The Gate Jerusalem" but it showed up on my Visa bill as "Maraka"
In short, I wonder if the person who made the claim about an inflated charge slip may possibly have forgotten that he obtained cash from this currency exchange--as a separate transaction from making a purchase from one of those three aggressive brothers. (note: I also encountered those brothers as well, and would not buy anything from them--way too aggressive and slippery).
I had no problem with cash or credit transactions during three weeks in Israel, West Bank and Jordan. But I did have a major problem with taxi drivers. But that is a matter for another posting....
On 25 July 2013 I obtained New Israeli Shekels from a small booth near the Jaffa gate on the east corner of Latin Patriarch Street via his electronic card facility. I asked for 2,000, which I received. It was only when I got back to my hotel I realised I had no receipt slip. I may have dropped it, I may not have received one and I did not realise it at the time. On return to the UK I saw the transaction on my bank statement as 'MARAKA, JERUSALEM PS'. I had been charged 658.36USD, which at the then exchange rate was about 2331NIS. Somewhere along the line I was cheated. I don't know if the same person always mans the booth but I would suggest giving it a miss.