The Old City
The hostel was almost right outside Yaffo Gate, so as soon as I had my things unpacked, I went for a stroll in the famous Old City of Jerusalem. The first person I saw within the walls of the Old City, was a man that wanted to show me Jesus' grave — I declined. I do believe in Jesus, but I don't have any interest in seeing the grave. I must be one of few Westerners that don't want to see it, because on my walks around the city I was offered a visit to the grave numerous times. The funny thing is that they all claimed it would be a very short walk, "just around the corner", while it was said on very different locations inside the Old City. Come to think of it, wasn't Jesus buried outside the city?
I didn't have too much time left that day, but the following day I thought I'd check out the famous market. Wish I hadn't done it! I made the mistake of going inside that market without a map of any sort. Well, I did have a map of the Old City, but the market was just one white area that said 'market'. The many tiny streets and alleys weren't shown.
So, I went in, and initially I liked it. The atmosphere, the friendly shopkeepers who ask you in for a cup of tea... Of course they only want to sell, but still, it feels like a nice gesture. It became tedious though, as most shopkeepers don't take no for an answer. They practically try to drag you inside, and if there's one thing I don't like, it's doing things against my will. So, after a while I got bored, and thought I'd just leave the market. But.. have you ever tried to leave a labyrinth without a map? Well, it was like that.
I thought I'd look for the 'end of the tunnel', and found it — or so I thought. I saw blue sky and green trees at the end of one of the little market streets, and headed towards it. Before I could actually see the end of the street, I was stopped by a guard who said I couldn't go there. Plenty of people were walking there, but for some reason I wasn't allowed. So, I turned around, and looked for another exit. And again, I saw 'the light', headed towards it, and was stopped by a different guard. On asking "why can't I go there, what is there that I can't see it?", the only reply was "you can't go there - go back". No matter what I said, the same reply was repeated. In the end I gave up and started walking back again. A man tapped on my shoulder — a policeman I think he was. He had seen and heard what happened, and was nice enough to explain to me in his best English why I wasn't allowed to walk down that street. It appeared that in the end of that street there was a mosque, and as it was Friday, non-muslim women weren't allowed to go in. If only the first guard that stopped me could have explained that there was a mosque there, I would have understood immediately, and not have argued at all.
~ to be continued ~